Austin American-Statesman. Thus the awards went directly from the hands of the inimitable and dedicated Charlie Green to those of Sam Wood, who has been designated by the trustees as the guy in charge of the contest. Those who object to the tradition have been loath to propose alternatives, mostly because many of them are personal friends of Wood’s, because they are fond of him, because the honor and/or power seems to mean a great deal to him. He puts in much time and trouble over the contest and is not paid for it. His office is littered with stacks of entries and cluttered with files on the categories’ semi-finalists and finalists. It works thusly: the entries are sent to Wood’s office. Wood selects three people to screen the entries in a given category. The screeners each select what they think are the 10 best entries. They usually overlap in their choices by from five to eight entries. All of their choices, whether overlapped or not, are then sent to an out-of-state judge of Sam Wood’s choosing. Wood is adamantly proud of this system. He considers it not only fair, but fool-proof as well. Raising questions about it is tantamount to insulting Wood’s integrity, which is why most journalists are reluctant to do so. But the flaws in the system are obvious, even to an outsider. For one thing, until Charlie Green’s death in 1967, every single screening judge was on the staff of the American-Statesman. Newsmen bitch to this day about the inordinate proportion of the prizes carried off by American-Statesman staffers. But that is an abuse of the past. There has been one recent effort to change the ground rules. When Ernie Stromberger, who recently left the Dallas Times-Herald to the club in ’71, there were a few innovations. For one thing, the chairman of each screening committee in turn chose the other two members of his committee, thus allowing for some diversity of choice. Further, the chairman of the screening committee hustled up his own out-of-state judge. Wood says he selects the out-of-state judges by going down the roster of American editors and publishers until he finds a name he knows and then he arm-twists the guy into the doing the work. It can be assumed that those Wood chooses from the roster and whom he knows well enough to prevail upon to do this work are during the Stromberger regime, the chairman of each screening committee hustled up his own out-of-state judge. Sam Kinch, Jr., of the Dallas Morning News, was put in charge of the “overall excellence” category and he roped in Dick Harwood, the tough, respected Washington Post reporter who was then the Post’s in-house critic and who is now national editor. Harwood told Kinch he put in more than 20 hours on the judging process. Stromberger got Turner Catledge, the famed former managing editor of the New York Times, to judge another category. “Now who around here is going to quarrel with a decision made by Turner Catledge?” inquired Sam Kinch, Jr. Whereas the editors of assorted Mud Flats Daily Trumpets, who seem to have predominated some years, do not inspire equal confidence. It should be noted to Wood’s credit that he got such luminaries as an Atlanta Constitution editor to help with this year’s contest. However, he volunteered that information after the contest was over: reporters had no idea who was judging their stuff and, for the most part, still don’t. Wood’s system leaves practicing reporters and respected journalism teachers out of the running as out-of-state judges. During the ’71-’72 contest, the chairman of the screening committee knew, and told anyone who was interested, which entries had been sent out of state. He also knew which entries the ouf-of-state judge had selected. That information is now restricted to Sam Wood. After the brief efforts at reform under Stromberger, who is, quite incidentally, Wood’s-nephew-by-marriage and very fond of Wood, the system reverted to the old Green-Wood rule. The potential for abuse in the one-man selection of the screening juries surfaced this year, in at least one category. ONE MUST write with CAVEATS stamped all over this kind of story, but there are some facts worth looking at. There are two Associated Press reporters, Robert Heard and Jack Keever, who collaborated last year on a series about whether or not racism plays a role in University of Texas football \(Obs., Dec. that they did the series is laudatory. For years the fact that the UT football team had few, if any, black players has caused comment in the rest of the country. In Massachusetts, New York and Minnesota I have heard jokes made about UT’s being the last hope of the white supremacists. But as far as Texas sports pages were concerned, it was better to blaspheme against the Lord than Darrell Royal. The series got denounced in the San Antonio Express, which didn’t even run it, in the Post and, interestingly enough, in the American-Statesman. An editorial written by Sam Wood began, “First, the American-Statesman does not agree that the Heard-Keever series was necessary, constructive or enlightening.” Swell. Wood explains that the editorial was written in response to complaints from readers. “We published that AP series and the next day we got about two bushels of mail co mplaining about the American-Statesman’s series. I wrote that editorial to point out that it was not our series, that it was material from a wire service syndicate.” Category 10 of the Headliners contest. Wood chose their screening jury. On it were Jimmy Banks, former reporter for the Dallas Morning News, a ‘right-winger but, say reporters in the capitol press corps, a man with some legitimate credentials to judge sports writing. However, Banks is a personal enemy, or at least non-friend, of Heard’s. The two had an extremely heated political discussion a few years ago and have not spoken since. The second screener was Lou Maysel, sports editor of the American-Statesman. Maysel had written a column criticizing the Heard-Keever series when it was first printed. However, he did say in his column that “the open airing of the situation could prove beneficial.” The third man on the screening committee was Roland Lindsey, a capitol reporter for AP’s rival UPI. Now, nothing is easier or more common than second-guessing judges in journalism contests. Bitching among losers is so common that neither Heard nor Keever wanted this written about for fear it would sound like sour grapes on their part. It is possible that despite the. fact that Wood considered the series neither “necessary, constructive or enlightening,” he was able to put aside that feeling when selecting the judges for the category. It is possible that Jimmy Banks, despite his . antipathy for Heard and presumable \(given to judge it with complete objectivity. It is possible that Lou Maysel judged it without regard to his earlier printed opinion of it. It is possible to overcome prejudice, yes, but the fact remains that Wood, with his obvious conflict of interest, should not have selected the judges. Banks and Maysel, with their obvious conflicts, should have disqualified themselves. The Heard-Keever series did not win, place or show in the category. There is always room for honest men . to differ. Blackie Sherrod of the Dallas Times-Herald, who won the category, as he has before, is certainly a fine writer. This particular sports series is but one of many such examples much-gossiped about in the press corps. For what it’s worth, I personally have considerable faith in Sam Wood’s integrity: but a journalism contest, with its stakes of professional advancement, pride, ego and money, needs must be like Caesar’s wife. The absence of prejudice will not suffice: there can be no appearance of prejudice. There is another form of unfairness about the Headliners contest which may be ineradicable. Who wins has become a matter of great moment to the big papers in the state. The Post and the Chronicle, for example, compete fiercely. The Morning News has a fellow assigned to do nothing but sit around and paste-up entries from the paper’s staffers, thus leading such hapless types as wire reporters, who have to suffer the humiliation of hunting up Heard and Keever submitted the series in April 13, 1973 9
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