This morning, as we chowed down on our Breakfast Sandwich at the Big Top Deli on Maine Street, we browsed through the Portland Sunday paper, in which we learned that:
Press Herald/Telegram sweeps Maine journalism awards
Back in the old days when we subscribed to and read The Ostrich, we used to marvel at how many annual awards this humble little example of journalism regularly won in the annual competition. We knew that Maine doesn’t have all that many newspapers. We also knew that for purposes of the awards, they are separated into weeklies and dailies.
Still, the skeptic and cynic inside us surmised that so many awards were given out annually to so few competitors that virtually no still breathing print outlet would go without an award. We also discovered somewhere over the years that the awards were not given as a result of objective review of the year’s journalistic product in toto, but in stead, like the Oscars, are given to the “best XYZ of the year” from among the nominations submitted. (Actually, in the case before us, to the top three among the nominations.)
As we’ve clearly stated in the past, ‘best of the year’ is a relative assessment, not an absolute. Some years, movies produced are better or worse overall than other years. Yet, there will always be a “Best Movie of the Year,” even if it isn’t half as good as the winner two years ago. These are not awards of excellence; they are awards of relative ranking.
If these awards only recognized true excellence, some years there would be none in a given category, and other years there would be four or five in the same category.
Enough already; let’s cut to the chase. We decided to look into the rest of the story.
So we headed to the Maine Press Association web page: https://mainepress.wordpress.com/
As you will see, the MPA has 7 dailies as members, and 22 weeklies. Note as well that The Forecaster and the Coastal Journal, two weeklies distributed and widely read in our area, are not listed as members. We suppose that’s a matter of their choice.
We found the link to the awards for 2013: https://mainepress.wordpress.com/2013-contest-winners/
While we may have miscounted by a few, our quick tally of the listings came up with 398 total awards. Handing out nearly 400 awards to a total of 29 members means that on a pure pro-rata basis, each could expect to win nearly 14 awards.
Our conclusion? Suspicions confirmed. They give out so many awards that EVERYONE is a winner; some more than others, but EVERYONE wins. Unless, that is, your efforts are so abysmally incompetent and unworthy that you’re probably already out of business. Or you simply choose, like The Forecaster, not to join the association.
We’ll conclude this flight of foolishness by making an award of our own. The envelope, please!
And the Four Backside Award goes to the Maine Press Association for making awards so numerous and so granular as to render their value essentially meaningless.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Especially when you consider that the recipients’ efforts are nearly meaningless, particularly in view of the classic principles of what used to be called journalism