Home > Awards, Columns > Thumbs down to awards weekend bitching

Thumbs down to awards weekend bitching

May 2, 2011

Here’s a thumbs down that deserves its own post:

Thumbs way, way down to the way in which awards weekend brings out the conspiracy theorist in normally sane and reasonable journalists.

Every year reporters, editors and publishers gather around a computer, look at the nominees and winner lists for the CCNA and Ma Murray awards and, if they don’t win, declare the judges bought, the results skewed and themselves persecuted.

They do all this having seen only their own entries. Publishers will declare “We should have won more” having seen few, if any, of the competing entries. And reporters will declare that sponsorships and corporate backroom deals influence the winner of certain awards, evidence to the contrary be damned.

This is pernicious in a few ways, but perhaps most disturbing is the way such conspiracy theories allow newspapers and journalists to overlook deficiencies in their own work. Perhaps, if you’re not winning awards, you’re just not doing the hard work required to win an award. Maybe someone else called one more source, wrote a better lede, or proofed their story one more time. And maybe you just needed to do something different, outside the box.

Forget the conspiracy theories and instead consider Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is usually right. Maybe you didn’t deserve an award.

Categories: Awards, Columns Tags: ,
  1. Dale Bass
    May 4, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I have judged National Newspaper Awards often and it’s always a panel of three, we come up with criteria and it always seems to work out just fine. One time, one committee member was lobbying heavily for a friend but, because we had established criteria and it wasn’t just one of us, it was resolved. The judge wasn’t happy but the process wasn’t tainted. And, as chair of the CAJ, I can tell you the same meticulousness goes into judging our awards, too.

  2. May 2, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    You’re definitely right. As much as I would have liked to get a nomination, I can recognize that my lack of any only means I’ll try better next time.

    That being the case, anything I didn’t win this year I’ll just award to myself from the comforts of my home bar. That sound of ice clinking is my acceptance speech.

  3. May 2, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Hear hear. As one who has judged several awards for other provincial associations and the CCNA, it always irks me to hear talk of favouritism or bias of judges. I can’t speak for the Ma Murrays because being a member paper judging is appropriately done by someone else, but for all the other associations I have had the pleasure of judging I can honestly say I’ve never been pressured to do anything other than pick a winner by the deadline (and we all meet deadlines … right?). This year I had the pleasure of judging a general excellence category for the Ontario Community Newspaper Association. They used a three-person panel to judge the category and, after we all made our individual picks, got together on a conference call to hash out our choices and come to a consensus on a winner, second place, and third place newspaper. Very fair and very tough for anyone’s bias to show up in the final result.

  4. Catherine Litt
    May 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Amen, brother.

  5. Nick
    May 2, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Well put.

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