COFFEE WITH KEITH
Awards. You can love ‘em or hate ‘em, but when it comes down to it they’re simply someone else’s opinions on how you’re doing your job slanted by how they think they’re doing theirs.
And, that person or persons usually are not close to being in your inner circle or understanding the circumstances surrounding why you do the job the way you do.
At least that’s my interpretation of how it is in the newspaper industry.
Personally, I’ve never taken much stock in newspaper awards. I mean, really, who cares?
Yep, they can look good on a resume, on a wall and maybe even on an advertising rate sheet, but at the end of the day they’re of little value, except maybe for an ego.
This past weekend, the Texas Press Association released the results of its annual Better Newspaper Contest where publications of similar sizes and circulations vied against each other for bragging rights. Your Boerne Star picked up an award for feature photography.
Kudos to us. Enough said about that.
I’ve been on both sides of the newspaper awards process for decades. During my tenure in this business, I’ve picked up about 50 awards and a Pulitzer Prize nomination. I’ve also judged contests almost annually for at least 20 years – deciding on who wins a first-place trophy or plaque and who’s hard work gains no recognition whatsoever.
I volunteer to be a judge because not many in my profession want to take the time and make the commitment to help. But, I’m always a little uncomfortable doing it.
Because in all reality what qualifies me alone to decide what column, story, photo or page design from another state sometimes far away is the best and what isn’t?
All I get to use to judge and determine is my expertise in the business. Judges never receive any background on why a column or story was written or why a photo was taken.
If you take the task seriously, it can be rather difficult.
On the other side of the coin, I’m sure over the years I’ve earned awards for entries that did not really deserve it and didn’t win for entries that did.
The outside opinions making the decision. It leaves me scratching my head.
At a previous newspaper and company I worked for, we always were told we were not in the business to win awards. That was the white lie we also proclaimed to the public over and over and over.
Yet, when awards time came calling, we were asked to be dedicated to the cause and enter as many things as we could so we could win as many plaques and ribbons as possible to prove just how good we are.
We stuffed the ballot box, so to speak. And, the company always bragged to its peers.
To this day, that company and those newspapers and the people who work for them do the same thing. They’re a bit two-faced and self-centered for my liking, and their approach to the profession is wrong.
It’s all part of this me-first society and people not practicing what they preach.
Already this week, I’ve read a Facebook post from a fellow Hill Country editor who used a first-person narrative to proclaim he won three TPA awards.
I could care less if I’ve ever won a newspaper award or could care less if I win another 50 before I retire.
I enter my work in contests because I’m asked to do so.
What really and truly matters to me is how the dozens of people I’ve mentored and coached over the years are faring in the business, how my current workmates are doing and how my boss and his boss think I’m doing while I’m sitting in this chair.
And most importantly, what matters to me is how you think this newspaper is doing with me in the editorial driver’s seat.
Here at The Star, we preach communication, partnerships, dedication and covering the community to the best of our ability with the resources we have available. To be honest, it’s not always easy. But every day we try our best.
True, if you come to our office some awards decorate our walls. So I guess we’re guilty of bragging, too.
But, what we’re really the best at is bringing this community what it needs to know with each edition we print. No one does it better and no one ever will under my watch.
If that gains us industry awards, so be it. If it doesn’t, so be it.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. We’re your newspaper. We’re committed to it.
And you continuing to enjoy reading it and appreciating our dedication and effort always will be award enough for me.
And, as always, and as I say every week, thanks for reading.