Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Award season

It's awards seasons for journalists. I'd be curious to see Geoff Meeker tackle this one – on how journalists feel about being nominated, and winning, awards. I've experience a different reaction to them. The staff at The Express generally downplayed the worth of awards; the staff of The Packet took them much more seriously.

It's easy to understand both points of view. I've seen some really doozies get nominated for journalism awards. Editorials, stories, columns or pictures that have just left me utterly baffled (I had one colleague I thought was going to have to be tranked, he was so outraged over "that piece of shit hack" columnist winning an award several years ago). And in many cases newspapers just carpet bomb awards categories, figuring you might as well throw something at a category, you never know, the judge might wake up hung-over, decide to look at the nominees and you might get something.

Hell, I judged a CCNA (Canadian Community Newspaper Association) category several years ago and it was blatantly obvious which submission should have won in journalist initiative (or something like that). Hmmmm, should I give it to the paper who sent a reporter and photographer to a northern BC community to explore the impact of the oil industry from a social, economic and environmental perspective and how it might impact their community in the Yukon which was just beginning to develop an oil industry and put it together in a 12 page feature supplement. Or should I give it to the paper that sent their reporter to the court house to look for stories. That's a tough one, let me think about it.

It's those kinds of situations that normally made The Express staff ambivalent. We entered categories, but didn't take victories, or losses, all that seriously.

On the other hand, I remember The Packet taking it very seriously. We were aware of the flaws, however the general public wasn't. "It shows the community what they have," my editor said. "It reminds them they have one of the best little community papers in Canada, let alone Newfoundland." Which, never doubt for a second, is exactly what The Packet is. But because it's based in Clarenville, nobody pays any attention or takes it seriously outside the region. Their loss.

For my part, I have a half dozen or so journalism awards. I think I have six ACNA awards (Atlantic Community Newspaper Association) and one CCNA (for best sports photo, of all things). I really am proud of them, although that pride still feels a touch weird. They're in a box in storage right now. It's always felt strange to hang them up, as if journalists shouldn't care about such things.

But I always did. Sue me. I remember the first time I entered the ACNAs and CCNAs and didn't win a thing, but the Packet won something like 10 that year. I was pissed off even though I had only been with the paper a few months and was rusty as hell. I won three the next year – best business story, best columnist and best feature series. I'm still proud. It meant a lot to me as a beginning journalist. Besides, friends tease you about being an "award winning journalist", which isn't a bad thing to be teased about at all...

Anyway, I note that the ACNA nominations are up now. Even though it's dead, The Express is up for four (Best general interest columnist – Steve Bartlett, Best Specialty Columnist – Kerri Cull, Best Page Design – Mary Urie, Best Investigative Story – Kim Kielly) and The Packet has its usual boatload of seven - General excellence circulation more than 5,000, best advertising program (Bonnie Goodyear), Best Feature Photo (Barbara Dean-Simmons), Best National Editorial (Barbara Dean-Simmons), Best News Story (Kirk Squires), Best Original Advertising Idea (Staff) and Best Photo Essay (Cpl. Lou Penny).

Oh, the Packet also got a Blue Ribbon for excellence at the CCNA for papers with circulation between 4,000 – 6,499, along with nominations for Best Sports Page and Best business story (Barbara Dean-Simmons). The Express received two for Best Headline Writing and Best Coverage of the Arts.

One day Barb really must count up how many of these awards she's won over the past 27 years. I've no doubt she must be the most highly awarded journalist in the province. And its not just in one thing. She's won them for news writing, editorial writing, op-ed pieces, photography, layout and God knows what else. She's must have won dozens of them at this point. Well, enough to keep her warm for the winter if she ever had to start burning all those plaques.

It's probably best not to think what Transcontinental will do with any awards the Express wins. For that matter, I wonder what happened to all the awards the paper has won over the years? Probably packed up and tossed in a storage room somewhere. Sigh...


Edward G. Hollett said...

Recognition by ones peers is always something special, particularly when the awards are regional or national in scope.

Be proud of the ones you've received.

The attitude toward awards is the same in the PR and advertising community as it is among journalists.

Some individuals and companies really go mad for them, especially since it can remind clients (so the argument goes) that they have hired a pretty good individual or bunch of people.

At the same time, there are others who are just satisfied that the client is happy.

Anonymous said...

I was at the ACNA awards 2007 in Charlottetown. Great time, and lots of awards handed out. I received a pair of firsts and two of my reporters received third place.
The value of the awards isn't only in that they recognize our accomplishments, and that we are receiving kudos from our peers -- they are motivating. For me, they spur me on to do as well or better.
The ACNA convention itself is a great chance to socialize, compare notes, come up with new ideas, and head into the new year with a newfound energy.
And the Packet isn't overlooked. It's well respected. The closing of the Express is unfortunate, but that doesn't diminish the work and effort of the staff. They are a great bunch of people -- winners at the ACNAs and winners regardless of the ACNAs. Everybody in the business knows what they're made of.
I say, keep your eyes on Aaron Beswick of the Northern Pen. There's a unique character who won two awards for feature writing in his rookie year. Check him out.

From an ACNA winner, and proud of it.