Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mark Twain Awards Judging

The judging is over and the winners and nominees for the 2010 Mark Twain Awards are now public on the home page of Considering the shrinking and the cutbacks in newsrooms in all of our member states, the quality of the broadcast and website journalism continues to grow.

We had just over 270 entries this year. That is down just a bit from previous years and we chose this year not to reduce the cost. Many stations helped subsidize entry fees for some of staff members and some in newsrooms across our 12 state area paid out of their own pockets because they know what a Twain would look like on their mantle at home.

The judging was done on Saturday, February 20th at the Associated Press offices in downtown Los Angeles. I told the judges that their personal integrity and reputation and the integrity of the entire organization was on the line and I wanted to chose the best of the best to represent us as winners of a Mark Twain Award. The judge's panel was loaded with experience in both radio and TV and wire services and I am confident that we can all be proud of the list of winners.

For those who are curious, here is the list of judges for this year. I want to personally thank each of them for volunteering their time and their experience to the Awards.

Rachael Ambrose-retired AP Los Angeles broadcast editor
Brian Bland-retired AP Los Angeles broadcast coordinator
David Dow-retired CBS News correspondent
Bob Tarlau-retired senior producer KTTV Los Angeles
Michael Murrie-former CNBC producer and current Pepperdine University professor
Luis Torres-retired KNX Newsradio reporter
Stephanie Roberts-former KNX Newsradio reporter
Susan Katz-former APTV entertainment executive and freelance TV producer
Natalie Windsor-former AP Radio correspondent and APTV freelance reporter
Leah Grullon-coanchor on news/talk KUNX-AM (she assisted with Spanish language entries)
Michael Hollander-journalism consultant and former CNBC producer

If there were any judges who felt they had a conflict of interest, we asked them to disqualify themselves. It only happened twice during the day-long judging. Each entry was judged by at least two judges and each entry was then given a number grade based on content, creativity and presentation. In the nominee categories, the top 3 vote getters are the 3 nominees. Obviously in the non-nominee categories, the top vote getter is the winner of the Twain.

If anyone has a questions about the judging, please call or email me personally at and I will be happy to address it.

We look forward to seeing you at the convention and Mark Twain Awards celebration at Disneyland in June. Make your plans now.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

APTRA Awards Entry Fee Analysis

The APTRA board is in the process of looking at the annual journalism contest to find ways to make it more affordable and competitive. Let's face it. Fewer stations are willing to pony up the 100 bucks it costs per entry, especially when some of the former state AP contests cost as little as $25 to enter. And in this economy, with journalists losing jobs or being forced to take work furloughs, how many of us can afford to spend that much of our own money?

I volunteered to look into the issue and am only now reporting back what I have found. First, some background. APTRA has a total of 49 award categories( 24 television, 18 radio, 7 web) and two divisions, meaning a total of 99 different categories. Yet, the 2009 awards received only about 300 entries. I'm not a mathematician, nor do I play one on radio or TV, but you can divide 300 entries by 99 categories. Suffice as to say: not good.

So, what to do about it? We can consider lowering the entry fee and taking the chance that we will raise less money to help support scholarships. But consider this. In Arizona, the old AP Broadcast Awards entry fee was $25 and stations each entered dozens of stories. In northern California, it also costs $25 to enter the Society of Professional Journalists awards. Colorado did not have AP broadcast awards, but the Colorado Broadcasting Association is the state's most popular. It offers a sliding scale with smaller stations paying $15 to enter, stations in larger markets pay $25 per entry. Idaho did not have an AP awards, but the Idaho Press Club also offers a smaller sliding scale of $14 and $16 per entry and is very popular.

Then there's the Emmy's. The Heartland Chapter, which includes Colorado, has a sliding scale depending on the market size of the TV station. Entry fees are $50, $60, and $75. The Northwest Chapter (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Montana) has a sliding fee of $50, $75, and $90, again depending on market size. The Pacific Southwest Chapter (San Diego, Central Coast, SE CA, and Las Vegas) does not offer a sliding scale, but as many other chapters do, has different costs depending on the category. For instance, individual craft costs $60, programming and advanced media costs $80, and newscasts and team coverage $125 per entrant.

Knowing what other journalism contests charge in the states we serve can help APTRA improve its annual contest. That is why I propose the following entry fee structure be ratified at the next APTRA board meeting.

1. Entry fees for station-related awards remain at $100 per entry for large market. Entry fees for small market station related awards be reduced to $80 per entry.
2. Entry fees for individual related awards be reduced to $75 for large market and $50 for small market.

While I think we should lower entry fees even more, it would be irrational to cut them further without first seeing if such reductions produce more entries from stations and states that are not participating in the APTRA awards.

However no cost reduction will matter if we don't do a better job publicizing the APTRA Awards in the western states we serve. I also think we should look at whether we need all 99 categories we have and whether some should be eliminated or combined. But I'll save that for later time.

Please post your comments to the recommendations and tell me what you think.

