Woohoo! I'm a (Third-Place) Winner! | Buzz Blog

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Woohoo! I'm a (Third-Place) Winner!

Posted By on June 13, 2009, 1:25 AM

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I'm constructing a shrine to my certificate as we speak.

It'll be tasteful: My Third-Place/Division-A SPJ blogging award, surrounded by a modest strand of blinking, multicolored C7 string lights, will be held aloft by a bronze statuette of Winged Victory over an offering bowl in which a blend of laurel, frankincense, copal, cedarwood and hyssop shall be burned each Wednesday in honor of Hermes.

Simplicity is always the best bet.

To tell the truth, when Greg Wilcox asked me what "There Are/Were Gay People at BYU"--my award-winning ... er, losing ... er, placing blog entry--was about, I had to rack my brain. (Wilcox is a likeable and amazingly steadfast summer intern--he managed to sit through the entire SPJ award ceremony, including speeches and the video presentation, while hardly breaking a sweat!)

My guess was that it had something to do with a group of gay Christians who were arrested upon stepping foot on BYU property with the intent of delivering a flower and a list of concerns to university administrators.

But, nope--that happened way back in 2007. I went home and Googled it--turns out the blog entry in question was about a Dec. 2008 student photography exhibit that was removed (and subsequently replaced) by those same stiffnecked administrators. Not a lot to it, actually--I was really only reblogging stuff the student photographer had put on his blog.

Now, the actual laurels went to Stephen Dark--including Best Newspaper Reporter (in Academy Award terms, it's like Best Actor)--and Eric S. Peterson, who bagged a brace of First-Place reporting trophies. Along with perennial award-winner Ted McDonough, the almost alarmingly witty headlinist Scott Renshaw, and ever-resourceful contributor Carolyn Campbell, City Weekly writers made out like bandits at the SPJ awards, placing in just about every category imaginable for an alt-weekly competing against the state's two major dailies.

So it was a happy time, full of mutual admiration and congratulatory high-fives.

Still, for me, the highlight of the evening was April Squires' speech. She is a journalism teacher at Riverton High School, this year's recipient of the Clifford B. Cheney Service to Journalism award and probably one of the coolest high school teachers imaginable.

Squires comes across as a woman who deeply values the role of a free press in maintaining an open and transparent democracy. She's able to engage students in such a way that they learn these values firsthand. (Imagine: high school kids filing GRAMA requests!)

But, more than that, it seems obvious to me that Squires genuinely cares for her students. She mentioned one in particular who caught a lot of heat for writing an op-ed in support of student gay-straight alliance organizations.

Now, I don't know whether or not that student is himself gay or just remarkably fair-minded, but--considering that a lot of the vitriol from panicked area homophobes must have been directed not only against the student, but against Squires herself--she was courageous in standing up with him and supporting his freedom to express an unpopular, though responsible, opinion. It is upon that freedom that democracy is built.

And, remembering my own school days as a naive, idealistic, out-of-the-closet homo geek, I think fondly of a teacher who, long before Kelli Peterson brought the gay-straight alliance issue to national attention, quietly offered me her friendship and support during a bleak time when I desperately needed it. (Here's to you, Brenda Bensch! Without you, I'm not sure what I might have done.)

And here's to April Squires and the rest of the SPJ award winners.

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