ASME chief responds to criticism of magazine awards

Sid Holt, the chief executive of the American Society of Magazine Editors, says criticisms about how few women were named as finalists for this year's National Magazine Awards are "kind of silly."

In an email, Holt outlines the awards' process: "There were 345 judges this year, including editors from nearly every magazine you can name. There were women’s-service editors judging the reporting and writing categories, and there were male sports editors judging the service categories." Over the course of two days, he writes, they chose finalists.

"You can argue with their decisions, but you can’t argue with the process. Unless of course you think women can’t compete in the reporting and writing categories, which would come as a surprise to Pamela Colloff, Sheri Fink,  Dana Goodyear, Elizabeth Kolbert, Jane Mayer, Megan McArdle and Daphne Merkin—just to name some of the writers who have been nominated in the last couple of years," Holt writes.

Alyssa Rosenberg was dismayed by the nominations and wondered if having a separate General Excellence award for women's magazines forced them to assign more specialized stories while men's magazines are counted as general interest publications, freeing them to assign the sort of swashbuckling stories judges love to honor in the Reporting categories.

Holt says "there’s no men’s category—that’s not the way the magazine business works, as a trip to any newsstand will show—and these magazines compete against other magazines in the same category for readers and advertisers."

Lots of magazines and writers didn't become finalists, Holt says. "It’s not because that work doesn’t deserve recognition, and it’s not because there’s a secret cabal making the decisions. It’s because magazine journalists and journalism educators from around the country, organized into 20 different committees composed of 11 to 15 judges, decided that these five stories were the best stories submitted in, say, Personal Service or Reporting. ASME respects those decisions." || Related: One General Excellence finalist gets a Southern-fried going-over: "If I tuned to the local news at six, in Charleston, Birmingham, Nashville, or Richmond, would I discover as placid and surreal a picture as the stunning images that grace the pages of Garden & Gun?" Jeff Allen writes.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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