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Policy prohibiting IRE Board member entries in awards to be reconsidered

At its June 20 meeting during our annual conference in San Antonio, the IRE Board of Directors will consider modifying the policy that bans entries in the IRE Awards if a Board member has been involved with a story at any level.

IRE currently has one of the strictest such policies of any journalism contest. Under the policy, any involvement by a board member makes a story ineligible. In addition to writing, reporting, editing and producing, this has been interpreted to include senior editors who helped provide direction or did a final read on a project.

The policy was designed to minimize any potential conflict in the judging process. It also has meant that the IRE Awards competition sometimes does not include all of the top work of the year, and has served as a disincentive to some potential board candidates because not only their work, but the work of their colleagues or students, may be inadmissible.

The board has drafted a policy to be debated on June 20. It is designed to loosen some of the restrictions while also maintaining the integrity of the awards process.

Among the key points:

  • Stories that have involvement in any way by a contest judge will continue to be ineligible. If a board member is a contest judge, the prohibition continues to apply to them.
  • Judges must file conflict of interest forms, disclosing their ties to news organizations and media companies and listing anything they view as a  potential conflict.
  • If any judge recuses themselves from voting on a specific category because of a conflict, a record will be kept and will be open to inspection.
  • The board will have the flexibility to increase the size of the judging panel (currently at six) if it is deemed that doing so will further reduce potential for any undue influence from any source.
  • The complete policy follows. If you have comments, please post them below, and alll comments will be considered by the board prior to the June 20 discussion.


The policy:

Members of the IRE Contest Committee, including any member of the IRE Board who serves on the committee, are prohibited from entering the IRE Awards for the year during which they serve. Any work that the committee member was involved with in any way is disqualified from consideration. Once appointed, even if a committee member resigns from the committee prior to judging, such work is still disqualified. IRE Board members who do not serve on the Contest Committee may submit contest entries for consideration.

Contest Committee members must disclose any potential conflicts of interest to the committee and to IRE's executive director and shall recuse themselves from discussion and voting on entries where they are deemed by fellow committee members as having an actual conflict. If a member recuses themselves during voting, a written record will be kept of such recusals.

The Contest Committee will consist of at least six members, and can include a mix of Board members, representatives elected by the membership and representatives appointed by the chair of the contest committee in conjunction with the executive director. No single news organization (newspaper, broadcast station, online news site, etc.) shall be represented by more than one judge.

Pre-screeners of contest entries shall not screen categories in which their own news organization can compete. Pre-screeners must promptly notify IRE staff and their co-screeners of any potential conflict of interest they identify once they see the entries they are reviewing.

Please weigh in on this topic and add your comments below.
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