ASME Says Criticism of Nominations is ‘Kind of Silly’

Yesterday, when FishbowlNY covered the 2012 National Magazine Award finalists, we expected the typical backlash against the major publishing houses and our fine city. While there was some of that, many people took the ASME to task for the noticeable lack of women writers.

As Ann Friedman — the Executive Editor of GOOD noted, “Women hold their own or dominate in servicey categories (public interest, personal service) and fiction. They are not represented at all in the categories of reporting, feature writing, profile writing, essays and criticism, columns and commentary.” Alyssa Rosenberg, writing for Think Progress, added that the “women’s” category ends up hurting female writers:

The division in General Excellence creates an incentive for women’s magazines to genuinely specialize their coverage across the board, while men’s magazines have incentives to commission features and criticism that compete with publications like the New Yorker and The Atlantic.

Sid Holt, the ASME’s Chief Executive, brushed off the criticism. He wrote to Poynter and said it was all “Kind of silly,” went through the selection process and cited past nominations as proof that there is no bias:

You can argue with their decisions, but you can’t argue with the process. Unless of course you think women can’t compete in the reporting and writing categories, which would come as a surprise to Pamela Colloff, Sheri Fink, Dana Goodyear, Elizabeth Kolbert, Jane Mayer, Megan McArdle and Daphne Merkin — just to name some of the writers who have been nominated in the last couple of years.

As for the notion that there shouldn’t be a “women’s” category since there isn’t a “men’s” one, Holt scoffed at that too. “There’s no men’s category — that’s not the way the magazine business works, as a trip to any newsstand will show,” he told Poynter.

Somehow we don’t think Holt’s response will quiet the angry masses.

Rosenberg spoke to Holt and he elaborated on the ASME nomination process.