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.