Award loser

This is the time of the year when we decide which of last year’s stories to send to various annual journalism competitions held by groups like the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. This paper used to win a lot of these awards—at least before I became editor. I fear my rotten luck in such matters has, much to the detriment of the fine people who work at the News & Review, taken hold here. I don’t know how else to explain it. You see, I simply don’t win awards. In truth, there was the one in 1970 handed out on the last day of eighth grade during the ceremony where good deeds are rewarded. I was given the “Mighty Mite Award” by gym teacher “Physical” Ed Ali (no relation to boxer Mohammad). Basically this meant I was a pretty fair athlete for being such a pipsqueak.

Still, I was proud and figured this was only the first of many more honors I would realize in my lifetime. But, sadly, such was not the case. The little Mighty Mite trophy would turn out to be the last bit of positive recognition for me, ever. It’s not for lack of trying. Each year since I’ve become editor, I’ve metaphorically muscled my way front and center to stuff the ballot box with my own work, effectively blocking the efforts of my cohorts, whose stories probably stand a much better chance of winning. I submit stories for every possible category, often stretching the qualifications. This year for “Best Public Service Story,” I’ve offered one of those “Corrections” that run at the head of the Letters section. (I know some papers actually tailor their stories with awards in mind by adding charts and graphs and timelines—whether needed or not. But that’s beside the point.) This year marks my last hurrah. If I don’t win something with one of my many entries this go-round, I promise to stop trying. I figure, hey, you don’t enter, you don’t lose.

A few weeks back I wrote about the Mangia with the Mamas radio show on KZFR. It was a fairly innocuous piece, just a little fun with the Mamas, Loretta Metcalf and Rosemary Febbo. But someone close to the station didn’t see it that way and strongly objected to the fact that I wrote “Some of the programs … often include those awkward moments of silence when the host is at a loss for words…” (I meant no disrespect to the good folks who keep KZFR going—Randy Larsen, Woody, Señor Felipe, Rubber Ban, Jeff Howse, the Mamas and others—good shows all.) In the article Loretta suggests some in-house envy exists over her show. “Somebody is complaining about something all the time,” she said. (She could have been talking about life in general.) Sure enough, this someone (who shall remain nameless for reasons of hypersensitivity) read the story and became so upset he wrote an e-mail (in all lowercase letters) that said: “i thought the article in the news and review about the mangia program and especially loretta’s comments were totally and completely inappropriate and require an explanation and an apology. in the first place, i’d like a clear understanding of why what loretta did [praise a local restaurant] is not commercial radio—something we could have our license pulled for—and in the second place the comments about tongue-tied (inference goofy) amateur programmers and the remark about ‘they’ are always complaining should not have been part of a feature article about a specific program.”

Whoa there, pal. My story simply suggests that community radio is an endearing mixture of the competent and the amateurish. I mean, geez, as good as the show Eco Talk is, for the longest time the KZFR program schedule couldn’t correctly spell host Randy Larsen’s last name. And guess what? It still can’t spell "Mangia" correctly. That’s the charming mix right there. (Hey, you know what? I’m thinking I ought to enter the Mangia Mamas story in an awards competition next year. After all, it punched somebody’s emotional buttons, didn’t it?)