National Magazine Awards Cause Flurry of Confusion, Concern
Screengrab of the purported National Magazine Award nominee list, as it appeared on its website this morning.
The media industry went on high alert this morning, as excited writers and editors started tweeting exclamations of joy and gratitude, happy to learn that they had been nominated for Canada’s National Magazine Awards. First given out in 1977, the awards are distributed by the National Magazine Awards Foundation (NMAF), and are the most sought-after official prize for magazine publishers in Canada. (Full disclosure: Torontoist submitted entries this year; last year we won a silver prize for Best Cross-Platform Package and were a finalist for Website of the Year.)
Unfortunately, it turns out the list was a mistake.
The excitement this morning was mixed with considerable confusion, as nobody had been expecting to hear about the NMA shortlist for several more weeks: according to the timeline posted on the NMA website, the nominees were to be announced on May 2. For a time, most people just assumed that the list had been released early.
Quickly though, things began to look a little stickier. For starters, the NMAF itself hadn’t offiicially announced that the nominee list was out: no statement on its website, no press release, no tweets. Moreover, the list was incomplete—while the awards in the written categories were listed, the visual and online awards categories were conspicuously absent, as were nominees for the most-sought after award: Magazine of the Year. And then, the list disappeared from the NMA website. (It had never appeared on the front page, but when the list was live it was hosted, or appeared to be hosted, on the organization’s website, not a third-party site.)
The NMAF now has a statement up on its homepage about the incident, which reads in full:
It has come to our attention that a list of the nominees for the 2010 National Magazine Awards has been circulating on the internet. Unfortunately, this list is counterfeit. In most categories the NMAF has yet to tabulate final results from judges’ voting. We are looking into the matter and will release the official list of nominees as scheduled on May 2nd, 2011.
The submissions process for the 34th annual National Magazine Awards is now closed. Nominations will be announced by May 2, 2011. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to have the full list of nominees emailed to you. Winners will be announced at the 34th National Magazine Awards gala on June 10, 2011 in Toronto. Gold awards carry a cash prize of $1000; Silver awards $500.
The origin of the mistake remains obscure. Described in the above statement as a “counterfeit,” the list did clearly seem to come from within the NMAF: in addition to being hosted on their website, the list included links to nicely formatted PDFs of every single nominee, and gives every appearance of being an internal page that got let out into the world accidentally. The NMAF first described the incident as a “leak” but then immediately backtracked and said that it wasn’t a leak since no official nominee list exists yet.
We spoke with Julia De Laurentiis Johnson, communications manager for the NMAF, and asked her about the use of the term “counterfeit” in their statement—specifically, whether the NMAF has any indication than a third party might have in fact been responsible for the creation of today’s list. She told us that “we’re still looking into that particular point,” and went on to say “we have no leads” and that the organization was considering all options in trying to get to the bottom of things. They are currently working with their developer to isolate a list of possible causes.
The full list of “nominees,” as it appeared this morning:
: The NMA website has been updated with a much more detailed account of what went wrong today. It reads:
How did this morning’s inaccurate nominee list get created and released? The NMAF and our web developers have spent the day figuring this out, and here’s what appears to have happened.
Last year, the NMAF created a page called the 2010 Nominees Report to provide not only a list of nominees but also links to all nominated work. The NMAF’s computer system, including the submission, judging and reporting functions used to manage the Awards, all require a manual update each year to put last year’s information into an archive, and to open a new set of information for the new year. This usually happens after the judging is complete, in preparation for the public announcement of the current year’s nominees. This process has not yet been done by NMAF staff or by its web provider for any of the 2011 nomination/winner reports. However, unbeknownst to NMAF staff, the Nominees Report –in unusual fashion—was configured to automatically changeover to the new year and dynamically generate a new report without a manual update.
The live link to the 2010 Nominees Report was removed from public view (toggled “off” in the system and links on www.magazine-awards.com content removed) in July 2010. Today, as everyone knows, a “live link” was uncovered and featured a list of 2011 NMA nominees.
So how did this happen? Our web provider informed us that the “off” toggle malfunctioned (it has since been fixed). It appears that someone who had bookmarked last year’s report clicked on the report link, and that triggered the system to automatically update the report, pulling from unverified, unchecked data elsewhere in the system. The list generated by the system has –until today—not been seen or vetted by NMAF staff and is very much incomplete and subject to change.
To reiterate what we said earlier, the judging is not final and the NMAF has not yet created its own nominees’ lists for ANY of the categories for this year’s awards. We sincerely regret the excitement and confusion this may have caused among members of the magazine community.