Friday, August 15, 2008

Entrants Must Be 18 or Older?

The Rocky Mountain News is beginning an interesting series titled, "A Dozen on Denver: Stories to Celebrate the City at 150." John Temple, the Publisher, writes:
While I love great journalistic storytelling, I've got to admit that fiction has a special power to tell us truths about ourselves and our society that it is difficult for even the best journalism to touch. That is why when I began to consider how the Rocky Mountain News should celebrate the 150th anniversary of the city of Denver and of the newspaper itself, I was drawn to the idea of enlisting Colorado authors to mark the two occasions.

Too often when newspapers observe such events they spend all their time looking back at their own work over the years. Readers see nothing new.

Why not, instead, celebrate the cultural richness of our community by giving some of its most creative individuals a platform to share their work with a huge audience? Why not leave behind for future generations a new set of stories casting light on how we reached this day?

. . . The authors' stories cover the period from the 1860s to the present. And all have at least one thing in common: Larimer Street, the city's oldest, is at least mentioned.

But to reach a dozen, we're looking for one more fiction writer.

. . . Now we're holding an open competition to find the best story set anytime in Denver's future
So far, so good. This sounds like a really interesting idea and I was already composing this blog post and planning on sharing it with my Language Arts and Social Studies teachers. I was hoping that perhaps some of our students would not only read the series, be exposed to some great writing, and learn some Colorado history, but would also submit a story. After all, we have some very talented writers at our school and, since this is about their future, I figured some of them might have some interesting takes on the matter.

But then in the sidebar that describes the details of the contest I read this:
Entrants must be 18 or older.
Why? Why must they be 18 or older? What exactly is it about this concept that requires the author to be at least 18? The only possible reason I can think of is that they're offering prize money, and perhaps there's a legal issue surrounding that. If so, then surely they could've found a way around that if they had really wanted to.

Now, before y'all complain that I should just ask them why, I did. This was published in last Saturday's paper, and that afternoon I emailed the address that they said entries should be submitted to. Then I waited. I realize that they probably get a lot of emails, but after a week with no response I decided to go ahead and post this. Perhaps someone connected with the paper can find out and leave a comment, or perhaps some of you might also try emailing them and asking why. (Or leave a comment, which I just belatedly did, although it does require creating an account.)

But it seems to me that even if there is a legal reason, the paper could at least run a parallel contest for those "under 18" that they apparently aren't interested in for their main contest. Because this seems like not only a great learning opportunity for our students, but a perfect opportunity for the Rocky Mountain News to, oh, I don't know, actually try to increase their readership by appealing to a demographic that is currently not very interested in their product. I've written before about how I think the Rocky Mountain News and John Temple in particular seem to have a better handle than most on how to transition their newspaper into the digital age, but I think they missed it on this one.

I think I'll still suggest to my Language Arts and Social Studies folks that they share this series with their students, and encourage the students to write their own story to "celebrate the city of Denver," even if we have to publish it ourselves, since The Rocky doesn't appear to be interested in their voices.

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