This post is written in conjunction with the 30 Days of Writing, a blog challenge devised by Nicky and Mike at “We Work For Cheese.” I’ll be participating throughout the month of June. If interested, you can see my post with the details of the challenge.
Please note that some of these posts will be serious, some will be normal, and some will be an attempt at humor. This one has a little of everything!
I’ve always taken a light-hearted look at awards in writing.
Are they cool? Absolutely.
Is it an honor to win them? Without a doubt.
But do I get all filled with ego and craziness when something like that happens? No.
During my time as a sports writer, I can say there are a lot of moments I was proud of or that I look back with fond thoughts about. The same can be said for the stories I wrote during those times. Sometimes the stories I thought were great, others didn’t. On the flip, there were times I thought I bombed a story and people raved about it.
Either way, I was never perfect. I had errors, just like everyone else. Sometimes the facts got mixed up or something else. There were a couple big errors that got me in some hot water.
But in the newspaper business, you have to put it behind you. I always had a hard time with that. So much so that there were times when my editor used to have to tell me to forget about things and move on.
I still pushed for perfection.
Over the course of my seven years at my last newspaper, I was lucky enough to win some awards. Six in total — five solo and one as a department. Though I am extremely proud of all the awards, I also realize they are subjective. And by that, I mean that I was fortunate that the person or people who read my stories and judged the categories I was in, liked my stuff.
If not, I would have been on the outside looking in.
I remember working in the public relations office as a student assistant during my college days. The head honcho had several plaques on his wall — awards he won when he was in the newspaper industry. I always looked at them in awe. One thing I was sure of — winning these awards are not easy. So, as a younger writer, I wondered if I’d ever have the chance to have some hardware to take home.
I remember the first one. I actually got a text from a friend who worked at another paper in a different state. It was a national award — the Associated Press Sports Editors — and I had received an honorable mention award for a game story I did.
It was 2005 and I was stoked for it. I had really liked the story, too, so that made it even better. What a feeling to know I had won something, if even just an honorable mention.
But, I also looked at it with perspective. I knew it was subjective. I knew it was cool, but it has to humble you as well. I thought it would look good on the ol’ resume, and, it would be something I could hang on the wall.
In 2006, it seemed like a banner year for me. I received two awards. The first was an honorable mention from the New York Associated Press for a story about a father and a son who were taking similar paths in high school basketball, many years apart.
The second was shocking because it came soon after our paper was purchased by a new company and I received the 2006 CNHI Sports Writer of the Year award. This award, however, comes with an interesting, if not funny, story.
First, it was shocking that I won. To that credit, it was also my first first-place award, so that made it even cooler. My question became — do I get a plaque? The other awards I had won came in cardboard frames, so I was hoping for something with substance this time.
And, it did come as a plaque. A really nice one. (It also came with a check, which was nice as well).
When the awards came, it was during a tough time in my world. It was the summer of 2007 and my father was losing his battle with cancer. He was still with it, at the time, for the most part, so the little things made him smile. I remember he was in the hospital when I got the plaque. The next day, I went to visit him and I showed him the plaque.
Note that this was the first plaque they sent me:
My father, despite being half-drugged up and all noticed the problem right away.
“They spelled your name wrong.”
There’s something ironic about that, don’t you think? A newspaper company, giving an award, misspells a name. Of one of their employees. Seriously. I can’t make this up.
They did right the mistake with a new plaque. I also got to keep them both. One day, I plan on having them hang side-by-side to show that people should always check the spelling of things, especially names!
Unfortunately, my father never got to see the corrected version. But that didn’t take away the pride of him knowing I had won and him seeing a plaque.
I won three more awards following that CNHI one — two firsts and a second. One of the firsts was shared with the whole department for sports coverage (in 2009), something I think the three of us were extremely proud of for what we tried to do. We had become one hell of a department over the years. That same year, I took second place in the NY AP awards for a first-person account where I spent a day on an area “chain gang.”
The last one I won also happened to be a first-place one, this time for sports column writing. I had to submit three columns (1, 2, 3) for this contest and I was thrilled when the results were announced.
Soon after, my position was cut and I joined the growing ranks of the unemployed.
Still, it didn’t take away the sense of accomplishment. Though I realize if different people had read those stories, I might not have won anything. That’s why it’s worth staying humble. Nothing is guaranteed in an industry like that. But in the end, nobody can take ’em away from me. And I still smile when I see the awards or think about them.
Maybe one day, there will be more. Maybe not. Heck, maybe I’ll find a way to get one for this blog. But if I don’t, I’ll know I’ve been to the top. That’s why I applaud any time somebody I know wins a professional award. I know the feeling of accomplishment and am glad others get to feel it as well.
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