Thursday, November 16, 2017

Claiming the Ambivalence Award

Apparently my award came with extra chins. (Bill Armendariz/Headlight photo)

Last weekend I drove up to Albuquerque for a second consecutive Saturday of training - a "Back to Basics" series of panels organized by the Society of Professional Journalists, which for me was more like "Hello, Basics, nice to meet you."

Meanwhile, at a casino in Bernalillo, the New Mexico Press Association was getting ready to hand out awards for its annual Better Newspapers contest. That night, one of my "Desert Sage" columns took first place for dailies with circulations under 11,000.

They gave me a plaque in honor of a column I wrote back in March, which described my observations at Deming's UPS depot on a day when they were interviewing for supervisor positions. I described the scene including the surprisingly candid speech from their H.R. officer (a voice on a speakerphone - I kid you not, someone held up their iPhone and The Voice spoke to everyone in the room) about the class divisions in that workplace, and how supervisors were expected to exert severe discipline on the unionized drivers.

A judge sheet said it stood out for making a point via storytelling. Just what I was attempting - the affirmation feels nice.

It was amusing, writing the anonymous staff report about myself winning the award. On the other hand, it was also an opportunity to give a brief history of "Desert Sage," a 16-year old weekly column originated by Win Mott.

As it happened, I was not invited to attend this ceremony. Budgets are tight and only a couple of people from our region went. My News Director in Las Cruces picked up the plaque for me. The training felt like a more important place to be anyway.

Also, I feel this ambivalence about awards.

On the one hand, industry awards are a way to celebrate strong work and uphold standards of quality.

On the other hand, I am wary of self-congratulation. Especially since, reading the piece again, I want to re-write it. It's almost there - almost good. It has inspired me to try harder. For instance, my column this week. I'm happier with this one.

On another hand, get over it. Accept the compliment, receive what someone else is offering, and own the possibility that someone might respect something you made.

P.S. There is now a page where you can access my columns and other reporting online.