Saturday, April 25, 2009


In this time when it seems like the only news about newspapers is soul-crushingly bad, it's always welcome to hear about the good work they still do.

On that note, I'd like to congratulate my many former Indianapolis Star colleagues who won awards at the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists award contest. The Star had another impressive year, picking up 19 first-place wins and 38 all together.

I'd especially like to laud Neal Taflinger and Konrad Marshall, who won first and third place, respectively, in the lifestyle feature category. Feature departments at the Star and most newspapers have been especially hard hit during the economic downturn, so it warms the heart to see them honored.

I myself won second place in the A&E feature category. It was for an IndySunday cover story I did about the rising influence of African-American film.

I do have a cautionary note, though, to all those who won and especially to those who thought they might and didn't: Don't let an award, or lack of, lay too heavily on your ego. If they're honest, the people who run these contests will confess how arbitrary the process is. It falls to a tiny group of journalists, usually out-of-staters, to pass judgment, with their own biases and predilections.

I remember one of the biggest awards I won in the early part of my career, for the SPJ regional contest covering the entire South. I won the top award, known as the Green Eyeshade, for breaking news about a shooting in rural Florida. I was about 26 years old at the time and over the moon. Then I submitted the same story, in the same category, to the state SPJ contest and didn't even rate an honorable mention.

So, to those who won: Cherish this award, but don't let it go to your head. To those who didn't: Keep plugging; your time will come.

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