Awards Remind Us What We’ve Got

CCPaward2013
What do awards like this one mean?

Many Canadians seem to enjoy reading Faith Today, but what’s it really worth?

Say you open your mailbox and see two new magazines, Faith Today and something else, is it hard to choose which to read first?

Of course those of us who write and edit and lay out the articles are aiming for the highest quality. We believe we’re doing what God is calling us to do. But what if nobody else thought so? That’s where objective reader feedback – and Holy Spirit feedback – are so important. Let me explain.

At Faith Today we receive reader feedback mostly by email, Facebook and phone calls. Most readers who contact us in such ways have strong opinions to share, so we need to be discerning. We try to hear what’s on a reader’s heart and mind and to judge how those resonate with other feedback we are receiving.

We get other feedback in notes scrawled on subscription renewal forms, through occasional reader surveys and, each year, from articles we have entered in professional contests. Contests are great to win, but when they are professionally judged, there is feedback on every entry. Faith Today usually enters articles in the Canadian Church Press awards contest, and in the Word Awards held by The Word Guild.

So what about Holy Spirit feedback? Well, like Christians everywhere, it’s our job to discern and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we listen for the Spirit’s voice as we read Scripture and pray, both communally in our weekly meetings and individually in our private devotions. We also listen as we fellowship with other believers through work-related connections and in the congregations that individual staff attend.

It may sound a little weird to say, but we also listen for what the Spirit might be telling us through the various kinds of human feedback we receive, including the comments of judges in awards contests.

With that context, here’s how Faith Today has fared in the most recent awards contests we’ve entered. We haven’t yet received judging comments from the Word Awards, which were just announced tonight. But I’ll include some from the Canadian Church Press.

The annual Word Awards drew more than 220 entries published during 2013 across 28 categories, many of them for book-length work. Winners were presented with cash prizes today (June 11) at a gala event in Mississauga, Ont.

The news article category was won by Christian Law School Proposal Raises Discussion by Jeff Dewsbury from our Mar/Apr 2013 issue.

Several other major winners appeared in Faith Today during the past year.

Carolyn Weber of London, Ont., won this year’s $5,000 Grace Irwin prize for Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir (Thomas Nelson). Faith Today readers might remember her essay Coming Home as a Follower of Christ from our May/Jun 2014 issue.

Ken Shigematsu of Vancouver won the Christian living book category and honourable mention for the Irwin prize for God in My Everything (Zondervan), reviewed in our Nov/Dec 2013 issue.

A complete list of winners is available at www.thewordguild.com.

In the Canadian Church Press contest, held annually by a national association of more than 50 periodicals, three Faith Today articles won first place awards. Here they are, along with some of the judging comments. What do you discern in these comments? Your comments are welcome at editor@faithtoday.ca or at www.facebook.com/faithtoday.

The service journalism category was won by Social Media for Social Good by Patricia Paddey (Jul/Aug 2013). Judge said: This article encompasses everything that is good about service journalism – it is a helpful guide to readers helping them to engage in social media with lots of background info, resources and strategies. Most important, it give readers the reasons why it’s so imperative that they engage. Good anecdotal lede illustrates why it’s so important to get a presence on social media. Fulfils mandate clearly helping people connect and equipping them with tools and resources and offering solid information. Excellent use of info pulled out into sidebars. Another layer that works well are the links throughout the article for even more info. Lots of info here that could be overwhelming; instead it’s easy to read, empowering the reader and inspiring them.

The interview category was won by The Faith Today Interview With Rev. Dawn McDonald by Karen Stiller (Sep/Oct 2013). Judge said: Very well done. Interesting character, and a good interview. Questions were open enough to give the reader insight into the subject. Very interesting perspective. This is a controversial topic no matter which side of the debate you believe in. [Judge was asked to identify what needs work or doesn’t work, and responded:] I feel you should have pushed the subject harder on some of her own personal decisions. I would like to know how who she WAS can be reconciled with who she IS. I feel you let her off the hook and wanted more. Overall a wonderful interview. Well done.

The biographical profile was won by Faith Fits With Action for Fashion Designer by Lisa Hall-Wilson (Jan/Feb 2013). Judge said: I really appreciate the fact that you didn’t just interview Lundström. Beardy and Minor added a lot to the profile. The writing is very strong. The structure is excellent. A very moving story that is strong because it shows the flaws and weaknesses of a person and how they overcame them.

Faith Today also won second place awards from the Canadian Church Press for media reviews and news as well as thirds for a front cover and general excellence in a magazine. All the winners will eventually be posted at www.canadianchurchpress.com, meanwhile we’ve posted our own PDF copy.

When I read these judging comments, I realize again what an important and excellent ministry we have in Faith Today. It’s the kind of kick we all need occasionally to remind us not to take things for granted, don’t you think?