It’s certainly nice to win awards.
As journalists, we work sometimes around the clock. We sacrifice time with our families; we work through holidays; and we eat our meals at our desks most days. As a sports editor, I sometimes feel like I need three clones to do my job adequately and that still wouldn’t be enough.
So of course it’s nice to be recognized. Just like with student-athletes who are selected for a big camp or players who are picked for all-star teams or those recruits who look to continue at the next level, it’s great to feel like our hard work has paid off.
Last week, Tallapoosa Publishers Inc. picked up 69 awards at the Alabama Press Association between the newspaper, advertising and magazine divisions. It is certainly an honor to be part of such a hard-working team that pours our hearts and souls into our work. But more importantly, I’m glad to be part of a community who is willing to let us tell their stories.
One of the only sports awards I received was for a story called, “Just for Kicks,” about Benjamin Russell football player Wilson Hays. A stud baseball catcher, Hays picked up kicking for the football team in his senior year. He pretty much did it just for fun, and BRHS football coach Kevin Smith saw Hays kicking only because he was helping out then-quarterback Landon Cotney one day after practice.
That story won second place in Best Sports Feature Story, and I was incredibly proud of that one. But without Hays being willing to tell me his story and without Smith remembering so much detail about that first time he saw Hays kicking, I never would’ve been able to write that piece.
Most of you guys know I’m a big social media and multimedia guru. I always like to find ways to capture video and put people in front of the camera. Last year, Scott Hardy and I’s show, Inside the Lines Live, won first place for Best Use of Social Media, and this year, I was pleasantly surprised to add the Creative Use of Multimedia award to my resume.
I won for my video about Willie Garrett, a man who had battled drug addiction and came to The Lighthouse in Alexander City to help him get sober. His story was chilling and inspiring at the same time, and I worked tirelessly to make sure that video did him justice. Again, it was wonderful to win an award for that, but without Garrett being willing to open up about his struggles with addiction, that never would’ve been possible.
There’s so many awards like that, the ones that depend on people to make them shine. Our late editor Mitch Sneed won Best Feature Story Coverage for his story about “Our Very Own Forest Gump,” and he won Best Human Interest Column for “Finding the rest of the story of a wayward pigeon.”
Both of those depended on Mitch’s ability to seamlessly weave words together, of course, but more importantly, they depended on him finding those great stories and having people who were willing to share them.
Also, it’s important to note none of these awards would be possible without the readers. You all the life and breath of our community, and it’s so amazing to be in a place where people still pick up the newspaper every day. People still want to read about local high school sports, what’s going on with city government and seeing who’s won in their community.
Constantly I’m reminded why Alex City is such a great place to live, and this weekend at the awards banquet was another one of those reminders.