By DAVID GREEN
I drove to Grand Rapids Saturday to receive a plaque. I have a few of them and I need to come up with a good display option, such as a large mobile hanging from the front office ceiling.
The Michigan Press Association awards were announced last October, but the plaque-passing takes place at the annual convention in Grand Rapids.
This year I didn’t really even go to the convention. I registered for a day just because it seemed proper and bought the dinner tickets for my wife and myself.
We didn’t leave until Saturday morning and arrived about a half hour before the dinner was scheduled to begin. Let’s just say that I’m not conventional. I don’t enjoy putting on the suit and tie to talk with my fellow publishers from around the state.
The dinner was rather sparsely attended this year. I don’t know if that’s an indication of the financial state of newspapers or if it’s just a change in the format of the convention. Saturday used to be a big day with a lot going on. Now it seems that most everything is scheduled on Friday—a working day for many of us. I had a wrestling tournament and a basketball game to cover Friday night.
Eight Newspaper of the Year awards are presented annually. It started Saturday with the largest of the dailies and it was a shocking opening. Ron Dzwonkowski, a Free Press editor, walked to the stage, got his plaque and stepped to the podium.
What? Nobody ever gives a speech during this process. What is he trying to do? His short talk was something along the lines of “I didn’t have much to do with winning this award. I want to thank my hard-working staff, etc.”
Next in line was the Jackson Citizen Patriot. No speech. Next came the Traverse City Record-Eagle. I don’t recall if anything was said, but then came another shocker. It was time for the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun and there was no one to pick up the award. The best small daily paper in the state and no one showed up to acknowledge it.
On to the weeklies. First was the Southgate News-Herald, with another hard-working staff acknowledgment. Next came the Detroit Jewish News. I don’t recall that they’ve ever won the award before, and oddly enough, no one showed up for that plaque, either.
The next size down was the Gaylord Herald Times. The award was retrieved by the publisher of another member of the chain that owns the Herald Times, so he felt it necessary to thank the staff of the other paper.
Finally, the smallest of the weeklies.
I went up for my award Saturday and gave no comments. I’m old school. No speeches.
But later on, I wished I would have said something. It would have sounded like the other guys: “I’d like to thank the Observer’s hard-working staff, including the news editor, the education editor, the sports writer, the photographer, the guy who addresses the papers on Tuesday nights, the janitor.…” I know I’m not the only member of the Observer staff, but at that point I would have been talking to myself. Somebody in the audience would have understood the joke.
I was back home in time to grab a hammer and chisel and break away the ice dam that had formed on the Observer roof. I was sure I cleaned out the eavestrough at the back last fall, but I was wrong.
Strike the janitor from that speech. No award for him this year.