What newspapers come to mind when you read award citations such as the following:
“Immaculate work, measuring up to the highest standards ANYWHERE” (emphasis mine).
“Stunningly focused example of a paper designed for speed reading” (this about a newspaper with stories on ONE page measuring a total of nearly two metres long).
“Rigorous attention to detail and creative flair separate this paper from some very strong competition”.
“What a visual pleasure”.
“An exceptionally well-balanced newspaper”.
“Radiant colour pictures and aesthetics”.
You would think these would be some of the Top 10 newspapers in the world, wouldn’t you?
These award citations are for newspapers in a country not known for top quality newspapers internationally.
And that’s exactly where the problem lies.
Many national newspaper associations around the world regularly award prizes to newspapers based on a poor set of criteria and highly debatable standards.
The so-called experts called upon to judge many of these awards are often not journalists or have journalism backgrounds. In fact, many of them come from advertising backgrounds.
As a result, the “best” newspapers are lulled into thinking that they really are tops.
But pitched against the best in the world, these newspapers have utterly no chance of even winning consolation prizes. Some of these finalists were so bad they would not even be considered worthy of submission to an international competition.
National awards can therefore be very misleading indicators of how good a newspaper truly is.
Editors would do themselves and their readers a great service if only they would see what the best newspapers in the world are doing, rather than comparing their papers with those within their national boundaries.
Note to national newspaper associations: Elevating newspapers to such heights as described in the citations above only serve to stifle creativity and create a false sense of excellence.
After all, isn’t it part of the job of national associations to help newspapers improve?