Alan Riquelmy: Winning the real award
I still remember the feeling of seeing my name on an award for the first time.
It was for the Georgia Press Association, and like many journalism contests, it was divided into several divisions, with plenty of categories for each.
The certificate was on that crinkly paper that has an aura of importance. A blue border flowing at the edges, and the specific contest name with my name in the center.
“Congratulations,” someone said as I left for home that day, pausing for a moment to recognize the achievement. “Nice job.”
It’s easy to dismiss the annual contests that pit newspapers of similar size against one another. It’s nothing but a crap shoot. The judge was just a reporter in another state who had nothing to write that day, so he got saddled with this duty. It’s just a beauty contest.
Sure, I’ve heard them all. Then I’ve watched as those spilling these excuses take pride in their own work when it wins an award.
Because, really, who’s going to turn down formal accolades when you write something that merits recognition?
Writing — like painting or singing or any form of art — is an extension of the person who created it. We’re not making widgets, punching a clock then going home each day. It’s a craft you work on, hone, and, hopefully, improve upon every passing day.
And when you win an award in your craft, it’s important to pause for a moment and take pride in the accomplishment.
Also, who doesn’t want an “awards” section on their resume?
This past year, The Union, and our sister paper the Sierra Sun in Truckee, did pretty well in the annual contests. Both papers notched a spot in the General Excellence category — an overall award for the paper itself.
The Union also took some awards for stories you likely remember. John Orona wrote about the drama over felling trees in Nevada City, with a man people called “Tarzan” taking residence in the boughs for days in an attempt to stave off PG&E’s cutters.
Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez got awards for his fire coverage, as well as the Nevada City Film Festival. Publisher Don Rogers won for a personal column about his father, and the editorial board received an award for an opinion piece about local government closing the doors on the people’s business — a personal pet peeve of mine that happens far too often.
Digital Engagement Editor Samantha Sullivan received an award for a graphic she created for a story about opioid overdoses.
It’s important to recognize employees like Sullivan — and Cory Fisher, David Mariuz and Joslyn Fillman. You don’t see them as often as reporters in the field — like Victoria Penate, William Roller, Stephen Wyer, Rebecca O’Neil, and Sierra Sun Staff Writer Justin Scacco — but they play just as important a role behind the scenes.
It’s unlikely everyone will get an award every year. Writing, like any art, is subjective, and you never know what kind of judge you’ll get.
What you, the reader, will get is a hard working newsroom that covers this county and its people to the best of its ability. We strive to tell your stories, fairly and accurately, each day.
Despite the pressure of this industry, despite the sometimes angry people and strong emotions that loom over the job, plenty of folks want to be in journalism, but can’t for whatever reason.
Getting to do this job, especially when it’s a personal calling, is itself an award.
Alan Riquelmy is the editor of The Union. He can be reached at 530-477-4249
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