Why journalism awards could do with a little more transparency

March 2013

Watching the jury sessions of recent College Photographer Of The Year competitions, I can’t help but wish other journalism and multimedia awards would embrace transparency as much as CPOY does it for years now. It’s overdue.

Most awards in Germany cultivate secrecy around their judging process. Apart from a winner list and short, polished jury statements, almost nothing is being communicated to the outerworld. That’s regrettable for a variety of reasons.

1) You will never hear better discussions about creative work. I’ve been lucky to be invited to a few juries and the debates have been some of the best exchanges of knowledge I’ve witnessed in my whole career. Much better than almost any conference talk I’ve seen. Why waste this valuable source of wisdom?

2) Awards are career boosters, especially for young journalists and multimedia creatives. Winning an prestigious award is a key moment – juries are able to publicly celebrate great talents who’d be overlooked otherwise in their news organisations or as freelancers. As a jury, you will want to make this decision as fair and transparent as possible.

3) You will never hear more lunatic discussions about creative work. Very occasionally a jury is going wild – a typical scenario is single jury members in alpha leader mode trying to hijack majority decisions by brute force, not by arguments. Make jury sessions public and this will become rare, if not necessarily go away completely.

There are many ways to document a jury session. Video is not always imperative. If audio is enough and the jury group is not too big, even a smartphone recording can work out. Put it on Soundcloud, so people can share and comment with ease.

Do you know other examples for transparent awards in journalism and multimedia? Let me know on Twitter: @fabianmohr. Thanks.