Will 2019 go down as a blip or does the fact that four key writing prizes at the British Sports Journalism Awards, were won by women for the first time signify a changing of the gender guard?
Stand up and take a bow Marina Hyde (Guardian) for winning the Sports Columnist and Sports Writer of the year awards, Alyson Rudd (Times), who is the new Sports Feature Writer of the year and Laura Lambert (Daily Mail). Her brilliant work in exposing rugby club Saracens as financial cheats earned her a joint scoop award with Matt Lawton and contributed to her winning the Sports News Reporter award as well.
Lambert was an unhappy show biz journalist at The Mail and revealed on Monday how former head of sport Lee Clayton gave her the opportunity to switch departments. On the back of her stunning impact, she has since moved on to the BBC.
Both Hyde and Rudd looked stunned when they heard the news they had won. They have clocked up the years at their papers and finally their contribution has been recognised.
It was a fascinating night all round in the writing category of the British Sports Journalism Awards sponsored by The National Lottery and Canon, much to the delight of the SJA’s chairman of writing judges, COLIN BATEMAN.
His verdict: “Despite the prognosis, the patient is alive and kicking. My first year as chairman of judges for the newspaper awards was as fascinating as it was encouraging. We are continually told (by those in other media) that traditional newspaper journalism is a dying art, but it clearly is not.
“The range of writing, the genuine exclusives, the wit and wisdom will not be found anywhere else but in our dailies, Sundays and evening papers.
“The best stories of the year – The Hales drugs ban, the Salazar scandal, the Saracens expose, Rooney to Derby , the Leeds spying storm, the revelations about the death of Emiliano Sala – were good old -fashioned newspaper scoops with the rest of the media clinging to the coat-tails of the newspapermen and women.
“The coverage of that fantastic mid-summer Sunday when England’s cricketers grabbed an impossibly dramatic World Cup success, Djokovic won an epic Wimbledon and Hamilton created history at Silverstone showcased just how good reading a newspaper the morning after can be.
“We will continue to strive to refresh and improve the judging process for an awards event that is a genuine celebration of the outstanding print journalism, which still dominates the agenda in sports coverage in this country.”
Michael Atherton’s grip on the Cricket Writer prize, temporarily loosened a year ago, was back with a fifth award in six years but it was the former England captain’s speech which will live long in the memory. Atherton paid tribute to colleague Steve James, who tragically lost his daughter recently.
The Guardian’s Barney Ronay was named Football Journalist of the Year for the first time while the Mail’s Riath Al-Samarrai is the new Specialist Correspondent of the year, succeeding colleague Jonathan McEvoy. According to Al-Samarrai’s five-year-old daughter, her daddy is a “terrible writer”. The judges chose to disagree.
The Daily Telegraph took the Newspaper of the Year accolade from the Daily Mail, the first time the Telegraph had won it since the award started in 2010. The new women’s sports supplement, the brainchild of sports editor Adam Sills, played a part in the judges’ decision making.
The Boxing News have made the Special Sports Edition their own – this win was their fourth year in a row. They also broke the monopoly of national newspapers’ websites to take Sports Website of the Year.
Owen Slot of The Times made it a hat-trick of Rugby Writer awards to add to his growing collection of SJA prizes.
Neil Allen showed again his knack of saying the right thing at the right time after winning the Regional prize for a second year in succession. The list of friends and colleagues who no longer work in the industry is a lengthening one and shows no signs of a recovery soon.