When a blogging award isn’t for blogging

By Felix Salmon
May 26, 2010
sets me straight on the new blogging award:

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Jim Prevor, a self-described “proud finalist for the Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism for work that originated online”, sets me straight on the new blogging award:

There is no Loeb category for blogging. The category is entitled “Online Commentary and Blogging” and the criteria is “excellence in analysis and commentary that originates online” — so if George F. Will decided to give up his Washington Post gig and, instead, post his column online every Tuesday and Thursday — he would be eligible. There is no requirement to have a blog or be a blogger.

The new category is obviously a response to changes in the media whereby many respected publications don’t have the page count to carry all the great stuff they could publish, so they publish it online…

The pieces I was nominated for had nothing to do with the Blog and were three articles, exactly identical in form and substance to the kind I have had published in the print version of The Weekly Standard, except for reasons of space and timeliness, the editor ran them online.

This is, actually, precisely my point. If Prevor’s work is “exactly identical in form and substance” to the kind of stuff that might otherwise have appeared in print, then shouldn’t it be competing with that content, for the Commentary award, rather than being ghettoized in an award which seems to care more about the medium than the message?

Prevor and I agree that he’s no blogger. But here’s the thing: there’s no point in having a whole new award if it’s not for blogging and is just for commentary — there’s a perfectly good commentary award already. If there is going to be a new blog for online content, it should recognize stuff which could only be online. That’s why I thought the award would go to blogs (as opposed to individual blog entries), and would award bloggers (as opposed to someone whose day job is to be the editor of a stable of fresh-food trade mags such as PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine).

Francine McKenna, another finalist for the award, says she believes that the nomination “was a first-attempt to recognize work like mine”. But the fact is that if she doesn’t win, then the award will not go to work like hers. She’s the only full-time blogger on the list, and she’s also the only one of the nominees who is truly independent: her nomination, uniquely of the four, was not submitted on her behalf by an established print publication.

One of the great things about the internet is that it’s a natural home for sites like McKenna’s, which are good at filling niches which print publishers have neither the ability nor the inclination to address. But if the Loebs wanted to create a prize for sites like McKenna’s, they did a very bad job of it, judging by the four finalists.

Comments
6 comments so far

“What, precisely, is your problem with that?”

I don’t have a problem with that. It shouldn’t be long until you receive the Online Boasting Award to add to that list.

Posted by DonthelibertDem | Report as abusive

I appreciate your mentioning my comment on your post.

The “Commentary” category is for BOTH online and print journalism. It is already integrated as you suggest. However, the category is for “editorials, columns and syndicated columns” — not for other forms of journalism such as blog posts or op-ed pieces.

So the online category is creating an opportunity to honor work that would otherwise not be eligible for recognition.

To your broader point: The problem is that in other competitions, where they have gone the route of setting up separate categories for things that can “only be online” the awards have generated into awards for technical wizardry. The one who wins has the most videos, the most mobile apps, etc. – the content gets lost because the judging criteria places a priority on doing things that can only be done online.

But why should we prejudge that this is the most valuable experience we can give our online readers?

Imagine if print awards depended on doing things that can “only be in print” – then the award would go to the publication with lots of scent strips, pop-ups and holograms.

There is certainly an argument for integrating print and digital and allowing them to compete together in categories such as best feature story, best news report, best commentary, etc. – but it is also true that these are distinct media, like, say, theatre and movies.

We could merge the Tony Awards and the Academy Awards and judge the presentations as simply the “best drama” and then have a few technical awards, like cinematography, for the technical matters. But they are different media, they operate on different economic scales and it seems acceptable to most to honor each one separately.

The purpose of these awards is really to offer an incentive for people to do more good work. To give an award for “excellence in analysis and commentary that originates online” is an attempt to encourage people and organizations to strive to originate great analysis and commentary online. If that great analysis is on a blog, terrific, enter those posts. If it is an “online exclusive” for a publication – enter those as well.

If the worst thing that happens is that some online or, for that matter, some print journalism is honored when there is something better out in the other medium that was not honored well, that is no more upsetting than the fact that the fourth best theatrical drama – which gets no nomination for a Tony, is actually better than the third place cinematic drama which did get an Oscar nomination.

