THE 2023 Irish Journalism Awards are being organised by an amalgamation of NewsBrands Ireland and its new partners in this endeavour, Google News Initiative and the Press Council of Ireland.
But the impression of an expanding organisation is a reverse of the reality, which is that NewsBrands has lost its largest member and subscriber, Mediahuis, owner of the best-selling titles in the country, north and south.
As Phoenix readers will know, Mediahuis Ireland boss Peter Vandermeersch was incensed at the “unfair” treatment meted out to the company by NewsBrands journalism awards in 2021, when it won just one award compared with the Irish Times (six) and Irish Examiner (six).
Despite winning a large number of awards last year, Vandermeersch hinted that the company was going to desert NewsBrands, claiming not merely disrespect in the matter of the awards but also that Mediahuis did most of the heavy lifting, both financially and when it came to lobbying government for fair treatment for the press (see The Phoenix 2/12/22). Sure enough, Mediahuis left the outfit at the end of last year, leaving a black hole in NewsBrands finances.
Now, the new organising entity has generously announced that its contests will be open to non-NewsBrands Ireland members as long as they are print/digital news titles that focus on national and international news and are members of the Press Council. This last criteria invests the awards with a sense of ethics that was perhaps lacking in the past, with reports of inebriated behaviour on awards nights.
The other criteria – a €50 fee for contestants – might also provide a desired solution to the deficit created by Mediahuis’s exit, which used to provide the largest subscription accruing to NewsBrands in the past. This helped to pay for the expensive bash associated with the glitter and pomp of its awards ceremonies. But new titles and their journalists might baulk at the stipulation that only non-NewsBrands contestants must pay the €50 fee.