Journalistic Journalism

God, how I hate journalism-award contests.

Don't get me wrong; I love winning awards in newspaper contests. It's nice, even though there's no way to really, truly, quantifiably judge what makes one article better than another. This means contests are often a semi-meaningless crapshoot. But, hey, you get idiot plaques that make for fun target practice. It gives you a chance to go to awards ceremonies, eat rubber chicken and have awkward conversations with other journalists you've never met before. Good times.

What I hate about journalism contests is the process of entering them. There are three journalism contests we faithfully enter every year, and we entered a fourth this year. Three of the four contests have recent entry deadlines, and each of the three has completely different rules. For one, entrants submit tearsheets--that's articles clipped (or, as the word says, torn) from a real issue--or submit Web site printouts, at least in most categories. For another, entrants are encouraged to upload PDFs of pages to a contest Web site--except for in certain other categories, where you have to send tearsheets. The third contest involves putting entries in cute binders, something like you'd do for a freshman book report.

The process is a pain in the ass. Some writers are cooperative and suggest stuff to enter when asked; others only cooperate--sometimes--under extreme pressure to do so (hello, James Reel!). You have to navigate dusty archives to find old issues. You get paper cuts and inky fingers. And it all takes a LOT time that would be better spent doing something else. Anything else. Ah, but the annoying part is over--for at least a few months. Time to eat rubber chicken, have awkward conversations and get plaques. Again ... good times!

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