Contests: Do I have to put myself through that wringer?

Of course you don’t! To compete or not is the individual editor’s personal decision. But before you dismiss bulletin contests altogether, let’s have a look at them.

As in quartet contests, chorus contests and horse races, competition improves the breed. It’s a fact. The reason, of course, is preparing for competition makes us all strive for perfection. We rarely attain, but we do strive.

And there are positive results. Example: not long ago an editor rose from worst bulletin in his district to Bulletin Editor of the Year in the space of only three years. How? Well, he submitted to competition, took considerable lumps from the contest judges, and applied to his bulletins everything he learned from the experiences.

Isn’t that a rosy story? A great many editors don’t see it that way. “I don’t publish for a bunch of blankety-blank judges,” they grumble, “I publish what my chapter wants to read.”

That’s all well and good. Certainly, it’s a legitimate opinion. But there’s a side to bulletin competition other that striving for honors. It’s that improvement of the breed we just talked about. That last-to-first place story can easily happen again. And is there something wrong with publishing “...what my chapter wants to read” in a first- class format and style?

Whether an editor chooses to compete or not, he should have a thorough knowledge of the criteria applied to bulletin contests. They are the distilled savvy from a lot of good editors gone before. The criteria, diligently laid on, are guaranteed to produce chapter bulletins that are attractive and easy to read, and provide the services to members discussed in Part 1 of this manual.

The judges’ score sheets for the three bulletin contest categories, Grammar and Style, Layout and Reproduction, and Content, appear in the appendix to this manual. Give them a thorough reading. Note the things the category experts deem important to a good bulletin. How many of them are in your chapter’s bulletin? How many could be, with a little more effort on the editor’s part?

There’s precious little reward in the bulletin editor’s job. It’s often quite a thankless task. About the only gratification guaranteed a bulletin editor is the quiet, personal satisfaction that he’s doing a whale of a good job. That’s what keeps veteran editors plugging away at the task, year after year after year.

Some say that today’s bulletin contests are rigged in the favor of computer-equipped editors. There may be a grain of truth in that, but the advantage, if there truly is one, is minute. It would have to lie within the Layout and Reproduction Category, because the fanciest computer in the Society can’t give an advantage in either the Content or the Grammar and Style categories. They depend solely on the editor’s skills.

So don’t turn your back on bulletin contests without consideration. They offer valuable lessons to be learned, and if you put out a little effort, there are a great many wonderful bulletin editor pen pals to be cultivated. Give it some thought.


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