The recent issue that has arisen over the contest procedures of the International Association of Culinary Professionals has led us to consider our own policies for the Association of Food Journalists’ annual contest for food journalism.
First, there are key points we’d like to raise: AFJ’s contest has always been open to all members, but is never open to paid staff members. We currently have two paid staff members: Amanda Miller, our executive director, and Micki Maynard, our awards manager. All other members who work for the organization, including the executive board, the regional co-directors and the members of standing and ad hoc committees, are volunteers and eligible to enter the contest.
The awards have always been operated in a way that we thought kept members, including the executive board and the committee chair, from having input or influence into the final contest results. The awards committee chair is responsible for producing the Call for Entries, adding and eliminating categories and making rule changes based on input from members, publicizing the contest, and planning and emceeing the awards ceremony.
All hands-on contest duties — collecting and processing entries, securing judges, communicating with judges and tallying results — are carried out exclusively and confidentially by AFJ’s executive director and, as of this year, the awards manager, with financial transactions executed by AFJ’s treasurer and financial director.
However, with the current controversy over IACP’s recent award to its executive director, we realize that allowing members of the awards committee and the executive committee to enter the contest could be seen as a conflict of interest.
By re-examining our awards protocols we are not implying that any member of the board, committee or organization has done anything unethical. We are just taking the opportunity to explore how well our past process holds up under today’s microscope and whether there are steps we should take to protect AFJ from the kind of issue that IACP is now facing.
The question at hand is whether AFJ’s current contest eligibility rules create a perception of conflict of interest.
At the same time, we also know that barring officers, directors and chairs from entering might be a hardship for members who volunteer their time to support and run the organization. The ability to enter work to be judged along with the best food journalism in the country is important to all of our members, and other journalism organizations do allow volunteers and elected officers to continue to enter their contests.
So, we find ourselves facing a dilemma and we’d like your input. We’re asking all current members to take a brief survey to help guide us. To be clear, this is not a binding vote. We are asking for your input on the direction you would like us to take on behalf of your organization.
In the short term, we have added language clarifying our current policy to our website to aid in transparency. Please note that any changes that we may settle upon will be applied to the 2019 competition, not the 2018 competition, which is currently underway.
- The executive board and competition chair and committee members SHOULD continue to be eligible for the awards competition as they have been in the past.
- The chair and members of the awards committee SHOULD NOT be eligible for the awards competition.
- Members of the executive board and the chair and members of the awards committee SHOULD NOT be eligible for the awards competition.
Record your anonymous responses via
Thank you for your input and please let us know how you would direct us to proceed.
Kathleen Purvis, president
Hanna Raskin, vice president
Gwen Ashley Walters, secretary
Bob Batz Jr., treasurer