A quote from one of those “out of discipline” books I grab every so often to read for inspiration – “The Art Spirit” by Robert Henri:
To award prizes is to attempt to control the course of another man’s work. It is a bid to have him do what you will approve. It affects not only the one who wins the award, but all those who in any measure strive for it. It is an effort to stop evolution, to hold things back to the plane of your judgment. It is a check on a great adventure of human life. It is negative to the idea that youth should go forward. It is for the coming generation to judge you, not for you to judge it. So it must happen, whether you will it or not.
If you want to be useful, if you want to be an encouragement to the deserving young artist, don’t try to pick him or judge him, but become interested in his effort with keen willingness to accept the surprises of its outcome.
This being the first year of the CICM multimedia contests, I hope we did alright by our entrants.
Contests are something we all have to face in journalism, but the key is not the contests, but the content and the creativity we use to tell stories. And ultimately, if the story is great (like the investigative stories published by the Washington Post that won them 6 Pulitzers), but nothing changes, then that big shiny medal isn’t worth a damn.