~ Posted by Robert Butler, November 13th 2012

Last night the staff on this magazine had a night out. So did the staff on plenty of other magazines. It was the British Society of Magazine Editors' awards dinner and we had three nominees to root for: our art director Graham Black, our editor Tim de Lisle, and our editor-in-chief John Micklethwait, who is possibly better known as the editor of The Economist.

The awards took place in the vast ballroom at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, with more than 40 magazines deciding it was worthwhile to pay around £300 a ticket, or £3000 for a table of 12. For their money, they got champagne, a three-course meal, music (this time, two ballads from the "X Factor" winner Alexandra Burke) and comedy (the actor Stephen Mangan). His routine—a witty slideshow of his unlucky personal history with awards—turned out to be the highlight of the evening. A roomful of editors hoped their own personal histories with awards would turn out to be very different.

As it was, 2012 wasn't our year. If it hadn't been for the goodie bags, we would have headed home empty-handed. But we couldn't complain, as Tim and John both won trophies two years ago. We did have a few gripes unrelated to our own fortunes. There are now so many customer magazines—and websites set up to sell stuff—that they surely need a dinner of their own. One or two winners were simply in the wrong category. The award for the best newspaper and current affairs magazine didn't go to Guardian Weekend, the FT Weekend Magazine, the Sunday Times Magazine or the New Statesman—though all were nominated. Nor did it go to Private Eye, The Economist, the Spectator or Prospect—none of which were nominated. It went to Fabulous, the women's magazine that crawled from the wreckage of the News of the World, which is stretching the definition of current affairs. Columnist of the year went to YOU magazine's Liz Jones, perhaps the most extreme case of journalism as exhibitionism. From the judges' citation, it was hard to work out what was being celebrated, other than a capacity "to divide people". Whatever happened to uniting them in admiration?

Nevertheless, there were things to celebrate. Tim de Lisle was pleased to see Wired win ("the citation even mentioned long-form journalism") and one magazine that won two awards is a popular read with half our table. Lucy Farmer, our submissions editor, has liked the free magazine Stylist ever since it landed, three years ago. It won art director of the year (weekly or fortnightly) and editor of the year in women's magazines (ditto). "It's intelligent, fun and empowering for women," Lucy explained to me, "The beauty features are informed, not frivolous, and the literary coverage is a cut above other women’s mags." Not every commuter can get hold of a copy. "I always grab two from the vendor at Clapham Junction on my way into work. One for me and one for a colleague who cycles in." Print is not dead.

Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life