Federal Express, UPS, Airborne and U.S. mail carriers kept circling back round to the AAN offices in Washington, D.C., on Friday, pushing hand trucks stacked high with boxes. Jan. 30 was the submission deadline for the 2004 Alternative Newsweekly Awards, and in true newspaper tradition, most stories—about 70 percent—were handed in at the last minute. One paper hand-delivered its massive entry just before 5 p.m. Friday.
The record-breaking number of entries required AAN’s contest coordinator, Roxanne Cooper, to commandeer tables, crates and boxes from all around the office building until she had thoroughly surrounded her desk with submissions, making passage to her balcony for a smoke break impossible. The overflow trails from her office into the hallway.
Ninety-six AAN member papers submitted 1,116 entries for the 2004 contest. That is 53 more entries than last year, making this the second consecutive record-breaking year for number of submissions. “It’s madness,” says Cooper, AAN’s director of sales and marketing.
Cooper’s husband, Earl Yazel, came into the office Saturday to help her sort entries into categories. He wanted to know the difference between “News Story—In-depth” and “Investigative Reporting.”
“It’s like pornography,” she explains. “You know it when you see it.”
The News Story—In-Depth category drew the second highest number of entries, 149, and the Investigative category drew the lowest, 33. Just as last year, the highest number of entries was in the Feature Story category. It had 187 submissions. There were 39 offerings in a category that is new this year, Format Buster, which is for information conveyed in an unusual, creative format. The wild-card category, Religion, attracted 42 entries.
Seventy-eight percent of AAN’s 123 member papers participated, a rate slightly lower than last year’s 81 percent involvement. Ninety-five papers participated in 2003, one fewer than this year, but the percentage dropped because AAN’s membership has increased.
Competition in each category is divided into two classes: for papers with circulation below 50,000 and for papers with circulation above 50,000.
This week Cooper will unbury herself by sending editorial entries out to first-round judges. Those judges’ top choices will be passed on to three-judge panels, who will select the winners.
Award winners will be notified in June, and the order of finish will be announced at the Alternative Newsweekly Awards luncheon at the AAN Convention in San Antonio, Texas, June 24 to 27.