The Katie Awards are Texas' leading journalism prize, presented by the Dallas Press Club, although that doesn't really indicate their size or significance -- newspapers, radio and TV stations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Louisiana have also been competing for years, making the Katies, despite their weaknesses, the closest thing to a "regional Pulitzer."

Unlike the Pulitzers, however, the Katies are broken up into some 200 categories -- categories for specialty papers, podcasts, public relation campaigns, spot news photography, cover design, layout, video photography, video editing, plus all the different kinds of writing and reporting (business, sports, humor, editorial). There have been attempts to rein in the number of categories in recent years, sometimes with disastrous results. Two years ago, they killed pretty much all the separate arts categories. Then they reinstated a number of them.

I should add that for the past five years or so, the Morning News management has played down any importance to the Katies -- for some slight or other. There's nowhere near the push to compete that there once was, nor is there the funding (they used to pay for an entry from any writer who submitted one). This partly -- partly -- explains the Fort Worth Star Telegram's dominance these days.

In any event, with so many fields to recognize, no Katie winner gives an acceptance speech. If we did, we'd be there until next Christmas. Or until the liquor ran out. The awards ceremony is like a conveyor belt: A winner is announced and by the time he or she makes it up to the presenting stand, they've already named the next three or four.

I won the 2006 Katie Award for best arts criticism. My wife, Sara, noted that the News' report this morning makes me sound like "The Artist Formerly Known as an Employee of The News."

So if I could have, this is the speech I would have given:

"Before I say anything else, I must acknowledge my great good fortune in the editors I had at the Dallas Morning News. Diane Connolly, Bob Compton, Cheryl Chapman and Charles Ealy. I couldn't have accomplished half of what I did without you. Thank you.

But it says a great deal that not one of them is still there. As many of you may know, I'm no longer at the Morning News, either, having walked the plank and taken the severance package in September.

This is my fifth Katie Award. I don't mention that to brag but to indicate how special this one is, nonetheless. It's a small vindication, a small indication of the quality of talent the News shed two months ago -- writers such as Ed Bark, Dave Dillon, Kevin Blackistone, Scott Burns, photographers such as William Snyder. In this regard, I'd like to acknowledge my fellow former staffers among the finalists, including Pete Slover and Steve Steinberg -- people who walked away from the News with no job lined up, no paycheck, because they simply couldn't work there any more.

But I'd also like to commend those people who stayed -- for whatever reason. Many of you are trying to do quality journalism in a deeply demoralized atmosphere, working for a panicked, dithering management that has done little to address that demoralization and, in my own field, has trivialized cultural coverage with celebrity gossip, tiny blurb-reviews and generic wire reports. You have my sympathy.

All of this may sound bitter. But it's not because of the other reason this Katie is special: It may be my last. A part of the sense of relief that came with deciding to leave the News was the awareness that I could, if need be, leave daily journalism, too. I could quit show biz. So I'm leaving these battles to you. For now, I'm grateful to the Press Club and to the judges for giving me what may amount to a shiny bookend to my career in print journalism in Dallas. Thank you, and thank you, Sara, for making this possible."

November 19, 2006 10:41 AM | | Comments (2)



That would have been a nice speech. I speak from a newspaper where the new owner is determined on a course of action that will drive out the few good people who remain.

I told a colleague that the news owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer was stabbing us in the back. The colleague disagreed. "He's looking us right in the eye when he stabs us," he said.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"

Congratulations on both the award and the exceptional acceptance speech. The only thing better would have been that you were given the opportunity to actually read that speech aloud. But, of course, those responsible for the situation that you describe at the newspaper would never "get" it anyway.


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