AUCKLAND - Tempers frayed, guests booed and tears fell at the annual NZ Herald prizegiving tonight. A horrified audience gasped at the shock announcement of the blue-riband prize, the John Manukia Award, which insiders dub 'the Kiwi Pulitzer' for outstanding services to NZ victimhood.
The controversial winning piece, "Don't call us..." was hailed for its stunning breadth, quirky anonymity, and daring innovative pastiche. "There's so much hurt in this column," enthused chief judge Janet MacIntyre, "a world of pain, but there's fragile, aching beauty, too" she sighed.
Amid hostile catcalls from the crowd, red hot favourite and acclaimed feminist author, Lu Cleave, was devastated that her provocative "Officers facing burnout or breakdown" was relegated to runner-up. "But I worked so hard!" she shrieked through tears. "This is all Fran O'Sullivan's fault, that right-wing Nazi!" she fired, storming out in front of a mortified Auckland mediarati.
Her mentor, Phil Kitschener, was resigned. "We'll just have to try harder next year. Winning's not everything," he shrugged. "The important thing is the public has a right to know just how brutal and corrupt cops really are!" he spat indignantly before abruptly exiting.
More drama ensued as the judging panel delivered caustic appraisals of the other two entries. Catherine Masters' "Crime-busting goes private" scorned for it's callous impartiality and failure to evoke personal sympathy. "Where's the personal angle, the grief, the everyday suffering?" demanded a critic. "Is this what journalism has come to? Merely reporting facts and discussing issues while ignoring people's real pain?"
Likewise Phil Taylor's "Do nothing plan defended" was savaged for its unrelenting hostilty and insensitivity to the Herald's female readership. "I'm staggered someone would actually dare quote a policeman," shot an unnamed senior writer, "especially knowing how many of our readers themselves have been traumatised by cops. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound! Are we trying to re-victimise them by giving voice to their tormentors? Is that the contempt our paper holds for women?"
Additional reporting by Helen Tunnah.