Blog, Journalism, Teaching

Contests: Guessing Game or Gut Reaction?

I’ve been playing a guessing game all day. It involves guessing what other people think, what they value and what they like. It’s called the contest game and it’s a game I hate to play every year.

The game is part of my job as a college media adviser. At the beginning of each year, my students and I pour over a year’s worth of newspapers and select entries in 27 categories for the Missouri College Media Association’s annual contest.

We thoroughly re-read 16 issues from the previous year, we agonize over what to submit, what to eliminate from our list of possibilities, which writers, photographers and designers should be considered, and how in the world we can possibly narrow 100 choices to 35.

Even though the contest categories are specific – news writing, sports writing, editorial/op-ed page, story illustration, etc. – and the guidelines clearly note that each piece will be judged based on quality and style, literary merit, scope of coverage, etc. – it’s still a guessing game.

Every contest is subjective. The guidelines are blurry and the expecations are unknown. Technology, media convergence, social media platforms and backpack journalism have changed the game.

News isn’t produced today like it was years ago. Hard news can and does include an element of feature news now. Graphics and interactive designs are much more crucial to page layout than they used to be. Stories are packaged with online video, photo slideshows and blogs. One entry can apply to several different categories – again, it’s a guessing game.

There is no possible way that we can guess what others value and we shouldn’t even try. There is no possible way that we can assume that what we think is quality will qualify as quality work to a judge.

Should we trust our gut feelings or try to guess someone else’s? Should we play the game or trust our name?

Game Over. We should start listening to our readers, our writers, our designers and our photographers. They are the real experts.

That’s not a guess, it’s a fact.


– Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: Jan. 11, 2010

 © Shannon Philpott, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shannon Philpott and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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