Last night was the 2012 NENPA Awards Banquet. Awards were given out to nominees from Maine to Connecticut in a wide variety of categories. The awards are based on your work from the 2011 calendar year. The event is held at the historic Park Plaza Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts each year and if I had to guess, there were over 600 nominees at the dinner ceremony. It’s quite an honor to even be nominated, an honor to know that you rank up there as a writer or photographer with the top journalists in all of New England. In 2010 I attended and placed second for Education Reporting for my 2009 work. I was thrilled!
Our company, Beacon Communications, has several different newspapers: The Cranston Herald and The Johnston Sun Rise, both of whom I write for, and The Warwick Beacon. This year there were six of us nominated for awards, four of us attended, and my husband Don. Our company allows each of us to submit our best work in three categories if we’d like to be considered for an award by NENPA. This year I had submitted one in Education Reporting, one in Religious Reporting, and one Educational Series. You submit in August and you hear back from NENPA in January, with the award ceremony in February.
When I heard from my editor that I’d won again this year, it was in the Religious Reporting category. She mentioned that there were still several categories whose judges had not reported back. Education was one of those categories. By the time February came, I hadn’t heard anything else about winning in another category so I assumed I was only nominated in that one.
We arrived at the Park Plaza hotel with plenty of time to spare so we walked into the room where they post all of the nominated work, separated by category and class. (Class is determined by your newspaper’s circulation.) As we walked up and down the aisles looking for the Religious Reporting category, we walked past the Education Reporting category and I sadly said to Don, “Awww…there’s Education.” That’s what I had won for in 2009 and I was bummed out that my piece I’d submitted hadn’t won again. Suddenly though, I did a double-take because hanging on the board in front of me, covered by another entry, was my Education submission, nominated for an award. I was so shocked and I was thrilled!! Now I knew that not only would I be recognized in one category, but two, and that my area of expertise, Education, had in fact, been nominated for an award.
Dinner consisted of salad, chicken, veggies and some sort of green rice. Dessert was delicious and well-worth the wait. It was a chocolate mousse served inside a hard chocolate shell, shaped like a pyramid. There was whipped cream and half a strawberry on the plate, along with some sauce drizzled on the plate as well.
After dessert and coffee, they began announcing the nominees in each class for each category, in alphabetical order. It’s grueling to sit through and wait for your category to be called, then your class in that category and then your name to see where you placed.
During the weeks leading up to the event, I had hoped and prayed for first or second place and the other day when I was at the hairdresser for an appointment, I said to one of the stylists, “I only want first or second place. I’ll be so disappointed if I only get third.”
She asked me how many people I had been up against, to even be nominated at all, and I said I wasn’t sure, maybe hundreds since the competition encompassed all of New England. She was shocked to hear that, and she said, “You should be thrilled no matter WHAT place you get! Think of your daughters and the lessons you want to be teaching them. You don’t want them to think it’s about the winning or what place you get,” and at that point I thanked her for bringing me back to reality. She said to me, “I’m going to pray that you get third place and that you’re able to be happy with that.” I hugged her as I left, and I thought about what she said from then on.
I placed third in both categories, actually tying with another journalist for third place in the Education Reporting category.
I also found out later, that there were 3000 entries into this year’s competition. Although not all 3000 were in my two categories, it does show just how tough the competition was overall.
I’m thrilled that I have been recognized yet again for my contribution to journalism here in New England, and in my city and state. I’m thrilled to have a job I love, and that I can be proud of the work that I do. I am glad my daughters can be proud of me and I need to be better at accepting less than first place! I don’t want them to ever think that third isn’t “good enough,” because it certainly is. To be in a room filled with almost 1000 New England journalists, knowing that you’re one of them and you all make up the cream of the crop, is quite a feeling, and I can’t wait to do it again!
I can now say I am a FOUR TIME award-winning journalist!!
Here are a few more photos from last night’s event.