Four of the colossi of New Zealand television journalism, known to modernisers as four of the colossuses of New Zealand television journalism, fought it out in this week’s ASP awards, as the awards that celebrate alcohol and sponsorship and press went flagrantly, gloriously and ever so slightly sycophantically mainstream.

Paul Holmes is one of the four. When he got knocked sideways by a heart attack or a stroke or whatever it was, many thought he was finished, gone – bound to see out his days glaring accusingly at his olive trees or as a New Zealand First MP. But he has returned like a puckish colossus into the spotlight, to his newspaper column and radio thing and to anchor television’s Sunday morning question-and-answer television programme, Q+A. Assured and confident and apparently having evicted the ants from his pants, Holmes is back, baby.

His former sidekick on the question-answer show, Guyon Espiner, has been bathing in accolades, and all. Espiner might reasonably have decided after quitting his position as political editor for TV One that he could phone the stuff in, but his work ethic and honest eyes would have none of that. He’s been turning in consistently excellent pieces for the consistently excellent Listener magazine, and a string of top-notch items for TV3’s consistently excellent when it’s not that American rubbish 60 Minutes –- most recently and splendidly, on New Zealand as an accidental tax haven.

And on Maori TV, colossus Julian Wilcox and his colleagues at Native Affairs continue to do serious and exciting and appointment-viewing current events telly, this week by bringing comedy sensation John Ansell into the studio.

But those colossi, fine though they are, don’t get the wine. John Campbell gets the wine. His who-knew-what-and-when piece on NZ authorities and the Kim Schmitz affair this week was as eye-widening as a paper cut between the toes, said one experienced judge. It comes on the back of a wildly good year for the sharp-witted, bushy-tailed “Campbell” and his TV3 team, the citation continued – from Kim Dotcom to Christchurch to school lunches.

Speaking of which, the wine is provided on strict condition that Campbell and his do-gooder minions promise not to give it to primary school pupils with their sandwiches. (Wallace Chapman was considered as a wunderkind wild card entry as a colossus of New Zealand television journalism, by the way, but he has ruled himself out with a repeated insistence that he is “not a journalist”. Judges were unanimous in asking, “What?”)

The Alcohol Sponsorship Press Awards (ASPs), which are becoming giddy with excitement as they approach their first anniversary next month, are held in association with Grower’s Mark, and are announced every Friday on the Twitter account @SteveBraunias, except for when he is away or tired. The winner gets two bottles of wine, which explains, according to Braunias, why the ASP credo is: “We don’t take the piss. We give it.”

Previous winners include Cheryl Riley (Hokitika Guardian), Christchurch author Jane Bowron, Radio Live broadcaster Michael Laws and Southland Times hack Grant Bryant

In a fairer world, without the big-shot TV people, spluttered stand-in chair of the judicial panel Toby Manhire, the prize would have gone to:

  • Gordon Campbell and the rest of the contributors to the excellent online publication Werewolf – new issue here.
  • Or Coley Tangerina for her reply to a moronic letter in the Dominion Post.
  • Or the New York Times web editor who tapped out a trail to NZ’s PM, “Jeff Key”.
  • Or the endlessly inventive Steve Braunias for his acclaimed article on crime in Metro, a publication available in print and microfiche.
  • Or the mighty Wairarapa Times-Age for scoring a scoop with the sharp retort from Bob Francis, a former Masterton mayor and IRB man, to Richie McCaw’s fresh snarl at poor old Wayne Barnes.
  • Or the colossally tedious bird-obsessive contest, for finishing.