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On receiving awards: Look ahead, not back, and challenge yourself

A couple weekends ago I accepted the YDR’s John V.R. Bull Freedom of Information Award at a statewide ceremony for Pennsylvania’s best journalism of 2011.

It’s quite an honor to win that award, and it’s expected that whoever accepts it say a few words. (Just as several other journalists are expected to make short speeches — though some run long — when they accept certain awards such as Distinguished Writing and Distinguished Visual).

I intentionally kept my remarks short. Even though I’m proud of our public records work (for example, our open records blog),  I wanted the journalists in the room to hear (and think) less about what we’d done and more about how they could be better journalists — in part because that’s a big part of how we approach our work at the YDR. I hoped that, for a moment, I could get people to look ahead, not back. Our editor, Jim McClure, suggested I post my remarks on this blog, so here they are:

There’s that old saying about Teddy Roosevelt, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

There’s a lesser-known saying about whoever comes to the podium on a night like this with so many others coming up here too: “Speak quickly and sit the heck down.”

So I will.

I want to thank the PNA and everyone who had a hand in the Keystones, not just tonight but from the beginning. It’s a huge amount of work. Round of applause?

On behalf of the YDR, we’re honored that someone thought our public records efforts were worthy of the prestigious Bull award.

We push ourselves to go after these stories, because they make an impact.

Each of you here tonight has done the same thing. You’ve gone above and beyond, whether it’s pursuing a crime story about child sex abuse, or investigating school violence, or capturing the drama of a water rescue with your camera, or just telling a beautiful story.

Take a moment to recognize that about yourself. Bring it with you when you walk into the newsroom every day. But most importantly, nurture it. Build on it.

Because you haven’t done your best work yet. So challenge yourself: What’s next?

I dare say you could apply that sentiment to your job, or anything you care about doing well.