Eek! Committee updates editorial contest divisions

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By Karen T. Braeckel
HSPA Foundation

My mother warned me about this.

Never say never.

But red-headed, strong-willed children don’t listen.

Yes, I said it. In public. In a committee meeting.

We will never touch contest divisions again as long as I’m with the HSPA Foundation. Don’t even mention them.

But after a year of watching circulation changes and an already lopsided Division 3 in the editorial contest, the Newsroom Seminar and Better Newspaper Contest Rules Committee (and I) decided we had to act.

The smallest daily division simply had too many newspapers competing against each other. And as numbers declined, it only got worse. Other divisions began to show the effect as well.

After a lengthy discussion with all divisions represented on the committee, the 2013 Better Newspaper Contest breakdown will look like this:

Daily Division 6 – 35,000 and more (plus the Indianapolis Business Journal by request)

Daily Division 5 – 14,000 to 34,999

Daily Division 4 – 6,000 to 13,999

Daily Division 3 – 5,999 and less.

No change will be made in the nondaily divisions. The break will continue at 3,000.

We do allow newspapers to move into larger divisions if they choose. Some chains prefer not to compete against their smaller papers in the same division.

(Unfortunately, we do not accept requests to move down. Good idea, though.)

So how did the committee arrive at these divisions?

Carefully. Objectively. Conscientiously.

After the Newsroom Seminar in December, each committee member received a list of new circulation numbers without newspaper names or current divisions.

They studied these individually and came prepared for one of the longest meetings ever held by the group.

Darron Cummings, the outgoing committee chairman, volunteered to lead one last discussion.

As a photojournalist for the AP, he had no vested interest other than to maintain a fair conversation.

During the discussion, some divisions defined themselves naturally. A large break occurs between Divisions 5 and 6. Another shows up between 4 and 5. The biggest challenge fell between 3 and 4.

Even after completing the task, the decision-makers did not want to see the list with newspaper names. It kept the process impersonal and unbiased.

Will everyone be happy? If so, the committee performed a miracle. Will everyone accept the committee’s decision? We certainly hope so. It just passed through the 12-member (minus one) supreme court of contest divisions.

And we will never do it again – until we see the need.

Thank you, Linda

For those who did not attend the recent Annual Meetings and Government Conference, you may not know a founding HSPA Foundation board member stepped down this year.

Linda Chandler, publisher of The Versailles Republican and Osgood Journal, came on in 2000 as a liaison between the HSPA and HSPA Foun­dation boards, having just completed her term as HSPA president.

Over the years she served as president of both boards – one of only a handful of people to do it. She received the 2003 HSPA Distinguished Service Award.

After serving for 12 years, she decided it was time. We appreciate her long and dedicated service and will miss her candor and leadership.

Thank you, journalists

On a personal note, I appreciate the tremendous outpouring of support from HSPA members following my husband’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

We went “public” at the Annual Meeting to ask for your prayers. Believe me, we feel them.

John spent his career in health care following active duty in the Navy. Discussing health issues comes naturally in our family.

I always believed in lifelong learning, finishing my last graduate certificate in my 60s. But given a choice, we would pass on the medical lessons of the past four weeks. We now truly understand the meaning of living one day at a time.

His prognosis is good. He got through the first round of chemo without many side effects. If he responds as they expect, he can go through surgery to remove the cancer.

As one of our grandchildren cheers, “Go-o-o-o-o, Deke. Shrink the tumor.”

Thanks for your continued prayers.

Karen Braeckel is director of the HSPA Foundation. Her column runs in the second issue of each month.