Four score

The fourth annual Kunkel Awards are over. Will they be the last?

Our three judges – two who have stuck with this thing all four years – argued with each other on Discord, an hour at a time over seven consecutive weekends. Then they chose these deserving winners.

As they profanely debated, several themes emerged…

1. Reporters aren’t recorders

Quality journalists squint at each fact, distinguishing between crucial and trivial. Sadly, many of this year’s entries were packed with waaay too many facts.

If that sounds absurd coming from a journalism contest, consider: Facts are like liquor. In both cases, you want the purest ingredients. You want to filter out impurities. And while a little is delicious, too much makes you nauseous.

As one exasperated judge said, after slogging through a particularly ponderous entry: “They’re vomiting everything they found. There’s a lot of good stuff in that vomit, but it’s hard to get through.”

2. Investigating isn’t always interesting

Many entries boasted they were “investigations.” Most weren’t. They were just long lists of mundane facts that didn’t propel a story and proved nothing. Imagine a Ferrari with a powerful V12 engine, but each piston firing randomly. The car will make a lot of noise and smoke, but it won’t go anywhere.

One judge imagined the internal dialogue of some of these journalists: “I conducted an investigation, therefore it’s news.”

3. News and feature don’t need opinion

Many otherwise excellent entries couldn’t refrain from opining. Weirdly, their reporting proved their point, and they didn’t need to add, “I think this shit sucks/rocks.”

It might not sound fair, but even a little lame-ass opinion was enough to irk our judges. To return to our alcohol analogy: The best scotch whiskey isn’t worth drinking if it’s blended with even 1 percent human urine.

Alas, opinion (like urine) seeped into everything this year. As one judge complained, “We’re judging how well a fish climbs a tree.”

Concluding the Kunkels?

Like life itself, the Kunkels must evolve or die. For our fifth anniversary, we’re making big changes.

We got some big ideas, and we’re talking to people who smarter and more important (but much less sexy) than we are. If we have anything to announce, it’ll be right here.


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