It is the second year in a row we’ve won the prize, once again beating off some big players (not least Travel Weekly, part of the group that housed the old job at Travolution).
It is all very humbling to be recognised by the industry for doing a good job and, of course, extremely satisfying professionally, especially for the team which works equally hard to keep this Tnooz thing going every day. I am very proud of them all.
But there is another tale to tell.
The event last night was held at the Royal Institute of British Architects on Portland Place, just a stone’s throw from the sparkling lights and retailing madness that is London’s West End on a Thursday evening, five weeks before Christmas.
Walking up Portland Place to the event from Oxford Circus tube, it was obvious that there was some kind of noisy activity going on outside the RIBA building.
Was it a protest by the National Union of Journalists (Disclosure: card-carrying member of 12 years) about poor rates of pay for travel journalists?
This was not a protest by dour hacks with placards, but a group of about 30 people waving Tibetan flags.
But why would they be lobbying a group of travel writers and PRs (lots of agency PRs at the event, inevitably) at an awards do?
It turns out those behind the boisterous but far-from-threatening activity were members of the UK branch of the Students for a Free Tibet, and their anger was directed at a building across the road: the Chinese Embassy.
The police will not allow them to picket outside the embassy itself, so they always set up camp outside the RIBA facility.
But what’s this “always” bit all about?
It turns out the group (in one form or other) has protested outside the embassy in London between 6pm and 8pm every Wednesday since 1987.
That’s 25 years (five years before I got into this journalism malarkey), rain or shine.
The group is currently trying to highlight, through its fortnightly vigils, the alarming number of self-immolations in Tibet as the ultimate act of protest against the Chinese government.
There have been around 70 known incidents since February 2009. And in the past seven days alone there have been a further seven, says one of the members of the group standing in the street.
The recent increase is related to the change in leadership in China - no doubt as a terrifying form of desperation as they try to put the Tibet issue (China has occupied the region for over 60 years) back on the international agenda as outsiders ponder if the new leaders will have a different view to their predecessors.
For Tibetans inside (especially) and outside their Himalayan homeland, it looks pretty bleak - China hasn’t shifted its position (geographically, economically or culturally) in 60 years. In fact, the regime has tightened the noose.
But protests such as these will (and should) continue, as the more noise they make the higher the chance they have of getting through to politicians around the world and the media.
And there, at the end of the sentence above, is the wrinkle in all of this.
Ironically, last night’s protest couldn’t have been better placed. Yet the people shouting noisily up at the windows opposite didn’t even realise.
The protester I spoke to didn’t seem to know (or understand, particularly) what was going on in the RIBA building.
It seemed embarrassing to explain in any great detail to him that myself and a group of journos were about to drink wine, eat canapés and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.
Indeed, it is impossible to switch from discussing self-immolation (you know, setting fire to yourself) as a form of political protest to describing the vagaries of the judging process for some travel press awards.
The really gloomy part of this 10-minute exchange was that it was apparent that until that point no-one else has stopped to talk to the protesters as they entered the building.
An event full of journalists. A street full of people with REAL stories to tell.
The situation reminded me of the rather controversial speech Matthew Teller gave at the TravelBlogCamp event earlier this month, where at one point he said (almost pleaded that) writers/bloggers should search to find “stories” to include in their articles.
Be inquisitive, find something else to write about beyond the normal or expected - be it stories about people, about the places these people live in, what it is like living there, etc.
I wondered, therefore, how many of the destination writers at the event were planning to or hoping to go on press trips to China - perhaps even Tibet - in the future.
And then it became clear that they - and even those that are not heading east any time soon - are perhaps missing out on enhancing the journalism they were hoping to be rewarded for at the event by not stopping to talk to the people shivering outside the venue.
And that’s rather sad. Or maybe it’s just me over-thinking.
NB: Apologies, of course, to any of those that did stop by for a chat.
NB2: This is in no way meant to be a criticism of the organising team behind the awards. They had to host it somewhere and it was, after all, a very good evening for Tnooz.