Grading on a Curve

jay-surf-curveWithout in any way taking away from the accomplishments of our larger-market brethren, over the past few years I have observed a steady decline in the number of small-market stations who win Crystal awards. This disturbs me.

I don’t know of any radio station in any size market that is overstaffed nowadays, but larger-market stations usually have at least one person—sometimes two or three—who are devoted, more or less exclusively, to community service. While every member of the staff participates to some degree, the organizing power of someone whose primary job function is to keep an eye on community service is something that can’t be matched in smaller markets.

Any judge who is looking at the accomplishments of individual stations without knowing whether those stations were large or small would invariably decide in favor of the larger stations, because their community-service efforts are likely to be more robust. But I feel that approach is not true to the spirit of the Crystal Awards and not fair to the small-market stations that contribute so much to their local communities and are willing to go through the difficult (according to those who have entered) process of submitting their stations for consideration.

When we first started reporting the results of the Crystal Awards, and until recently, there were always four or five small-market recipients. If anything, small-market stations are more committed to their communities than ever nowadays, and I can’t believe that their entries are less powerful than those of bygone years. On a proportional basis, small-market stations invest a much higher percentage of their total staff hours to both community service and the Crystal entry process; I think it’s time to restore some order and balance to the Crystals and recognize at least four or five small-market stations each year as winners.

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