Earning accoladesWritten by Karl Rundgren | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Everyone loves to be honored. Winning professional recognition and the respect of your peers is a wonderful thing — a true morale booster. During my time at FOX Toledo we’ve won several awards, and every time the atmosphere at our station has been electric once we got the news. People worked just a little harder, felt a little better about what they were doing, and where they were doing it.
But there was something I heard once, shortly after our station won an award, that stuck with me. Instead of the usual congratulations, a corporate executive shared a more bittersweet assessment of our accolades. “It’s great to win awards,” he said, “but they don’t pay the bills. Awards won’t save you.”
The first time I heard that, I dismissed it as pointless grumbling, but I found myself thinking about it over and over. Hard as it was to admit, he was exactly right. Every television station in this market is fighting for viewers, and most would happily empty out their award case for a larger audience. That’s what pays the bills.
I hope city leaders will keep that in mind when they make their presentation for the United Nations Environmental Programme LivCom awards next month. The awards honor the most livable communities across the globe. Megan Robson, the leader of the Toledo Youth Commission, found out about the rewards and entered the city into the contest back in May.
“I worked with a number of city departments and outside people to compile a 4,500-page written submission,” she said “We sent that to London and found out [Toledo was] a finalist.”
Nestled in that entry were a score of reasons why city leaders believed Toledo met all the criteria for the award. Toledo’s aggressive courtship of green tech companies such as Xunlight (which manufactures solar panels) as well as plans to use green tech at the marina district show that we’re environmentally sensitive. Flowers and other decorations show a commitment to enhancing the landscape. Things like the Keep Jeep campaign as well as neighborhoods like the Old West End show Toledo’s commitment to its heritage, while walking and biking trails promote a healthy lifestyle. City leaders say there are numerous projects demonstrating that Toledo is planning for the future, trying to make sure it’s a bright one, and also working to keep Toledoans involved in the process.
Still, if you’re like a lot of Toledoans, you might have scratched your head when you first heard about the nomination. Toledo, known for Hungarian hot dogs and packzis, is promoting a healthy lifestyle? Do we preserve our heritage by boarding up old, empty buildings to keep squatters out? And it’s hard to think of Toledo as environmentally friendly when some neighborhoods are full of lead paint, and our second-tallest building is vacant because it’s chock full of asbestos.
Robson is quick to challenge critics to spend less time complaining and more time problem-solving.
“A lot of the naysayers are people who aren’t involved in the community, because when you talk to people that are involved in EPIC for example or the Junior League … these are people who are making a connection to their community and see all the positive things going on. What this award is going to do for us is reinforce that,” she said.
If Robson sounds like the city has already won the award, that’s because she believes it has. Only six cities in our population range were nominated, and Toledo is the only American city on the list. Now a contingent of city leaders is raising money to go to Westminster next month, hoping to earn top honors. Private citizens are arranging transportation to be a part of that effort.
I sincerely hope we can bring home an award, but I also hope city leaders understand awards alone won’t fix this city’s issues. A shiny trophy is no comfort to people who can’t find work. It’s no solace to people who can’t sell their homes or to people who don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods. And while it can boost morale and bring more international attention to our part of the world, the glow will quickly fade unless the city can turn it into progress.
This is an award we’ll have to keep earning — for years to come — if we want to pay the bills.
Karl Rundgren is managing editor and co-anchor of FOX Toledo News.