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Stuff's 'journalism of the highest order' recognised at Canon Media Awards (Video)

Stuff's award-winning earthquake coverage included strong videography and photo journalism, such as this image of a destroyed bridge on Hawthorne Rd in Kaikoura.

Stuff's coverage of 2016's biggest story - November's 7.8-magnitude Kaikoura earthquake - has been praised at the Canon Media Awards, alongside Fairfax's deep local and investigative reporting.

Awarding the Best Coverage of a Major News Event category, judges described online and print coverage from Stuff, the Kaikoura StarThe Dominion Post, the Marlborough Express and The Press as "journalism of the highest order".

"It represents a masterclass in how to tell a story of catastrophic proportions across platforms," judges Stuart Howie and Bill Ralston said.

The annual awards were announced in Auckland on Friday night during a celebration of New Zealand journalism that also saw key prizes for the Nelson Mail, junior reporter Donna-Lee Biddle, regional reporter Aaron Leaman, cartoonist Sharon Murdoch, videographer Ross Giblin, and the Stuff Circuit investigative team.

The Nelson Mail was named Newspaper of the Year (up to 30,000 circulation), with judges Brett McCarthy, Campbell Reid and Paul Thompson saying its "effective campaigning" set it apart in a tight field.

"The campaign against the wasp plague was specific, engaging and with a clear measure of success. It was a great example of a newspaper acting as a community leader. The Mail also did a great job of telling the stories of local heroes."



The judges gave an honourable mention to The Marlborough Express for its earthquake coverage - "a terrific example of a small team achieving big things". "In times of natural disasters people turn to their local paper to reassure themselves that life is still going on and someone is watching out for them. The Express fulfilled this role beautifully."

The Feilding-Rangitikei Herald was named Community Newspaper of the Year. It provided "great news coverage of its large and diverse catchment and takes up issues of concern to locals", judges Jim Eagles and Mike Fletcher said.

Your Weekend won the Best Newspaper Inserted Magazine category. "Upbeat and attractive with a design that's arresting but not too slick, a clever mix of stories for curious locals with broad horizons, supported by well-crafted writing," said judges Lauren Quaintance and Barb Rogers.

Stuff won Best Editorial Campaign or Project for its #buythisbeachnz initiative, described by judges Stuart Howie and Fred Tulett as "a superlative display of journalism-led community activism that achieved no less than saving a small part of the planet for public use, hopefully for perpetuity."

VISUAL AWARDS

The peace of sleepy Pinehaven, Upper Hutt was shattered when a herd of bulls - fresh from a night tangled in bush - marauded through their gardens.

Ross Giblin took home both the Videographer of the Year and Best News Video awards.

"Ross showed an exceptionally strong portfolio of stories across all categories showing us he not only has a great eye for pictures - but also a great eye for a story and the ability to seize an opportunity," judges Cathy Strong and Mike Valintine said. "He also demonstrated the technical skills and many of the other attributes of a top videographer including courage, calmness and empathy."

His news video of bulls rampaging through suburban gardens in Upper Hutt was described as brilliantly demonstrating how to elevate a mundane story into a compelling clip. "Ross showed a clear head in a quickly changing and potentially dangerous situation capturing not only the drama but the emotions of those involved. News camera work at its best."

Christel Yardley won the Best Photo (Junior) award for a portrait that judges Mark Baker, Rob Taggart and Jane Ussher said "illustrates the emotion and love shared to explain the story faultlessly".



Christel Yardley's award-winning portrait "promises a good career ahead in photography as she expands her skills and experience," the judges said.

For consecutive years, Sharon Murdoch was named Cartoonist of the Year, with judge Jenny Nicholls praising "her mastery of caricature, colour and shade, and for her power and her range, from laughter to despair."

 

WRITING AWARDS

Donna-Lee Biddle was named Best Reporter (Junior), with judges Sue Carty and Paul Elenio saying her three entries were "head and shoulders above the other finalists' because of their impact". They singled out for praise her "well crafted but disturbing and painful read about Moko and his sister, and the unimaginable pain and suffering they endured".