Paul Atkinson
APTRA Board Member
KJZZ-FM Phoenix

Sunday, August 16, 2009

AP Members Working Together

Hi to all APTRA Members. My name is John Shaffer, I am the Nevada Radio Representative on the APTRA Board. I am also the Program Director, News Director and Morning Anchor at News Talk 720 KDWN in Las Vegas. I'm also guessing I am not alone at wearing many hats in the workplace. We are all doing more with less these days. But, being members of APTRA, we can all do more, working with our fellow members.

I am fortunate to live in a city that garners a lot of national attention, both good and bad. As a result my newsroom is often called by radio stations throughout the country and around the world to provide live and recorded stories for them. I was on the air with the BBC when it snowed in Vegas. On live with Phil Hendrie when OJ's sentence was handed down in his hotel robbery case. My point of all of this is, as APTRA members we have each other to lean on when needed. We have a network of stations throughout the west that can work together to provide "localized" reports for each other. I've called on Reno stations for help during the earthquakes in northern Nevada. It really makes my station sound larger than life for the listeners to think we have correspondents all over the state/country. After all, isn't that what we are as members of the Associated Press, A cooperative? The AP does a great job of covering stories where they have bureaus, but they can't do it all. The more we can help each other, the more we can help the bureaus. And the more we can provide a quality news product to our listeners. When it comes time for the Mark Twain Awards, we are competitors. For the other 364 days a year we are all teammates on the APTRA team.

Anytime something is happening in Vegas, and we can help you out, feel free to give my newsroom a call. (702) 257-NEWS (6397)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Swine Flu and You

Hello, I'm Timothy Kiley, Assistant News Director at KESQ in Palm Springs. I am also one of the APTRA Board Members. Ross has asked us to add to this blog when something is on our mind.

One of the most important jobs we have as Journalists is to be a watchdog of the government. I have recently had an experience that I think is worth sharing.

When the swine flu first came out, the media covered it non stop. The pork industry got angry and started to complain... “please call it H1N1”. It became a pandemic, but the numbers were low, and few were dying. The public started to complain... “enough with the swine flu already”. Now the swine flu stories have fallen off the map. A pandemic disease was certainly not as urgent as the latest Michael Jackson update... “Breaking news: Michael Jackson is still dead.” Now while no one was watching swine flu numbers are through the roof and deaths are on the rise, but some in the government don’t want you to know.

In my daily routine I noticed an article in a local paper that announced the second swine flu death in San Bernardino County. I called the County Department of Health to confirm the information. I was given the run around for several hours and finally got the Director on the phone. He confirmed the death, but no more. I asked if they had a name or city that the person was from. He laughed and said “we can’t release that, we will cause a panic.” I asked if there was a news release. He said that they couldn’t possibly write a news release for every swine flu death. There have been two!

This is an example of how two groups of people think differently. Journalists believe that knowledge will keep you safe and aware. Some in the government believes that hiding information and the “no comment” mentality is best for the public. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The APTRA Board of Directors is already busy on several projects to enhance and grow APTRA during the remainder of 2009 and into 2010.

One of the first changes will be the APTRA Prep Las Vegas Tape Critique event. It is usually held in January, but this year it is moving to April on the weekend before the RTNDA/NAB Conventions. APTRA VP Calvert Collins from KLAS is coordinating this event and is hoping to draw many more major market news directors to the seminar so you can have them review your tapes and resumes'.

Tim Kiley from KESQ in Palm Desert is working on two APTRA projects. One is a video we can provide to APTRA members in all 12 states showing what the organization does. It will feature the Las Vegas event, APTRA Academy, the Convention and Awards and many other aspects including the Associated Press itself.

Tim is also working on something new. It is called the "wire performance committee". We want to get input from all members of APTRA in all 12 states on how the Associated Press is serving you. It will include complaints and compliments. The mission of APTRA is a liason between its' members and the Associate Press. This will accomplish that goal.

Michele Germano of KOLD-TV in Tucson is heading the Nominating Committe. She is trying to find representatives from New Mexico and Alaska to serve on the Board. Next year she will also be searching for "new blood" to replace retiring Board members.

Paul Atkinson of KJZZ Radio in Tempe is very busy already. He is reviewing the contest rules and entry fee structure for the Mark Twain Awards. The Board wants to find a way to make it easier for stations to "budget" for awards entries and to give a break to those stations who do.
Paul is also working on a master database of all of you who have entered in the past so we can communicate rule changes and entry fee changes.

Tom Durian of KHQ in Spokane is working with other Board members to design some smaller, regional events for APTRA. If you have any ideas, please let him know.

Former APTRA President Lance Orosco has agreed to chair the Hall of Fame Committee for 2010. He will be gathering names of possible Hall of Fame Award recipients and he will present them to the Board early next year.

I am hoping Jackie Yamanaka of YellowStone Public Radio will agree to coordinate the APTRA Scholarship program this year. I will talk with her about that soon.

.........this is just the beginning.

Check out the home page of the website...we now are following and being followed on Twitter.
My fingers are about to fall I leave this blog for other Board members.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Welcome to the APTRA BLog


I am Ross Becker, the President of APTRA and I want to thank you for your interest in the organization. We are going to use this "blog" to keep you up-to-date on all of the great programs, projects and awards ceremonies planned every year.

I will also be posting links and updating info on regional events in our 12 state region.

Keep checking here for more info.