Hopefully the Tony Awards encourage great Broadway shows, the Oscars encourage fine movies and two categories in the Loeb Awards, one for online commentary and one for print commentary, encourage great work in both fields.

The world must have bigger problems to deal with.

-Jim Prevor
http://www.PerishablePundit.com

Posted by JimPrevor | Report as abusive

You can’t have it both ways, Jim. If your three posts were “exactly identical in form and substance to the kind…published in the print version” of the Weekly Standard, how does the online category serve to honor a medium as fundamentally different from print as the stage is from the screen? The award shouldn’t function as a consolation prize, for the best journalism not quite good enough to be worth actually printing.

Good blogging is like good feature-writing or good beat-reporting. It’s a journalistic form with its own conventions, quirks, potentials, and limitations. And there’s room for variation. The narrow-yet-enlightening specialist like McKenna; the omnivorous generalist like Tyler Cowen; the highly-technical wonk like Felix; the popularizing wonk like Ezra Klein. Just as no two beat reporters approach their work in the same fashion, no two bloggers look quite the same, either.

But there are key things that stand out. They tend to post entries that are shorter and more timely than other journalistic forms. They all build in some mechanism for interacting directly with their audiences. They link freely, taking part in a broader conversation, and making their sources comparatively transparent. And they offer a more personal voice than most reporters, and more factual content than most commentators. Blogging is its own genre.

I happen to think that good blogging could be integrated into multiple categories. The Best Writing category, for example, features an entry from CNET this year, for writing that never made it into print. Breaking News could conceivably recognize a blogger. So could Commentary. At the very least, if we’re going to erect a new category for blogging, we should recognize that it’s not just a different venue, but a different genre. It stands in the same relation to the other awards as does feature writing or commentary. But the Loebs pretended it was a new publication category, instead of a new genre. Newspapers of Medium Size, Magazines, and…blogs? That just makes no sense. And so, unsurprisingly, do the results.

Posted by Cynic | Report as abusive

“. . . the best journalism not quite good enough to be worth actually printing.” (from Cynic’s apt omment)

Unfortunately, that’s the way MSM thinks of blogging in general. This attitude reflects MSM’s belief that it had already perfected the art and science of journalism, and that any deviation is heresy. And the analogy to religion is appropriate, because MSM can offer no rational argument that blogging isn’t an appropriate practice of journalism (except that it has not yet understood how to make money from it).

You know, if you receive an award, you still have to go to work the next day. And unless you adapt your practice to changes in technology and culture, the award is worse than meaningless. It demonstrates that you are an expert horseman in the era of automobiles.

Posted by Curmudgeon | Report as abusive

Felix:

Not sure how to best do blogging awards, or if they really matter. I suspect not. Certainly, I do not believe they warrant airtime on your blog, which I find to be one of the finer blogs on the web for financial related info, even if you do sprinkle in your personal obsessions for wine, NYC, etc.

Personally, I liked your video clip experiment, but I guess it did not pass someone’s muster. It would be great to see someone like yourself be the “Charlie Rose” of financial blogging. Clearly, you have the ideas, questions and access to many of the people that matter on items of vital concern to the global economy. Such a forum would extend your reach and access to such individuals. You would become harder to ignore. It could be done with or without video, though I expect video would gather a bigger audience over time – budgets aside.

p.s. Glad to see your links to skeptics coming out on Buffet’s $5B worth of bias regarding Goldman Sachs. I wish there were more reporters and bloggers taking up this issue. The big five IB’s did a good job of trashing the global economy, while walking away relatively unscathed (so far) with a bailout and huge profits, while much of the rest of the world is suffering from their highly egregious and in my opinion, illicit behavior. Yet, banking leaders have the audacity to complain with indignitation toward the gov’t that will be picking up the pieces for a long time to come. Personally, I believe many of them belong behind bars.

Posted by netvet | Report as abusive

Not that I don’t wish Felix, or his video clips, well and fully anticipate ways of him Attaining Great Things (even, if be it must, blogger awards) on the basis of sheer merit alone…

But before I became the “Charlie Rose” of anything, I’d prefer someone to shoot me. Dead.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive
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