We talked with C. Marshall Matlock, Newhouse School of Public Communications competition & judging director and SND print competition director, about the state of readiness heading into this weekend’s Best of News Design™ competition at Syracuse University. The first entries are already laid out and ready for the judges.
Matlock has been involved with the competition for 21 years now, all of them hosted at the Newhouse School.
Q: Each year you get two big waves of entries arriving at Syracuse -– the domestic US deadline followed by the international deadline a week later. Then you have to sort through all the entries, verify payment of entry fees and correct categories and so on -– all of this BEFORE the first judge even arrives on campus. How’s the audit going so far?
We are officially done with the audit and most pages have been separated into categories and subcategories. Because of the amount of time we give publications to prepare entries we have decreased the amount of time the entry auditors have in getting everything ready for the judging. We always work right up to the wire and this competition is no different.
Q: How many total entries did you receive this year?
Shamus [Walker, SND audit coordinator] thinks it’s over 10,100 entries but we will not know for sure until the “big board” [a giant tally board that tracks the entries for the entire competition] is assembled, and that will not happen until Friday if we are lucky.
Q: Did you get entries from any countries that had not entered previous competitions?
We received entries from the following countries that, as far as we can tell (or remember), were new this year:
Q: Aside from the inclusion of news magazines, do you anticipate any key differences or changes in this year’s competition?
We will have four judging teams rather than five for the general judging. We can do that because we have fewer entries today than we did two or more years ago. The quality of the judging should remain the same and that’s what we are most interested in — maintaining a high overall quality of judging.
Q: I know weather has played a role in the competition weekend in the past, do you have any concerns about the storms predicted Friday and into the weekend across the US?
We’ve only had three bad arrival days due to the weather in the past 20 years. In all three cases judges made it to Syracuse on the day they were supposed to arrive, but one year many missed the opening reception and dinner. The very worst day – the kind that had the Weather Channels crew reporting from the front of the hotel we stay in – there was a break in the weather and only one judge did not make it in on the opening Friday. That judge finally made it on Saturday and we carried on. We had one of the conflict judges fill in for him until he arrived. Another time we had an ice storm (as did much of the east coast). Everyone made it in but many didn’t make it in time for the opening reception and dinner. If we had the judging a week or so earlier we would have found temperatures in the upper 30s in some areas. We never try to predict the weather but we do try to compensate for it. That seems to work well.
Q: What are you most excited by at this year’s competition? Any prediction on how things will go?
As the director I’m excited that SND made its income budget and hopefully will continue to do well. While we have had a decrease in entries from two years ago, last year and this year we have roughly the same number of entries (remembering that we’ve added non-newspaper magazines this year). When we announced we’d be including magazines some designers became concerned because they didn’t think newsprint could compete with the paper that most magazines are on. I do not see that being a problem. Most magazines will be judged with other magazines, not newspapers. For the categories that do complete with newspapers the judges will be looking for quality no matter what the quality is printed on.
Steve Dorsey is the DME/Presentation + Innovation at the Detroit Free Press and SND’s 2010 vice president. He was the edition coordinator of SND’s 21st print competition. Follow him on Twitter: @dorsey