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.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016