In the spring of 2009, I attended my first-ever awards banquet.
I had submitted 15 entries for stories, columns, photos, website and general excellence from issues in 2008 to the annual Idaho Press Club contest. In March, I had been informed that I had won at least something, but what I won and whether I had won more than one award would be revealed only at the awards banquet.
The Idaho Press Club held its annual awards banquet at the Riverside Hotel in Boise, a once-upscale hotel situated along the Boise River that had its heyday in the 1980s and was still decorated in that era.
A couple hundred journalists from all over the state attended, providing an eclectic mix of well-coiffed attractive TV journalists, including some highly recognizable anchors from Boise, reporters and editors from all of the big papers from around the state, as well as a strong showing of weekly newspaper editors and reporters from several corners of the state.
It was a relatively glamorous affair, as glamorous as one could get in Boise with a room full of journalists. At least most of the women were wearing dresses and most of the men were wearing ties, even if they were purchased on sale at JC Penney.
A couple of the big TV stations and newspapers congregated at their own sponsored tables, folks from Eastern Idaho had their own clique, and the weekly newspaper people got scattered around the room wherever there was an open seat.
Nicola and I attended the event with our administrative assistant and her husband. The four of us were seated at a table with a couple of TV reporters/anchors for the state’s top local TV station, KTVB-TV, the local NBC affiliate.
Seated on my left, one of the female anchors, whom I thought was rather good and higher up on the TV personality attractive meter, had recently been let go from the station, but by God, she was going to cash in on the invitation to the banquet. With other employees, reporters and producers from her now-ex-station present at the banquet at other tables, it seemed an awkward situation. She and the other reporter at our table spent much of the evening complaining about the pay and the horrible working conditions at the station. Nicola and I, as the owners of a previously unheard-of weekly newspaper from a rinky-dink town, sat, it seemed to me, at her table as a testament to the insult that was added to the injury of having been let go. Wine and gin-and-tonics flowed freely, and as the evening wore on, the stories grew more ribald.
I occasionally tried to engage the anchor in conversation, but it was clear that I, a newspaper person, let alone a weekly newspaper person, was below her status. She was polite, though, in her dismissiveness, as a movie star would be to an adoring fan.
When the time finally came for the announcement of the awards, sometime between dinner and dessert, I was a shaky nervous wreck despite the gin.