And the winner is…

The best and brightest of British television journalism turned out booted and suited at the London Hilton for the Oscars of their trade-the Royal Television Society Journalism Awards-this week. Eighteen went away with a plastic trophy to enhance their career (mine is on the shelf at work. Nobody notices it). Many did not. That ‘RTS’ can make a difference to job, pay ,respect and so much more. But just how do you get an RTS?

First, it pays to have talent and ability at your job. That is a sine qua non. Talent shows on and off-screen among reporters and producers. It shines out from an early age-look at John Irvine on ITV news or James Reynolds at the BBC. But talent plus hard work is a winning combination. The hard work is a necessary quality. Laziness shows on-screen. Writes John Mair…

Second, make sure your best work is selected and gets entered for the awards – regionally and nationally. Persuade your bosses and make sure it looks good on the clips reel. Surprising how many do not. If all else fails, consult your bank manager and pay for your own entry (as at least one I judged this year did!).

Then you are at the mercy of us judges. We get a parcel with all the entrants on one or two DVDs plus plenty of blurb  and we have to watch them all. In my case seven solid hours on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Pen at the ready picking up the good, the bad and the ugly. Plenty of all. It pays to score and shortlist for yourself at this point.

The great judging day comes at RTS Towers and you as a (nearly) humble judge is in a room with the TV Great and Good. Biscuits and coffee and polite chit-chat first but then down to business. That is surprisingly formulaic, transparent and always very fair.

Us lay or semi lay members of the jury (and we make up half) get first dibs so we can set the tone for each entrant. Or try to. The broadcasters come after us with their championing  of their entrant last. Usually they are gung-ho but sometimes, only sometimes, they read the tea leaves and get very lukewarm in praise of their boy or girl!

Any horse trading is not open. The great and good are very polite about each other’s entrants with only the odd aside displaying true views. But as the diplomats say a ‘full and frank discussion’ emerges. Very full,very frank sometimes.

Finally, after two hours of argument and argy bargy, time for the secret ballot to decide the short list.The members of that have usually emerged in the disco. But not always.

And after that ,the choice of the winner from the short list. Who is that? We never know till the night and that envelope is opened on the podium. It’s a surprise for us too. Hopefully the best man or woman won.

Me? I’ve done my duty. Off to another jury-on regional Press Awards. I am a juryoholic.
John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcast journalism at Coventry university .He is an RTS journalism winner and was a judge for the RTS journalism awards this year.

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