Last week the James Beard Foundation announced a change in its journalism awards: Anyone who writes a story in print or on the web will now be eligible for its journalism awards.
Before, most of it was restricted to print. Now, whether you blog, publish features on your own website, or write for a group website, you’re eligible. Even the award for the “Best Food Section of a General Interest Publication” includes the web.
Since the announcement, I’ve been mulling over the ramifications of this decision and arguing with myself:
The blogger and online writer in me thinks it’s great. Beard has entered the 21st Century and leveled the playing field. No longer do writers have to get published in a newspaper or magazine to be eligible. A quality story is a quality story, regardless of where it appears.
The old school print journalist in me is a little miffed. In what other field do professionals compete with amateurs for industry awards? As one of my old school print friends asked, “What does this say about our profession?”
Then the blogger in me gets mad. Who you calling an amateur? That’s an outmoded term. Certainly many online writers do not think of themselves that way. And neither does Beard.
Then the cynic in me steps forward. Not to worry. Cream rises. That is why agents and publishers have a 97 percent rejection rate. The judges will just have more people to reject.
Besides, the entry fee is $100 per award. In the old days, print publication paid the fee. Now, individuals will have to fork over the money, per category. That’s a big dissuader.
To top it off, the head of the Beard journalism committee told the New York Times that few newspapers had entered the awards last year. Maybe they’re widening the field because they need the money.
Why did they make the change? “Because we cracked a window … and noticed it was 2010 outside,” wrote Kat Kinsman, a member of the journalism awards committee, in CNN’s Eatocracy.
“This is not a dance on the grave of print publication,” she continued. “Despite economically challenging times, staffing cuts and the competition posed by the immediacy and accessibility of online journalism, both magazines and newspapers continue to produce vital, vibrant, resonant journalism. Rather, this is an acknowledgment that online contributions should no longer be relegated to the kids’ table. Many of the same journalists who originally crafted their careers from ink and paper have found that the impact of their words and images are not lessened – and in fact can often be enhanced and delivered to a wider audience – via digital distribution.”
Here are the revised Beard award categories and entry form. Deadline is January 7, 2011.
Do you agree with her? Do you have your own set of arguments? Where do you stand on the widening of who can enter the “Oscars of the Food World?”
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