Valley News -

By Joe Naiman

Objective more important than competition


Last updated 8/9/2018 at 4:04pm

Mary York’s column in the July 19, 2018, East County Californian warrants not rebuttal but confirmation from a veteran colleague.

York became the editor of the Californian in February. She had previously been a sportswriter for the Californian and had also written for the Southwestern College and San Diego State University student newspapers.

Her column addressed the previous week’s Society of Professional Journalists awards banquet. York’s Californian stories took first place and second place in the non-daily newspaper sports story category, but her focus was on reconnecting with those who helped her along the way. She said that there is no such thing as a self-made person because everybody receives help of some sort; York acknowledged some of those people who mentored her along with others who provided food and transportation when she didn’t have the resources to take care of herself.

A couple of York’s comments deserve to be addressed. One is that journalism awards are exciting until the journalist of the year gives his “thank you” address and causes someone like York to realize it will take her a while to advance. She also wondered if she is too competitive. Earlier in her column York discussed being the slowest runner on the Southwestern College cross country team and wondered why she was on the course with the faster runners.

If York didn’t need the rest of her column for other comments, she could have addressed her role on the cross-country team. When I write cross country stories, I often explain that team scores are derived from the positions of a school’s first five finishers and that the sixth and seventh finisher aren’t scored but can add points to opponents’ totals. Some of my stories have noted that a runner was unable to compete due to illness or stepped off the course due to injury or heat exhaustion – which means that the team’s eighth runner became the seventh runner. All runners on a cross country team are important, not just the fastest.

Cross country and track and field are different but related programs. York threw the javelin for Southwestern College’s track and field team. Her most important role on the cross country team was supporting the school’s distance runners and building a bond with her teammates. What she lacked in speed, she made up for in intangibles. Even if she wasn’t scored, the cross country team was better with her participation.

The East County Californian used to be called the Daily Californian in the mid-1990s when I wrote for the chain of weekly papers which merged into the Californian in 2000. My comment at the time was that I didn’t compete against the Daily Californian or the San Diego Union-Tribune or any other publication; I compete against my idea of what a newspaper should be. When I joined the staff of the Fallbrook Village News and Valley News, my comment was that I didn’t compete against the North County Times or the San Diego Union-Tribune or any other publication; I compete against my idea of what a newspaper should be. If York competes against her own ideas for the East County Californian rather than against other journalists, it will not make her too competitive.

Journalism awards are also more exciting early in a career when they can provide recognition and editors are made aware of the journalist’s skill. There are years I’ve won award from SPJ or other journalism awards, and there are years I haven’t won awards. I write for my readers, not for award contest judges. I’m happy if any of my stories win awards, but I don’t write my stories with that objective in mind.

I won my first three SPJ awards in 1997 but did not attend the banquet. The banquet was held June 25, which is my middle child’s birthday. Even if attending the banquet would have helped my career, it would have sent a message to my family that my work is more important than them. Missing the banquet did not hurt my career at all, but my response to the date conflict confirms York’s statements that people are more important than awards.

Her final sentence in the column said, “The awards are simply a bonus.” For her, those awards are her bonus for great writing. The objectives of helping fellow colleagues and providing readers solid writing and news may lead to awards, but those objectives are the true goal and not simple the awards.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at [email protected]


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