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The Association of Food Journalists asked me to help judge its annual writing contest again this year. I was given my choice of categories, and I jumped at the chance to judge the online category.
Although I cannot give specifics (winners will be announced in October), I shall say I was rather disappointed. Entries were relatively few and — get this — on paper. It’s hard to miss the irony in that. Only one of the entries made reference to an alternate delivery form (audio) or clearly contained links for more and related information for greater context.
And not one made reference to related video.
In fairness, it should be noted that the category is actually called “best food writing on the Internet,” not best online or multimedia food content, which is what I think the category should be. (In my mind, traditional newspaper writing that just happens to pub online doesn’t warrant a separate writing category. Same stuff, different delivery.)
I’m told that the category will be reworked for next year. That’s great. AFJ is a group of earnest, sincere people with a love for food journalism. I’ve no doubt AFJ can see where it needs to go and is trying. Being ahead of the curve this year, though, would have been even better.
In an ideal world, entries wouldn’t come on paper. Contest judges would get a list of links to interactive packages online, where not just the words would be reviewed. Audio and video tracks could be played, and links could be followed. THAT’S what an online journalism contest should look like.
Of course, there are issues. Like whether that awesome multimedia package from six months ago is still alive somewhere when a contest rolls around. And visiting the actual Web site would conflict with AFJ’s usual MO of keeping entries anonymous to the judges.
I’m hopeful, though, that as journalists embrace online delivery methods and multimedia tools, they’ll insist that their work be judged differently. And AFJ has an opportunity to drive that change.
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