2009.11.18 A judge learns to grieve 2009.11.18

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Journalists in Iowa judged Michigan’s Better Newspaper Contest last summer. On Friday we returned the favor.

I signed up to help knowing that great suffering lay ahead, but I arrived at the scene at 8 a.m. and got to work quickly while I was still awake.

And still enthused and ready to reward good work.

And hoping that this time I would escape the Five Stages of Judging Day Grieving.

How wrong I was. Only a few minutes passed before I hit that first wall—Denial, this can’t be happening to me.

I started off with Feature Page entries from weekly papers about our size. There was an entry that looked like an ad for the county fair. I tried another and found three pictures of the new ice cream truck.

Another showed three photos from the fourth of July celebration, including one that appeared to show storm clouds over a cornfield. There was no photo caption and I really couldn’t figure it out.

The next one had a photo of the school softball team plus the probable line-up. Then came a special section of Letters to Santa, loaded with Christmas greeting ads. Someone else passed off an election preview section as a feature page.

Maybe they just have a different idea of feature page in Iowa.

One editor subscribes to the bigger-the-better philosophy. A letter to the judge says, “Seven—count ’em—seven big pages of photos were included in this edition.”

I wasn’t that easily impressed and I felt Stage Two moving in: Anger, the “why me?” feeling.

I was forced to choose three examples of good work. I looked through them again, made my decision, and moved on to the entries from the smallest newspapers in the state.

I girded for the worst, but by the end I discovered they were actually better than the first batch—along with many exceptions.

I next chose Use of Graphics and the first batch included four entries. I only had to discard one, but I wanted to discard more. Just show me a clear winner and help me feel good about my work.

Later I dug into the photography entries and gave Stage Three of grieving a try: Bargaining. Mike MacLaren from the Michigan Press Association office walked by and I told him that I’d winnowed the entries down from 34 to these six and I wanted him to select the top three. Instead he just disappeared from the room.

I’m a small town boy and decided to give Agricultural News a try. I was befuddled. They’re publishing press releases and entering them as good ag news coverage. Show me an interesting story about someone. Dagnabbit, I was slipping back into Stage Two.

I packed up my choices before someone stopped by to see what I’d selected. I had reached the inevitable stage of judging: What am I doing here? What do I know about good quality work? Sometimes it happens when there’s too much good stuff; sometimes when there’s not enough. I was moving into Stage Four: Depression.

By now it was after noon and I noticed stacks of entries that everyone was avoiding. I took a look: Sports Stories.

Div. I: 26 entries. Div. II: 28 entries. I dug in and tried to control my eyebrows. What are the characteristics of Stage Four? Frustration, bitterness, feeling numb, perhaps suicidal.

I didn’t feel suicidal until I grabbed a packet of Sports Photos with 64 entries! I didn‘t want to do this, but I couldn’t just put them back in the envelope. The first pass narrowed the field to 18. This was where I really began to feel incompetent. I cut it down to seven; four of them had to go. 

The judging was advancing fairly well until the Iowa reps spoiled it by bringing out the college newspaper entries. Now I had to read the Wartburg Trumpet and puzzle over a Loras Duhawk.

I’ve told you about my suffering and my frustration, but I should mention that there were many good entries and some really fine work. You might think this statement represents the final stage of grieving: Stage Five, Acceptance.

You’re wrong. That came later when a name was drawn from an actual hat. One of the judges who stuck it out past 4 p.m. would receive a check for $100. My name was drawn, although there was no check to pass. I’m told it will be in the mail and I can accept that.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Front.batter

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017