The bizarre news a few days ago that Newsday had, um, lost three of its storied Pulitzer gold medals for public service, reminded Static of another journalism organization, one closer to home, that discovered its own golden awards had gone astray.
Press Club of Dallas, come on down!
Newsday discovered late last month that what looks like three of its medallions, for one of journalism’s highest honors, had sold on eBay for a cool $15,500. In Dallas, horrified Press Club officials discovered earlier this year that its Katies Awards competition, dating back at least to 2004 had, in all probability, been rigged by then-club president Elizabeth Albanese, who awarded herself several of the gold statuettes but could not produce any list of judges who supposedly had chosen winners. The Dallas Business Journal broke the story, and other news coverage followed.
Across Texas – and in the other five states covered by the contest – disgusted journalists took their Katies out of display cases and turned them into doorstops. The press club responded rapidly, however, launching its own investigation. After changing her story several times, Albanese stepped down.
This year’s Katies competition was cancelled, but the club is trying to move on. A roast of recently retired WFAA-TV/Channel 8 weatherman Troy Dungan on Nov. 15 will help raise scholarship money, and a “50-year anniversary event” is being planned for 2008. No word yet on whether that event will include a rebirth of the Katies.
There’s also been no decision yet on what to do about all those entry fees and dinner tickets that news organizations and others shelled out for over the years. That’s “still to be determined,” press club foundation president Rand LaVonn said. Has membership been affected? Well, that would be easier to figure out if the club could be sure what its membership was before. “We just found lax procedures,” LaVonn said. “And those have been tightened up.”
Newsday at least knew how many Pulitzers it was supposed to have, although bosses had to drill open a lockbox to find that three of them were gone. Now the FBI’s involved, and the medals have been turned over to federal agents who are trying to verify that they’re the same ones that went missing.
Static’s colleague Jeff Prince, whose list of Katies includes one each from 2004 and 2006, is convinced those tainted statuettes would fetch a premium on eBay. “People have a sick fascination with controversy,” he said. “In fact, I’ll trade my Katies for an O.J. Simpson autograph and a lock of hair from Britney’s addled head.”