It’s awards season for journalists, and I’m proud to say that Pool & Spa News was honored with a number of accolades.

But this isn’t going to be a column about the great product our staff produces. (Well, OK, maybe it will be a little bit about that.) Instead, I want to discuss two important principles that were brought home to me once again during the awards process.

For a number of months one of our writers, Rebecca Robledo, had been pitching an idea for an article on the proper grounding and bonding of pools. Though I listened politely, I never took to the concept. My reasons for resisting it were so vague that I couldn’t even articulate them. But the topic just felt wrong somehow. After hearing electricity brought up at three consecutive planning meetings, I finally gave in to Rebecca. “All right already,” I said. “Write the thing.”

“On the Grid” was named a finalist for Best Technical Content in the Jesse H. Neal Awards program, sponsored by the American Business Media. A Neal is the most coveted and prestigious honor a business-to-business publication can achieve, and though we didn’t win this year, just being a finalist is a huge accomplishment and a personal best for Rebecca.

But even more importantly, the article struck a chord with the industry. We received numerous e-mails and even a few phone calls complimenting the clarity of the writing and importance of the topic.

Lesson: Listen closely to staff. If an idea doesn’t sit well, take the time to really understand why and closely examine your own reasons. In retrospect, I think electricity intimidated me. I didn’t want to admit that, even to myself, so I found other articles to champion instead.

Intimidation wasn’t an issue with Dan Schechner’s article on the trend of service techs adding to their revenues by cleaning pools of foreclosed homes. Right away I knew we had a solid story, and Dan delivered an interesting, timely piece written in his own engaging style.

But when it came time to enter it in the Western Publishing Association’s Maggie Awards, I realized we had a problem. Though the article was exceptionally strong, it wouldn’t be a contender for Best Feature because that honor always goes to a long piece with a dramatic topic and huge numbers of sources. But I really believed in the story and wanted to see it recognized.

Yesterday, we found out that “Green to Clean” is a Maggie Award finalist in the category I entered it in: Best News Story. The subject matter is not news in the strict sense of the word, but rethinking the way we approach the awards gave us a finalist.

Lesson: When confronted with an obstacle, think creatively. Redefine the problem using new parameters, and don’t be afraid to change the rules.
Please join me in congratulating Rebecca and Dan as well as our graphic designers Tim Bobko, Nick Orabovic and Denise Baker, who also are Maggie finalists for their exceptionally fine artwork.

The winners of the Maggie Awards will be announced May 2. Wish us luck!