Corporations as well as persons thirst for recognition. So it should not surprise anyone that maritime awards have become as common — and as cheap — as Starbucks coffee. The thirst needs quenching. But what business does the maritime press have giving awards to entities it is obliged to write about objectively, indeed with a critical eye? It all seems rather silly.

An awards programme is a publc relations tool for maritime publications. That is why these publications trumpet the awards long before they are given. Some even hold lavish dinner parties on the evening of the awards. All that hoopla is great for publicity. However they justify their action, those who hand out the awards are really blowing their own horn, as the 19th-century artist and writer, Edward Lear, funnily depicted in his drawing (pictured above).

For a maritime publication to give out awards is highly questionable since it blurs the distinction between journalism and public relations. Shouldn’t the publication automatically disqualify any company that has been its advertiser at one time or another? What if the awardee is found out later on to be engaging in some unethical practices? Will the awarding publication write about it? Will the award be taken back? No right-thinking publisher should risk putting his organisation in such a quandary.

A simpler objection can be raised against awards handed out by the maritime press: there are just too many such awards. Maritime publications can make better use of their time by aspiring to the same level of excellence that they purport to recognise and honour in others. That would call for, amongst other things, a rejection of cut-and-paste journalism and the filching of stories published elsewhere. Such practices have become endemic. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing are a general decline in the quality of maritime reporting and the dumbing down of maritime awards.

~ Barista Uno

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