Home > Awards > Should dailies be allowed to compete in community newspaper competitions?

Should dailies be allowed to compete in community newspaper competitions?

March 10, 2011

Among those papers not nominated for a Ma Murray on Tuesday was the Prince George Free Press.

Here’s what Free Press editor Bill Phillips had to say on his blog:

Am still choked though that the association has allowed daily papers to enter the awards. Dailies are nominated for a dozen Ma Murray awards this year.

There are good reasons in favour of, and against, the participation of daily newspapers in a community newspaper competition.

On the one hand, dailies usually have more resources that are not always reflected in the categories in which they are entered. Specifically, many have multiple levels of editors, something rare among community papers.

And working for a daily is usually considered more prestigious than working for a weekly/bi-weekly/tri-weekly and the staff is usually more experienced.

On the other hand, it seems to make more sense for the Prince George Citizen to compete against the Free Press than, say, the Province. If the Free Press is a trout and the Citizen is a salmon, the Province is a whale.

At some point, you get into trying to define what, exactly, is a community newspaper. Is one just a small town/city paper, or does one have some other defining feature that would include or exclude a daily? Is it a perennial lack of resources? Or a mindset?

Weigh in by leaving a comment. Right now I’m undecided but I’ll try and formulate an own opinion soon.

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  1. March 13, 2011 at 10:25 am

    You are right in that defining a community newspaper is tough. One definition is that it is one that provides only community news, using only community-generated content (i.e. staff or local contributions).
    As for awards, i’ve always felt that using circulation numbers to define who competes against who is wrong. You say who else should the Free Press compete against for awards other than the Citizen? We have an editorial staff of five while the Citizen’s editorial staff numbers around 18.
    I’ve always advocated that award categories should be based on the size of the newsroom, not how many issues roll off the press.

    • March 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      Good points. However, rather than basing it on the size of the newsroom (which is tough once you count freelancers, etc.), I think a better way to go would be the number of pages a newspaper produces in a typical week. That number, I’d bet, closely mirrors the size of a newspaper’s staff and resources.
      I don’t think there’s a problem with having dailies competing with twice- and thrice-weeklies for writing and photography awards, though. They may have a little more time to chase some stories, but I think any high bar set by them can be achieved by a community newspaper reporter who is ambitious and talented enough.

      • March 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm

        You have fallen into the old stereotype that reportage at dailies is of a higher quality than at weeklies.

      • March 13, 2011 at 7:46 pm

        I don’t think I’m stereotyping. For one. I think my own reportage is pretty darn good, and I don’t work at a daily. I don’t read that many dailies in the first place so I can’t really form an opinion one way or the other. And yet I’ll try:
        I think that the sheer number of resources at a daily very generally translates to better reportage. If one reporter can spend four hours on a story, and another can spend only half that, the time element usually shows. Also, dailies tend to hire more experienced reporters. Every week I have to bang out stories which would be much better if I had more than 45 minutes to write them.
        That said, I also think my writing, as a whole, is better than that which appears in certain daily newspapers. And it’s because I don’t think that reportage in dailies is intrinsically better that leads me to believe that there’s no problem with having reporters from both compete against each other for writing and photography awards.

  2. March 11, 2011 at 9:21 am

    I know this is going to sound self-serving coming from a daily newspaper who has been nominated for BCYCNA awards, but for what it’s worth here’s the criteria the BCYCNA came up with in changing its membership criteria (quoted from the December 2006 BCYCNA newsletter):

    “The current guidelines for a community newspaper include producing a minimum number of issues per year, being in business for at least two years, and receiving ongoing circulation audits, to name a few. The BCYCNA added three new guidelines, which include circulating within no more than three BC or Yukon school districts; having a paid circulation of no more than 45,000; and publishing substantial, locally originated and produced news.”

    I think you’re on the right track in saying that small-city dailies have more in common with the weekly (twice-weekly, thrice-weekly) papers in their communities than they do with the Vancouver Sun. Besides which, the circulation categories (paid circulation is counted as double free circulation) naturally sort the bigger fish into the right pond when it comes to the award categories. The Kamloops Daily News (cumulative weekly circulation of about 72,000 paid) is up against the Surrey Now (cumulative weekly circulation of about 300,000 free), not against the Bridge River-Lillooet News (weekly circulation of 1,600 paid).

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