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SOPA AWARDS IN HK

I always seem to quit my jobs right at awards season, generally when I myself am up for an award. That’s how it went in South Carolina with my piece 24 hours at Peaches Corner winning second place in the state press awards right before I quit. (I just checked and apparently that multimedia piece did not make the migration when TheSunNews.com switched to MyrtleBeachOnline.com…sad. Seems my time-lapse video survived at least.)

That’s also turned out to be the case at China Economic Review, where I’ve given notice that I will leave in August. More on that in a later post.

Last month, I received the amazing news that our two submissions had both been named as finalists in the category Excellence in Explanatory Reporting at the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards. My cover story “Fuel to the Fire” and former editor Ana Swanson’s “Awash in Cash” made up two of the three finalists in the category. Needless to say, I liked our chances.

I decided to travel to the Hong Kong for the awards, picking up half of the cost myself, because I felt strongly that if we won, I wanted to be there. Also, how many chances do I really have to rub shoulders with big-name reporters from the likes of The New York Times and Bloomberg?

So on Thursday I left on a less-than-24-hour trip to attend the awards ceremony that night. I checked into the nicest hotel I’ve ever paid for myself, although that’s not saying much considering it cost me $80. I put on my suit  and shuffled off to the ceremony, trying not to move too fast to avoid sweating through my suit in the humidity but mostly failing at that.

I missed most of the cocktail hour waiting to meet the publisher of CER out front. He ran into a Hong Kong-based MD with The New York Times and kibitzed for a minute, but that was about the extent of our mingling.

We sat down at our table and went through the introductions. On  my one side were staffers from the Chinese-language magazine iSunAffairs and on my other were a bunch of PR people of the worst variety (OMG all of my friends are getting engaged at once. LIKE, I have to be a bridesmaid in THREE weddings this summer). I talked more with the woman next to me from iSun, although I was embarrassingly ignorant about their publication.

At the end of the night, iSun finished with about 13 plaques. The woman next to me said despite all the acclaimed coverage, they couldn’t get advertisers to pay their rates on a weekly basis, so unfortunately, they were going to switch to a monthly and the size of the staff would shrink considerably. She also told me that their publisher had been beaten by thugs only three days earlier, which I would guess has something to do with the magazine’s uncompromising reporting about the mainland. Hard times for hard reporting.

The dinner was bizarrely well produced, perhaps not a coincidence that the host was a Reuters TV producer, and the food surprisingly satisfactory.  Our category came up quick. Honorable mention goes to: China Economic Review, “Awash in Cash.” I went up to claim it, more deer in headlights than anything. Just as quickly they announced the winner: Discovery Channel Magazine, “Going Viral…”

I can’t really deny that I was incredibly disappointed that my piece was the one to come away empty-handed. I tried to be happy, and mostly succeeded. Basically, I convinced myself that I’m better off with the chip on my shoulder. Every time I start to think I’m hot shit, editor of a magazine or whatever, it’s good to be knocked down a peg. It’ll keep me hungry, striving to do better.

I figured rationalizing it and drinking heavily was probably better than being a sourpuss all night. I was right. The schmoozing wasn’t terribly exciting, mostly Hong Kong journalists – they’re really a bunch of squares in Hong Kong compared to reporters on the mainland.

I walked home through the dark streets afterward and stopped in a 7-Eleven for a beer. It’s amazing how even a convenience store with brands you don’t get in the mainland is a breath of fresh air after not leaving China for months. I imagined that these sorts of first-world conveniences was what made the people at the event such squares, relishing that thought for a bit.

I went back to the hotel, sent some emails, wrote this and fell asleep. The next day, I caught my flight back to the mainland, where it’s really at.


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