JC / Railbird

No Change: 2017 Multimedia Eclipse Results Stand

After sending the matter back to the judges, the “questions that were raised” about the 2017 audio/multimedia Eclipse-winning work, Barbara Livingston’s “Chasing Man o’ War’s Ghost,” published on Daily Racing Form, were deemed not to warrant a disqualification. The Eclipse Awards steering committee released a statement on Sunday that this year’s award results would stand.

The full statement regarding the decision is on the NTWAB site:

The Eclipse Awards Steering Committee on Wednesday, January 3 became aware of a question regarding the winning entry submitted by Daily Racing Form (DRF) in the Audio Multi-Media and Internet Category.

Steering Committee members representing the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB) and National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) — DRF representatives on the Steering Committee recused themselves — determined that the question merited contacting the judges in the Audio Multi-Media and Internet category who had awarded points to the entry to determine if this new information would cause them to change their votes. The judges replied that the new information would not have impacted the way they voted or changed the order in which they voted. Thus, there will be no change involving the winning entry in this Audio Multi-Media and Internet Category.

As it does every year, the Steering Committee will undertake a rigorous review of the Eclipse Awards Media Rules to determine if any changes should be made with regard to the 2018 Media Eclipse Awards.

A few observations:

1) By their own description of the review process, the Eclipse Awards steering committee largely dodged the eligibility question regarding the winning entry. The 2017 Livingston multimedia work contained almost the entirety of a 2010 Man o’ War blog post written by Livingston, also published on DRF, and there was no notice on the 2017 piece of the 2010 text’s inclusion. The decision about how to handle the situation was handed over the judges (the judges who had initially given the Livingston entry points, that is, not the full panel).

2) And yet, the statement does acknowledge: “The entry, taken as a whole, was published for the first time between those dates. Portions of the entry were not, as pointed out in the questions that were raised.” In recognizing that portions of the work were not published in 2017, the year covered by the award, and stating that the inclusion of an original video is what qualified the entry for the audio/multimedia category, the steering committee has staked out an untenable position: Previously published work that includes a new video is eligible for the award. The entry does not have to be wholly original.

This is bad precedent, and I don’t see how the rules for this category don’t get altered to prevent future entries taking advantage of such a loophole.

3) In the meantime, how was the judging process then fair to the other people and organizations who entered work in the audio/multimedia category? If I were one of the entrants (and I’m not/wasn’t), I would feel demoralized and alienated by this decision to allow unattributed previously published material in the winning entry. It’s a slap in the face to others who followed the spirit — and the apparent meaning — of the award rules.

4) Incidentally, the situation points up the ongoing folly that is combining audio and multimedia into one Eclipse award category. The award rests on multimedia containing an audio element. Video is allowed to fulfill the audio requirement, which means that video then becomes synonymous with multimedia. This is such a barren view of digital possibilities. If the multimedia award is going to be for a video, then better to group audio and video into one category and create a new, standalone multimedia category that allows for any combination of media. Think of the potential! Data viz + audio. Video + social storytelling + text. It could spur some fresh work.

5) Finally, I’ll add that I’m disappointed DRF and Livingston did not acknowledge the questions, or the appearance of an ethical issue, or explain the editorial policy that may have allowed what appears to have happened. It does not look high-minded to have remained quiet. It looks arrogant.