Awards aren’t important. Or at least, they aren’t important enough to justify the cost. That’s the clear message sent by WAGA, which has stopped spending money on the Southeast Regional Emmy awards.
This year, WAGA had fewer Emmy nominations than any other station. Employees at the station coughed up cash from their own pockets to earn ten nominations. By comparison, WGCL had 13, WSB had 35 and WXIA had 47. (You can count ’em up yourself here. If you do, you’ll probably get the same headache I got. You may also get different numbers, due to my flawed ability to count.)
Traditionally, TV stations select a limited number of entries worthy of submission and pay the entry fees, roughly $90 a pop. Individuals within those stations may choose to fork out their own cash to pay for entries they believe the station has overlooked.
Do the math, and the costs add up quickly. Figure that for every nomination, two or three additional entries didn’t get nominated. Add the expenses paid for Emmy statues (first one’s free, the rest have to be purchased. So when five names are on the winning entry, four trophies get purchased at $260 or more each). Add the cost of banquet tickets, another hundred bucks a pop. Add spouses and other guests.
But if your station is fighting to survive in the changing world of TV news, you ask yourself the question WAGA has asked: Should I devote tens of thousands of dollars for awards? Or do I use that money for a salary or new equipment or repairs on existing gear– the stuff that actually helps a station gather news?
Awards serve several purposes: They make the recipients feel good about themselves. They send a message that their employers value the extraordinary work they do. And they give the station something to brag about, promotion-wise. If you’re trying to draw viewers to your station, you want to have tangible evidence that your station is actually worth watching. Awards can help do that.
If you draw more viewers to your station, your ratings go up. You get more advertising money. Then you can hire another assignment editor or photographer. At least, that’s the theory.
But they’re not buying it at WAGA. To its credit, WAGA has resisted the temptation to thin its I-team, or to make reporters shoot their own stories. Those things cost money — money they aren’t spending on Emmys.
Funny thing, though. Plenty of folks filled the void left by WAGA. Among many noteworthy awards (here’s the list), category 43 “news excellence” resulted in a tie between WXIA and Noticias 34 Atlanta, the Spanish-speaking Univision station. Both stations somehow beat the aforementioned rolling-in-dough station.
I’m guessing the folks at Noticias 34 Atlanta considered the expense a worthwhile one.
And pretty much every single one of my coworkers at WXIA!