Volcanoes to polluted beaches – science and environment stories shine at Canon Awards

On Friday night the print industry celebrated some of the best journalism of the last year at the Canon Media Awards in Auckland.

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 1.05.36 PMThere was a buoyant mood in the ballroom at the Pullman where the awards drew a record crowd.

“What was great this year is that the awards were really opened up to outside parties, so you had the likes of ASB and Business New Zealand hosting tables,” said SMC Manager Peter Griffin, who attended the awards and was a judge on the best use of emerging technology and best multimedia storytelling categories. You can read his judging notes on those categories here.

“I got the feeling that although everyone acknowledges the industry faces major challenges adapting its business models to the digital world, there’s a lot less angst about making the transition.”

A highlight of the awards was a speech from Otago Daily Times publisher Allied Press chairman and managing director Sir Julian Smith, who called for the industry to keep in mind the fundamentals of journalism – in essence, the written word is what sells, good journalism is paramount, t industry needs its readers more than ever and freedom of the press needs to be fought for.

Among the winners, were reporters and publishers acknowledged for delivering excellent science and environment reporting over the past year.

Tauranga-based New Zealand Herald reporter Jamie Morton won the best newspaper reporter in the science and environment category, for a series of features including:

– An extensive package looking at the twin eruptions of Mt Tongariro and White Island and  how our volcanic landscape can violently change without warning at any moment.

– A detailed look at New Zealand’s freshwater ways and rivers suffering from high levels of pollution and moves to clean them up.

– Examining the environmental impact of the MV Rena grounding and the ongoing clean-up effort.

Herald on Sunday writer Russell Blackstock picked up the award in the Best newspaper feature writer in the science and environment category for a portfolio including:

– An insight feature looking at New Zealand’s volatile volcanoes

– Coverage of a Herald on Sunday-endorsed campaign to clean up beaches.

– A more in-depth look at the state of New Zealand’s beaches and water quality at some of our favourite holiday spots.

While magazines recognise science writing in the “business and science” categories at Canon, winner , New Zealand Listener‘s Rebecca MacFie won not for a science feature, but an excellence business piece on the whistleblower who uncovered fraud at Datasouth.

In the overall magazine category, New Zealand Geographic, which commits serious resource and pages to covering science and environment issues on an ongoing basis, picked up the magazine of the year award. Credit to editor James Frankham who has taken New Zealand Geographic to a new level of quality since he and others undertook a management buy-out of the magazine.

Mention needs to also go to North & South feature writer Mike White, who won in three magazine feature categories – feature writer of the year, arts and entertainment and politics as well as the supreme prize – the fellowship to Wolfson College, Cambridge.