Hard News by Russell Brown

29

A Banner Evening

The first time I won a Qantas Media Award, I kissed my editor. To be frank, the winning column doesn't really rank amongst my best work, but it represented an early exploration of the internet in the mainstream media, and I was well pleased. It felt good to be inside the tent.

I felt a similar sort of satisfaction on Friday, when I won the first Qantas Media Award to be given for the best blog: this one, Hard News. I might be biased, but I thought the introduction of internet categories to the Qantases this year added real interest to an event that has always been about "old" media.

It was nice to see the Herald online team (best news website) gain recognition, and I was particularly pleased to see our friends at Spare Room pick up two prizes. With Scoop making finalist in the two news categories, it was also a banner evening for the Scoop Media sales network, of which both ourselves and Spare Room are part. We await your call …

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the internet categories weren't tucked away in a ghetto at the beginning of the ceremony, but spread through the schedule, to emphasise their equal merit with the print awards; and also really impressed with Paul Reynolds' speech about the new media evolution. (I offered to run Paul's speech here, but discovered, to my surprise, that he'd reeled it off without benefit of notes). So, yes, it felt like something happened on Friday in Wellington.

The awards evening itself began in jolly fashion with Simon Collins and friends storming the stage with their "Save the Subs" banner in protest at APN's plans to consolidate and outsource much of its print- sub-editing and end, for me, when I set off to find my friends in town and visit a bar or two. We wound up, almost inevitably, at Mighty Mighty, where we ran into Mikee Tucker from Loop, who was in the midst of 48 Hour film-making.

Staying with the blog media angle, here's an important press release. Thanks to David Haywood for the legwork, Tze Ming for the idea and everyone else for participating:

PRESS RELEASE: NEW ZEALAND BLOGGERS OFFER SUPPORT FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN FIJI

New Zealand bloggers from across the political spectrum are offering material support for Fijian blogs in the face of violence and censorship by the country's military regime. They are also calling on the New Zealand government to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the regime's acts of violence and censorship against this nonviolent, grassroots blogging movement.

The Fijian military regime has declared anonymous pro-democracy bloggers to be a "threat to national security", and have attempted to block Fijian access to common hosting sites such as www.blogspot.com. Suspected blogger, Ulaiasi Taoi, was recently subjected to beatings, verbal abuse, and humiliation during a 24-hour questioning, according to The Fiji Times and Fijian news sites. The military regime now claims to have identified 20 more people responsible for pro-democracy blogs who will also be threatened with "questioning".

In support of the right to freedom of expression, a group of New Zealand bloggers are now offering access to their own websites for Fijian residents. The group is composed of prominent New Zealand bloggers from across the political spectrum, including writers of Just Left, Kiwiblog, No Right Turn, NZBC, Public Address, and Spanblather. They have agreed to publish guest articles by Fijian bloggers, and where possible will provide hosting on their servers for Fijian blogs.

The group is also calling upon other members of the New Zealand online community with an interest of freedom of speech (such as Scoop, nzherald.co.nz, and Stuff) to make a similar offer of material support for Fijian bloggers.

Blogs are one of the few news sources outside of the control of the military regime in Fiji, representing a vital channel of uncensored information for both Fijians and the international community.

Any Fijian bloggers wishing to make use of this offer should make contact through one of the above-listed websites.

There's some background courtesy of No Right Turn here and here. I hope we'll have material for you this week. It's important.

Also, Paul Reynolds has some fascinating stuff from his recent travels on his blog.

And, new in OurTube, the Androidss (from 1981!), and the clip for my favourite song of the year, SJD's 'Beautiful Haze'.

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