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Contest does us proud, but of most importance is how you judge us

May 06, 2007|By JOHN LEAGUE

The value of contests: The Herald-Mail enters a number of editorial contests during the year. The one we take the most seriously each year is the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association editorial contest.

The Herald-Mail has historically had good success and we find it particularly noteworthy because this is a good region for newspapering, and the contest involves some excellent newspapers.

This year, we won 20 editorial awards (and an additional 18 in the advertising contest, our best showing ever).

We've been named newspaper of the year in our circulation category 10 times since 1993, something of which we're quite proud. Last week, our streak of five consecutive years came to an end, with our congratulations to the winner, The Frederick News-Post.

Contests are important because they provide a yardstick with which to measure our performance against other newspapers. They recognize good work and superior effort, and that's a good thing.

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But newspapers should never, ever be edited and produced to win awards. And we don't do that here.

The awards should be an outgrowth of serving your readership, which is each of you deriving some benefit from reading The Morning Herald, The Daily Mail or The Herald-Mail newspapers.

The media business is highly competitive. It is easy to get caught up in winning contests or evaluating our performance solely against the competition. But like a critically acclaimed movie that no one goes to see, an award-winning newspaper that fails to meet the needs of our readers is a failure. If we're not fulfilling that mission, all of the awards in the world are meaningless.

The newspaper and a wired world: I spent the better part of the past two weeks on the road for work and family obligations. Destinations included Charleston, S.C., South Bend, Ind., Washington, D.C., and the Hunt Valley Resort just outside Baltimore.

It was another lesson in how technology has changed the world and, indeed, The Herald-Mail.

I started my morning throughout my travels just as I do at home, drinking a cup of coffee and reading The Herald-Mail. But that's where the similarities ended.

I read the paper daily from my laptop via wireless connections, and did so in my sister's living room, in a hotel lobby, in a hotel room and before a meeting. Our Web site provided enhanced coverage unthinkable just several years ago. For example, I watched the video of the teacher-of-the-year awards banquet posted on our Web site.

I received a number of Herald-Mail e-alerts, the final showing up on my Blackberry on Saturday, announcing the appointment of a new basketball coach at HCC. I was in Washington at the time.

And I checked our chat rooms to see what everyone was talking about in Washington County.

It was an interesting yardstick to measure how much things have changed.

Ten years ago, we had a fledgling Web site attracting several thousand readers a month. Only the most sophisticated digital aficionados had wireless connections. The thought of The Herald-Mail essentially doing television was, to be honest, preposterous.

Now, you can read, watch or listen to reports from The Herald-Mail around the world and around the clock.

We have nearly 6 million page views a month at herald-mail.com. We offer print, video, podcasts, e-mail alerts and RHS feeds. And we can now beat TV and radio consistently with breaking news, even breaking video news, on our Web site.

And you can appreciate the value of that, even if you may not recognize the technology behind it, whether you are in your living room or you're 500 miles from home.

John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail newspapers. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7073, or by e-mail at jleague@herald-mail.com

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