When I worked at small weekly newspapers around the state, winning press awards was a really big deal. There’s not much pay or thanks or glory in being the only reporter covering a small town, so having some sort of outside professional nod was really about the only reward you’d get.
Thankfully, the editors at the Columbia Daily Tribune taught me to view awards for what they are: nice but subjective and anyway, you report to tell readers what’s going on, not to win accolades.
Today, there’s a box under a bed with some of those old awards from my small town newspaper days. The only one not stored away is a plaque the MU chapter of the American Association of University Professors gave me when I left the Trib to work here. It says something to the effect of “Hey, thanks for being an honest, decent reporter with integrity.” I competed only with myself to earn it and I couldn’t be prouder.
Today at Stephens, I received a new type of award. Two staff members of the 2013 Harbinger Bombshell delivered a copy of this year’s literary journal to me that was signed by all of the staff members thanking me. I’m not sure why they were thanking me – I really haven’t done much for them – but to get appreciation from students for doing my job is such an amazing feeling.
I discovered just how appreciative Stephens students are yesterday at the Honors Convocation. The cheers and applause they gave faculty and staff members were amazing.Seriously, they treated their professors like rock stars.
And Stephens’ reference librarian James Walter got a standing ovation when he was announced the winner of this year’s Stephen Star Award. The award was created last year to let students recognize someone who goes “above and beyond,” and students this year selected Walter because he’s “always ready to help others.”
OK stop and think about this–especially anyone reading who’s been around college students. The young women at Stephens stood up and applauded a man for his work helping them find research papers, books and other resources. I mean, just the fact our students don’t take that for granted is so telling of how professional and respectful they are.
I can’t imagine getting a standing ovation from students, but I can seriously think of no higher honor. Because I can tell you, my autographed copy of the Harbinger means more to me than all of those reporting awards in the box under the bed combined.
By the way, the Harbinger is now on sale at Susie’s bookstore and will be available during the launch party and reading at 6 p.m. Friday, April 26, at East Side Tavern. And you can read a few excerpts here.
But, of course, there’s nothing like holding a journal in your hand knowing, as Art Editor Amber Surdam wrote in the inside cover of my edition, it’s the result of students’ “blood, sweat and tears.” (“Just kidding,” she added, but I know the staff worked extremely hard on it.)
Poetry Editor Emma Deutsch wrote: “Go ahead, dive in!”
Oh, I will, Emma. I will.