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Should small papers bother entering the APSE contest?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Cadet, Jan 22, 2007.

  1. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Perhaps this gets debated each year, I can't recall.

    The lowest division in the APSE writing/section contest is for circulation under 40,000. That's a pretty wide-reaching number. Is it even worth it for small papers, say those under 15,000, to bother putting together entries?

    The more I thought about this, the more I realized that somewhere between, say, 10K and 40K, the "community journalism" line changes. Those at 10K papers are running press releases from the YMCA and centerpiecing the Little League team's 15-10 season. Those at 40K papers have the staff and resources to put forth some hard-hitting journalistic effort, if they choose. The focus is entirely different within this circulation category.

    Insight from those at smaller papers or those who have experience with the APSE contest?
  2. fmrsped

    fmrsped Active Member

    Interesting question/topic, and I can relate. ... First stop was a 37K shop with ACC and SEC beats and plenty of top high schools. Compare that to a 9K paper in the next state over (just picking one at random) that covers five high schools (if that) and a DII school.

    Doesn't mean that the 9K paper doesn't do what it does well, but certainly their section has to be much more efficient and proficient to produce the amount of good stuff a 37K paper would with a bigger staff and more stuff to cover.

    Having said that, I'd never discourage anyone from entering because there's good work being done everywhere. But by nature, it has to be a little harder for them to win an award in that circ. category.
  3. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Not to be dumb about it, Cadet, but it kind of really depends on whether a paper that size has some work they're really proud of.

    The judges don't look down on papers because of their size, and in fact, in the writing contest, all are created equal. There's no circulation number printed on the entries. If there's a good youth feature story or whatever, go for it.

    I will say, though, that having judged a few times, don't waste your time and enter just for the sake of entering. I've seen some entries in the small paper writing categories that were so bad, you were able to toss them after two or three paragraphs. The editors at those papers should be honest with themselves about what it is they have.

    Of course, if they want to enter anyway, well, that's up to them. As long as their dues are paid, it doesn't cost anything.
  4. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    I've judged this category before. Writing, section and special section. Not to mention project.
    By the number of entries, I though EVERY under 40k paper entered - multiple times.

    (And here's some insight. When I did judge, I had no idea if your paper was 33k or 23k or 13k or 3k. I new the paper was under 40k.)
  5. beardown

    beardown Member

    If you have a story that you're proud of, by all means enter it.

    If your section has a chance to play ball in judging, enter it. Check past winners on APSE's Web site to see how yours would compare.

    Critiques are double-edged depending on how you take them. If you are secure in yourself and like the feedback, enter your sections no matter what. If you don't like negative criticism and don't think you have a real shot, it's probably not worth entering a section.

    I've judged once and I've been a part of giving tough critiques and receiving some on sections. It's a waste of time for the judge to go through a section that's poorly put together or has a blatant error. You'll get pretty rough feedback, especially after the 18th hour of judging. But it's what you pay your dues for.
  6. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    I understand this is how it's designed to work. But certainly you could tell the difference between a one-man sports staff and a larger paper, right?

    I'm not taking a "this isn't fair" approach - I'm sure there are good reasons why those in charge set the category up this way. Dividing the category would mean having to find more judges, might take longer to review, etc.

    I'm just wondering how large the divide really is, and if quality work from a 10K really can compete with quality work from a 40K, given the difference in resources and staff size.
  7. beardown

    beardown Member

    You're stuck, it's that simple. Yes, you'll be able to tell the difference between a one-man show and a staff of 10. It's probably not worth sending your stuff in unless you're an amazing designer and want to leave for a better job.

    Still, the writing categories are worth it. But know what you're going up against.

    The categories shifted about 8 or so years ago to include smaller papers. It used to be 50,000 and under, 50,000 to 150,000 and then major metros.

    If you'd really like to see change in APSE, it may be worth contacting APSE's leadership. The organization is always looking for more voices and if your paper and several like it want to join and participate nationally, I'm sure changes can be made. Unfortunately, most real small dailies and weeklies can't afford annual dues or to participate in regional or national conventions. The "woe is we" crowd tends to get swallowed up by the "too bad" faction.
  8. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    You're absolutely right. In the writing category, it is a little more difficult. But, section and special section, one can certainly tell. But, I've seen an investigative package from a real small paper on a high school be the main topic of a judging session.
  9. Editude

    Editude Active Member

    Looking back at long-ago work from my smaller stops, the writing tended to be of higher quality than the sections. I would look to non-game work, maybe a good profile or series, that gives a good sense of the subject(s) and of the place.
  10. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Cadet, I know from experience what you're dealing with, because our circ is around 101,000. Which puts us right at the bottom of the 100-250 group.

    Just give it a shot, and if you do manage to pull something in, it'll be twice as good because you'll know the odds you were up against.
  11. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    A former boss with a lot of big-time experience is running a small daily, and last year they won two or three writing awards. They don't have good resources and they don't have any major-league or major-college teams, but quality stands out. It's a tough class because there are so many small papers. In the largest class, mathematically you have about a 50-50 shot at making best section, which is ridiculous.
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