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Changes in MDDC Newspaper HOF Platform Net Attendance Spike

By T.C. Cameron

When the MDDC Newspaper Hall of Fame inducts its three newest members Thursday, it will do so in front of a crowd quite a bit larger than the previous year.

A handful of changes to the presentation, combined with a powerhouse induction class, have helped boost the event’s profile. Last year’s Hall of Fame celebration was a plated dinner at the Four Points by Sheraton at BWI. It was held on the same day of MDDC’s Advertising Awards in April. This year’s celebration is a reception at Knight Hall, located at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

Last year’s dinner cost $75 per ticket. This year’s reception cost $35 per ticket and netted 56 attendees, including 11 representing the Annapolis Capital. The paper’s recently retired publisher, Tom Marquardt, joins James S. Keat from the Baltimore Sun and Carol Melamed from The Washington Post as this year’s inductees.

All three inductees are previous winners of the Distinguished Service Award, making this class one of the most accomplished in recent memory. This year’s DSA recipient is the University of Maryland’s Frank Quine.

“The major reason (for the increase) is the excellent group of individuals we are honoring, and their importance in the newspaper community,” MDDC Executive Director Jack Murphy said. “That is always the prime driver for the attendance. The venue is another part, with the new j-school. Many people have not yet seen it and are interested.”

After attendance numbers fell in all three facets of the previous awards platform, the MDDC made some drastic changes.

The advertising awards luncheon was scrapped and the editorial awards luncheon was moved back a month. In addition, multiple entries in each category were allowed for the first time. Finally, the Hall of Fame dinner became a reception, was relocated to the Hall’s actual location in College Park, Md. and was hosted almost two months later than the year before.

Attendance at the Hall of Fame dinner had been dropping, from 74 in 2010 to 36 for last year’s event, a total which included MDDC staff. The hope was a late afternoon reception would be easier for people to attend than an evening dinner. With the university’s spring semester concluded, the campus will be less crowded, and it will be the first chance for many to see the Hall of Fame in its new home.

The editorial awards luncheon enjoyed an attendance bump of almost 21 percent, to 165 people, after three years of flat attendance. Entry submissions were up by over 13 percent. The 2012 contest attracted 1,623 entries, while 1,840 entries were received this year.

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