By Mark Winz
The following questions—or statements or suggestions—are from the survey we invited members to participate in after last years’ contest, and from emails to the contest committee. They are followed by responses. These will not satisfy everyone, especially as some of the suggestions are in direct conflict with other suggestions. But this information will let you know more about the process.
Several questions or statements were similar, so two groups of questions and ideas are below, each with a collective response. That is followed by one more individual question and answer.
Regarding the numbers of awards given:
Suggestion: Just give first and second place [in each category].
Question: In poetry and humor there were not [as] many winners [as in other categories], yet we entered both categories and did not win.
Question: Why are there so few winners in some categories? If there is an entry and it passes, let it win.
Response: In the Higher Goals categories we ask judges to rank the top winners, first to fifth place in most categories. If there are ten or fewer entries they are free to award fewer winners. If a judge believes there are fewer than five entries in a category deserving of awards, he or she may name fewer winners. We try to work with the judges so that each award is meaningful—if we have five entries in a category and give out five awards, we want the judge to have confirmed that each is deserved.
For the Awards of Excellence we ask them to award one Award of Excellence in each category and suggest they give up to three Awards of Merit. Again we suggest they consider the number of entries per category and award fewer Awards of Merit if there is less competition, but we allow them to give out Awards of Merit as they see fit.
We ask judges to avoid ties. Even if their numerical ratings are equal, we ask them to consider other qualities that will allow them to place the winners into an order. Some judges are reluctant—one wanted to award a five-way tie in a category last year—but we believe that ties do not serve the purpose of the awards process, so we push back and ask for a ranking.
Statement: Some of the judges did not seem to be the most qualified people to judge certain categories.
Statement: The editorial judges should be editors, not writers, of larger, perhaps even secular magazines. Small press editors really have a different focus.
Statement: Judges who are designers should be active in the industry, perhaps the secular industry, so they understand what is necessary. Of course, all the judges should be Christians.
Question: I have a suggestion for a future judge. Do they need to be evangelicals to judge?
Statement: [Academics] with more direct contact with students—and thus contemporary work—make better judges than those removed from current trends by administrative duties.
Suggestion: Have at least two judges in Higher Goals and three for Awards of Excellence. Multiple judges would add more credibility and benefit to the publication.
Response: Our first goal is to find professionally qualified judges for each category. We do our best to find judges who are not currently involved directly with any EPA member publication. This avoids the reality of, or even appearance of, a conflict of interest.
Finding judges is a challenge. As most of us in our industry have seen, the amount of work expected from each person has grown over the last few years. Potential judges are likewise very busy. Also, the honorarium we offer each is limited.
For the writing contests we seek Christian who are evangelicals or those who have special qualification so they will understand our audiences. For the design and visual categories we are open to a wider variety of judges, but still look for those who will understand our audiences.
We are not able to recruit multiple judges in different category for three reasons. First, as mentioned above, it is difficult to recruit enough judges to fill the needs we have for one in each category. Second, it would be more time consuming to have them compare notes or to go back and review the top-rated entries on a second pass. Third, as we do offer a small honorarium for each judge, more judges would mean we would need to increase the contest fees to members.
Question: [I’d like] more clarity on how print/online mags work. If I want to enter an article from our online version that didn't appear in print, are you also looking at layout?
Answer: We ask the judges to rank each entry based on the criteria spelled out on the entry form. As we don’t include layout or design in the criteria for writing categories, those factors should not be part of that consideration. Of course, we don’t know what an individual judge might consider in making her or his decision, but we ask that each use the specified criteria for rating entries.
If you have other questions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will get an answer by email, and your question might end up on this page to help other members, as well.