July 19, 2016

Dear readers,

Last week, we asked you to send us your journalistic woes and wonders in haiku form. We were hoping for some creative responses, but we didn’t expect to receive more than 200 entries from editors and reporters all over the world, from Botswana to Germany to India.

We asked our resident bard, Roy Peter Clark, to pick the five best entries after we narrowed the field. Here are his thoughts on the competition:

I do not judge many writing contests, confining myself to Pulitzer Prize juries and the occasional Poynter.org haiku competition. While we offered in our announcement of the contest no criteria for judging, we are now applying the following guidelines ex post facto:

  • While haikus traditionally can express ideas, they are more often the product of some direct experience with nature. So we gave preference to haikus with details and things, rather than notions or opinions.


  • Various traditions of haiku allow the poet to order the 17 syllables in a variety of ways. Our standard was the most common: three lines: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. We gave points for interesting interactions of the lines: comparison, contrast, paradox,tension, resolution, epiphany.


  • The content had to be about journalism and the news media: its culture, mission, practice, frustrations.



Before we get to the winners: You can also explore some of the other entries in the interactive graphic below. Click any word in the chain to follow a series of haiku submissions that express a similar theme.

Now, the winners. We’ll be getting in touch soon to send you your bag of goodies! Drumroll, please:

By Gabriela Guedez

Seas of black coffee

Blank paper boats sink empty

Deadline is coming

(Judge’s remarks: While this image is not crystal clear, it is evocative. I like the seas and sinking boats, the alliteration and consonance of black and blank, and the dark promise of deadline.)

By Smiley Anders

I miss typewriters

Only crashed when you dropped them

Holes in newsroom floor

(Judge’s remarks: I collect typewriters, so this appealed to me. Liked the two meanings of “crashed,” one from the digital world, the other from the old school. The word “hole” has great meaning in journalism: news-hole, hole in the story, and now one in the floor. Notice there are five little holes in that last line, expressed by the letter ‘o,’ the kind of play that you might see in Asian ideograms.)

By John Dillon

Ink-stained wretches learn

At fires on ice-cold nights that

Pencils never freeze

(Judge’s remarks: Cool how the author mixes fire and ice in that middle line, kind of like HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Nice alliteration of opposites: fires and freeze. Contrast between ink-stained and pencils.)

By Lillian Reed

Hands tapdance on keys

Clacks halt. You forgot to get

The name of the dog.

(Judge’s remarks: In haiku, I like each line to express an image or thought, rather than have the lines overlap like this. But the author had her mojo working with “hands tapdance” — the vowel and consonant sounds are working overtime in that phrase, and she uses my favorite writing tool — get the name of the dog — as a kicker.)

By Dan Gayle

Digital dimes cry

Web first binary teardrops

Pinkslips replace print

(Judge remarks: A tragic tale of the decline of the newspaper industry in just 17 syllables. )

Congratulations, everyone, and thank you for participating! If you like any of the poems, don’t forget to tweet at us.


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