To the Society:
In 2001, while sports editor at the college newspaper at Oklahoma State University, somebody handed me a book that did not change my life as much as it began my life: the SND Best of Newspaper Design Annual. At the time, a journalism degree was the easiest path to law school I could take, even though I did not really want to be a lawyer. I did want to be a writer, but the competition for writing jobs was more intense. In the SND annual, I saw the clearest career path I could find: “I can do this. Now I have to figure how how to do it well.”
Visual Editors and NewsPageDesigner had not been invented yet, nor had social media. All we had was the book.
I studied the work, the names and the newspapers. The book taught me typography and color, and about the difference between Photoshop and photo illustration. 17 years later, I am working the job I sought my entire career, in the city I sought my entire life.
Visual Editors and NewsPageDesigner have come and gone, and social media is toxic. All we have is the book.
The ability of the SND competition to inspire, to push, to cause soul-searching and a genuine desire to get better has never changed. I have served the competition for 11 years, since calling in a favor to SND29 coordinator Greg Swanson, who got me on as a facilitator months after the deadline had passed. I have been a team captain more times than I can count. I have been a judge. I have been coordinator. I have written a dozen awful karaoke songs, seen my own work rise, fall, and rise again, and the entire competition pack up and move to Florida like a snowbird. And there is the little matter of meeting the person at SND30 to whom I am now married.
That last part notwithstanding, the greatest honor SND has given me has been the opportunity to serve as competition committee chair. I have been entrusted with the rules and execution of the competition and its mission: To promote the work that sets the bar for our industry with an unwavering dedication to integrity and to journalism.
It has been mutually beneficial. The entirety of my time as chair, the competition has been on notice: Reflecting industry pressures, we have evolved. We brought in magazines a decade ago and changed “newspaper design” to “news design.” We altered the Best in Show rules in 2011 to better recognize the best work in the competition. We introduced Category 20, for print and digital combinations, five years ago, and this year we allowed non-tearsheet print entries for the first time. During that time, the competition has been successful both journalistically and financially. Today, there are still people who lean on SND for support, for a connection, or for career development and may not realize that rock they are leaning on was put there with great care, love and sweat by the people who put on this competition. And I have been there for it all.
The current status is thriving, but the future is where the competition’s value to SND cannot be overlooked. My dedication has been to integrity, to ensuring the bar is raised year-over-year, and to ensure that issues such as “this person would like their friend to judge and the reason is they want to” were not enough for inclusion on our panels.
But my presence is also impeding the future of the competition. I am able to kill entire ideas and movements simply with the wrong reaction. And at a time when leadership must focus as much on the bottom line as the bottom of the cups, my usefulness has hit its limit, and I believe that the best leaders in our business are ones who can recognize this.
With that windup, I will step down as Print Competition Committee Chair and from the committee on the final day of the NYC workshop next month. Long-time senior committee member Mike Rice will succeed me as chair.
I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to serve you.
SND Print Competition Committee Chair
This is the point where there are several people I want to say thank-yous to and for: The run of presidents during my transition into this role, Steve Dorsey, Jonathon Berlin, Rob Schneider and David Kordalski, all of whom were inseparable from the progress we made; the previous chair, Marshall Matlock, for entrusting me with the competition in ways he maybe was uncomfortable entrusting; auditor Shamus Walker for putting up with my hung over auditing when I was younger and my curt personality when I was older; Stephen Komives for, among other things, saving SND and being my sounding board in this role; to Matt Erickson, Greg Swanson, Steve Cavendish, Rob Schneider, Melissa Angle and Michael Whitley, thank you for showing me what it meant to show up at this competition and get to work; to Gayle Grin, Colin Smith, Vince Chiaramonte, Tiffany Pease, Virginia Singarayar, Tim Parks and Chris Rukan for the support; to Andrea Zagata for meeting me at judging; and lastly and honestly most importantly, to my tag-team partner, Mike Rice, thank you sir for teaching me how to do this, and stfu.