Little Black Flag

Colin Donohue

You don’t do work to win awards. But you do award-winning work.

I’ve borrowed that axiom from a colleague of mine and perhaps altered it a little bit. It’s not an exact quote, but the general sentiment is there. At Elon (and elsewhere, I’m certain), we want our students to produce work of the highest possible quality. We want it to be purposeful. We want it to impact the larger community. And that community is why the students do the work. It’s not for the awards. It’s for the people who draw meaning from the work of student journalists.

And a funny thing happens when students do that kind of work: They win awards. It’s a byproduct of the journalism, not the reason for it. That’s OK.

IMG_3169Don’t get me wrong: Winning awards is great. Nothing makes me happier than when a student receives an impressive honor from an established journalism organization. So I’m thrilled that The Pendulum students get to walk around this year’s ACP/CMA conference with little black flags affixed to their name tags that read: PACEMAKER FINALIST.

This is my ninth year advising the Pendulum and attending this conference. It’s the fourth time the Pendulum has been an Online Pacemaker finalist. Not once has the organization won the Online Pacemaker, though. I’m hoping this is the year the curse is broken. I’d hate for the students to return to Elon still mired in their Susan Lucci-like slump.

There’s a nice symmetry here: The Pendulum was in Austin for this very same conference in 2009, when the organization won its first and only Newspaper Pacemaker. Could it be that six years later the Pendulum secures a similar fate of good fortune? We’ll see on Saturday.

But regardless of the outcome, earning a finalist nod is meaningful. And we’ll dwell on that.



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