Aaron Leaman was named both Regional Journalist of the Year - an honour he also claimed in 2016 - and winner of the nib Health Journalism Scholarship - Senior. "Aaron Leaman's work typifies the versatility required of a top regional reporter," said judges Robin Charteris and Jim Eagles.

He will use his scholarship to study the complex challenges around organ donation.

Rachel Thomas won the nib Health Journalism Scholarship - Junior for what judges Kate Coughlan, Rick Neville and Paul Thompson called a "thoughtful proposal to explore the impact of taxes on sugary drinks in two US cities". 

Miri Schroeter's "keen nose for news" won her the Student Journalist of the Year category. "She understands that people stories are compelling reading," judges Mike Fletcher and Wayne Thompson said.

The Stuff Circuit investigative team of Eugene Bingham, Phil Johnson, Toby Longbottom and Paula Penfold won Reporter - Crime and Justice for their series Private Business, Public Failure.

Judges Bruce Davidson and Ant Phillips said: "Through a highly creative multi-media format, the Stuff Circuit Team investigates details of disturbing practices in NZ prisons. Compelling video, classy graphic design and potent writing make this a stunning example of best-of-breed digital storytelling."



Story art from Stuff Circuit's series Private Business, Public Failure. CREDIT: TOBY LONGBOTTOM

Vicki Anderson won the Reporter - Arts and Entertainment category for uncovering the real story of the woman in The Exponents' hit Victoria. "Fantastic detective work that solves the mystery of a piece of Kiwi pop culture," said judges Colin Hogg and Gilbert Wong.

Christopher Reive won the Best Feature Writer - Junior category. Judges Deborah Hill Cone and Tim Watkin said: "Christopher's work stood out for sturdy and polished constructions. But what put him ahead was the combination of heart and head – plus some sprinkles of magic – rare in a young writer. The restraint and dignity shown when writing about dementia; the clear-eyed observations of a league team's practice and the thorough, hard-headed look at Taranaki's oil industry amounted to a diverse, impressive portfolio."

In a field of "outstanding" entrants, Charlie Gates won Feature Writer - Arts and Entertainment for his innovative story on the making of hit musical That Bloody Woman, which judges Colin Hogg and Gilbert Wong called a "triumph of structure and storytelling".

Adam Dudding won the Feature Writer - General prize. Judges Noelle McCarthy and Lynda van Kempen said: "Sensitive, funny and moving, Adam Dudding's compelling story about his mother's stroke and her involvement in the CeleBRation choir was beautifully written, informing and inspiring by turns."

Stuff was recognised for its #BuyThisBeachNZ campaign, exhorting readers to help secure a secluded stretch of Awaroa Inlet in the Marlborough Sounds for public ownership.

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Jonathan Carson won the Feature Writer - Sport section. "The highest compliment we can pay 'The boy from Manila' is we wish we'd written it," Suzanne McFadden and Foster Niumata said of Carson's entry. "It's heart-warming, enlightening, and a story we've enjoyed reading over and over."

The overall Feature Writer of the Year (short form) prize went to Nikki Macdonald for what judges Colin Hogg and Barb Rogers called "her outstanding portfolio" - "especially her innovative treatment of a father's path to forgiving the mobster murderers of his son. It was warm, powerful and original in its structure."

Matthew Dallas won the Best Headline category. "The winning entry was an absolute standout - clever, eye-catching and leaving readers in no doubt as to what the story was about," Peter Calder and Fred Tulett said.

Duncan Garner was named Opinion Writer of the Year. Judges Claire Harvey and Bill Ralston said: "Duncan Garner writes columns with directness, clarity and deceptive simplicity; they are persuasive because they are utterly unpretentious. Most importantly, they are brave. Garner puts himself on the line in his opinion writing and has finessed a distinctive and refreshingly forthright style.

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