Date: February 13, 1978
To: Charles M. Fallon, Chairman
From: Richard A. Amyx
           Publications Officer
Subject: As below

Copies to: AMC, Rita Levine, Margot Seitelman, Jan Williams


This subcommittee was formed to examine the procedure for determining the winners of Editors' Awards in an attempt to answer criticisms of the current method. Most of the criticisms can be included in four broad categories.

  1. No editor gets all the newsletters, and not all editors get the same newsletters; therefore, they are not necessarily all voting from the same slate.
  2. There is a "conflict of interest" inherent in a system where the editors can vote for themselves. (The voting seems to bear out this criticism. Typically, there will be a dozen or so newsletters voted for in any category, with the winner being determined by a vote of 4 to 3 or 3 to 2, and lots of 2-2 and 1-1 ties left over. I infer from this that about half the editors vote for themselves regardless of true merit, and the contests are decided by the more conscientious half and editors from other size categories. It is also important to note that, with the votes spread as they are, an editor's vote for himself is liable to make all the difference.)
  3. There are no guidelines for comparison; therefore, the editors may be casting their vote according to differing criteria.
  4. There is poor participation (about 25 out of 80 editors voting the last two years).

I am not attempting to suggest a definitive Editors' Awards procedure with this report. Rather, because of the way suggested solutions have fallen into two general categories, I will describe the two categories, attempt to outline their benefits and shortcomings, and suggest that either the one method or the other be selected and refined for detail.


A panel method of selecting Editors' Awards winners has been suggested by several editors and given form by Hans Frommer. In function, a panel of five to seven qualified people would "adjudicate" the newsletters according to a specified set of criteria. The panel would meet the criticisms of the current system as follows.

  1. All panel members would receive all newsletters that participate in the Special Distribution mailing, hence they would all be voting from the same slate.
  2. None of the panel members would be a newsletter editor, hence there would be no conflict of interest.
  3. Criteria and perhaps point values for comparison would be specified.
  4. The point about editors participating would become moot since the editors wouldn't be participating at all.

The biggest problem with the panel method is assembling the panel. Hans's proposal suggests that the editors elect a panel made up of ex-editors or others who had had exposure to the newsletters: Beth Pos, Jill Kerekes, Sander Rubin, Gordon Andersen, Nancy Berk, and Karl Ross were some of the names mentioned. I think it's awfully presumptuous of one group of people to elect another group to do a lot of work for them, and I think it would be wrong to establish a system where the participation of qualified panel members could not be guaranteed (I know that lots of these people are quite busy these days).

To add a panel of five or seven to the Special Distribution list would push it over its currently stated maximum of 40 (it's now at 39). The subsidy for the Special Mailing is set at $10.00 per mailing, or $0.25 per issue if the list is full—higher than the regular subsidy to encourage participation. I feel that if the list goes over 40, the subsidy should be increased to maintain it at $0.25 per issue mailed. The addition of five to seven names to the list would cost $816 to $1224 per year in additional subsidies (68 newsletters now participating).

If one of the complaints about the current system is that too few editors are participating, it boggles me that putting the editors out of the picture entirely—or at least at one more remove—could be proposed as a solution.

Finally, I would like to remind all concerned that the reason the editors began voting among themselves in 1974 is because they were dissatisfied with the panel method that had been used previously.


This, in essence, means that everything stays the same, except that a few refinements have been suggested. Examples of refinements include a good deal more publicity to encourage more participation; a two-pass system (along the lines of nominations and then voting); weighted voting; having editors vote only for newsletters not in their categories.

Adoption of (or staying with) this method and whatever refinements might be selected could answer three of the criticisms cited, but would not help with one of the major ones—that all editors wouldn't be voting from the same slate.

* * *

Now, if I sound a little cranky about all this, it's because I am. The grousing about the Editors' Awards has been going on for two years now, and about all it's produced is sniping. Only one person—Hans Frommer—came up with a definite alternative suggestion, and I do not believe that system to be workable or in the best interests of the society. I think all of us are going to have to swallow a few hard facts.

  • Unless all editors receive all newsletters (which would be expensive and in conflict with some of the basic premises of the Subscription Program), the editors will not be able to vote from the same slate.

  • Nobody ever said that a democratic free-for-all (as currently practiced in the United States) was necessarily fair or just.

  • The editors of some of the smaller newsletters have to realize that they just can't compete.

  • Local group resources—dollars—do make a difference.

  • Some stooge, currently the Pubs Officer, has to work with the program; hence, the program has to be workable within certain limits. And if, ultimately, the Editors' Awards program proves to be no more workable than the ill-fated attempt at making LocSecs' Awards, then the whole idea will have to be scrapped.

There is enough emotional heat behind the Editors' Awards at this point that I'm not about to make a one-man pronouncement about it. I do, however, seek AMC concurrence on two points:

  1. That the idea of a panel method of making Editors' Awards be abandoned.
  2. That the matter of the Editors' Awards be returned to the subcommittee for refinement of the method of having the editors vote for the awards, for report no later than the second meeting hence.

Respectfully submitted,

Publications Officer
Chairman, Subcommittee on Editors' Awards

Hans Frommer
Jan Williams

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