Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Still contest judges comment on small market POY category

Judges in the 2010 ONPA year-end contest chose not to recognize any portfolios in the small market POY category. Their decision brought an immediate reaction from the staff of one of the newspapers affected when no award given for the category was posted online.

Judges were aware that some would question their decision, but they also wanted to address the issue for those not present. They sat down with ONPA still vice president Jonathan Quilter, who recorded the interview as they explained their decision. Listen to the audio file. The first voice on the recording is is Quilter followed by judges, in order, Boyzell Hosey, Danese Kenon and Ross Taylor.

Under the contest rules judges are permitted to eliminate any category with less the 15 entries. Awards beyond first place in all categories are at the judges discretion. The small market POY category was not the only one judges wanted to eliminate. They also did not feel the quality of work in the product illustration category was worthy of recognition, but with 18 entries they were forced to award a first place.

At Saturday's business meeting the membership voted to not have portflio categories be subject to the rule allowing judges to eliminate a category with less than 15 entries.

1 comment:

Michael P. King said...

As the contest coordinator in Wisconsin, I read this with great interest.

We currently have no explicit rule here allowing judges to eliminate categories. On the flip side, we also have no rule requiring judges to give awards. However, I do tell our judges before we dive into our first category:

"You may at some time today ask me, 'Is there a limit to how many honorable mentions we can give?' or 'Do we even have to award anything?' My answer to you will be: We want you to give recognition to work you think is worthy of recognition. Your interpretation of this may vary depending on the category, number of entries, and the strength of entries. Some judges in years past have consistently given 1, 2, 3, and a few Honorable Mentions in each category. Others have decided only to award a few places in certain categories. It is up to you."

The bottom line is: We want them to recognize work they think is worthy of recognition. We want our judges to hold strong to their standards of what they think good photojournalism is. Consequently, in my opinion, our contest helps educate our members how they have reached, or can reach, those standards. And that's really what our mission is as an organization.

I think it shows the strength of the judges to stick to their guns on this, even though it may not have been a popular decision. That said, I think it's imperative that when judges make decisions like this, they fully and candidly explain their reasoning behind it... Not just for transparency but for education and mentoring. Kudos to ONPA for ensuring that was done and communicated to the membership.

Since taking over the POY contest here, I have also toyed with the idea of instituting a small market division in certain categories for us (we currently have no divisions). Over time I've been dissuaded from doing so. Granted, we have a fewer members in general than ONPA, and we have fewer large-market members, too. But in our own contests we consistently find that smaller market photographers generally fare just as well as the larger-market photographers when it comes to placing for awards.