If the rumours are true, then the typical journalist is more likely to be seen on a bar stool than furiously hammering away at a keyboard. Perhaps it is not representative of all journalists, but last night at the annual George Orwell Prize debate in the Reuters building at Canary Wharf, Observer reporter Nick Cohen certainly tried his best to keep with tradition.

There to speak on the panel of five, including the likes of David Davies MP, Frank Field MP and author/commentator Douglas Murray, Cohen livened up the proceedings by repeatedly drifting off the topic of political parties and bankruptcy. Instead he chose to eviscerate Mail reporters Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens for making the prize shortlist.

Stumbling past CfJ reporters before the event had even started; Cohen proceeded to refill his wine glass on numerous occasions throughout the hour long debate and was even spotted popping Nurofen pills and paracetamol tablets on stage, the likes of which should never been consumed together, especially not while heavily intoxicated.

Meanwhile, the actual purpose of the evening continued. The Observer reporter’s frequent rants meaning that the regulator of the panel, Sean Maguire editor of political and general news at Reuters, had to repeatedly re-direct the debate back to the topic to ensure a relatively seamless evening.

Former journalist Gary Hicks told the CfJ the event was the first of the kind he had attended and had “not expected” the course the proceedings took. He later commented that he was “surprised it didn’t turn into a slanging match.”

Overall a very pleasant, informative and most entertaining evening, even if it didn’t do much for the reputation of journalists, or for Peter Hitchens’ temper as he sat fuming in the back rows.


I'm delighted the Orwell Prize Debate was accompanied by appropriate levels of liquid refreshment. Good political writers are traditionally refreshed out of their minds and British journalism has been improved by it. These chaps take a lot more out of alcohol than alcohol takes out of them. For truly heroic levels of refreshment the annual Scottish Press Fund Lunch in Glasgow sets stellar standards. I have seen liver transplants performed in newsrooms only hours later...

Good report Kat. It seems someone remained sober enough to write - always a neat trick. 


Oh Dear...The irony is that when I told the debate organiser that I could not come but that  several students were interested, so please could he look out for them, his reply was 'Don't worry I will make sure they do not get drunk.' Little did he realise ...

...your students behaved incredibly well, as did the majority of people who attended. Only those who knew the limit it would seem managed to stay up right.

I manged to stay sober (shocking I know, considering I'm Irish and a journalist) because I was the designated driver.

Mr Cohen on the other hand....

George Orwell Prize debate