When I stood on the same Grand Hyatt ballroom stage for my first win, I passed on the advice Evelyn entrusted to me all those years before "To the student winners in the room, come back and win an Emmy!"
Evelyn was in the audience that night, too. By the time I won my third Emmy, she was there again - as my coworker. When I won my fifth, she was there as my friend and fellow board member at NATAS.
Golden statues shimmering in the light. Esteemed journalists clutching their awards. A college student stepping up to the podium for the first time. This was the night my Emmy dreams were born.
It was 1997, and all began by chance when I spotted a flyer for a TV scholarship. I applied, knowing nothing about NATAS or the Southeast chapter. What caught my eye was the Emmy statue sketched in gold on the notice posted to the Auburn University bulletin board (cork, not digital!)
I took home a scholarship that first Emmy night. The real value was so much more: I glimpsed inside a world I didn't even know existed.
At the Emmy ceremony winning video clips played on screen. Ballroom tables filled with all those sparkling statues. Acceptance speeches were made with the importance that comes when big dreams actualize.
Evelyn Mims was President of the Academy that year. When presenting my collegiate plaque she told me, the wide-eyed scholarship winner, "Come back and win an Emmy!"
I wasn't sure exactly how my career path would unfold, but I was certain I would return to earn my own Emmy. I had to.
Well… it wasn't easy.
It took quite a few years sitting at the nominee's table and not hearing my name called before my first win.
The losses pushed me to try harder. To be more creative. To reach that golden-statue standard that left such an impression on me that first Emmy night.
The Emmys hold a special place in my heart and professional life.
That's why I want to pull back the curtain a little, and let you in on some truths about the Emmy.
Being nominated is a tough honor.
The moment the nominees come out, being on that list feels great. By the end of Emmy night, going home empty handed can make you feel like a loser. You have to remember…
The winners are unpredictable.
The stories I think are my strongest never win. It's usually the last minute decisions, the "I'll enter this story just to see…" that do the best. Why? My best explanation is judges from different regions like different things. Some like weird stories. Others prefer traditional news. I try to just be me in my entry and not over think what the judges want. (Here's a link to my Reporter entry that won the 2015 Emmy).
One and done? Not quite.
Before you win, there's a common sentiment that if you can just win one Emmy you'll feel validated. Then... it happens! You step off the stage and even strangers congratulate you when they see that shiny, coveted statue in hand. You're really an Emmy winner now!
Watch out for what happens next... Reporters constantly question themselves. So naturally after winning one, most of us want a second win to make sure it wasn't a fluke. But even if it was...
Emmys have no monetary value.
Try selling it on ebay (won't work!)
The Academy will step in to protect its brand. Break it or lose it? You can order a replacement for about $300. I've heard Emmys are made with a layer of copper covered in bronze covered in silver covered in 24K gold… but I've never seen one sawed open to confirm this.
Take a closer look. The Zenith-antenna wings on Emmy's back represent art, while the atom she's holding recognizes science. A golden ode to the Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Emmys do bring out the best from friends.
When you win, the congrats and kind words make you wonder if you're sick and no one told you. When you lose, the support is even stronger. On Facebook, it feels like a bonus birthday.
But what do you do with it?
I think two wins is the magic number to give a journalist validation… and a nice set of bookends that can fit just about anywhere. I know one reporter who keeps a one Emmy in the bathroom for guests to try out in private, and the rest are tucked away in a box. I’ve seen bookshelves filled with them. Others have a stash of about 40 in their attic. Personally, I believe at some point you must step aside from competition.. or risk driving yourself crazy trying to win the same award year after year.
As one of the most adorned reporters I know told me, "Once you start believing your own hype - it's over."
I do believe the pursuit of Emmys makes you much better.
If you lose, you work harder to win the next year.
If you win, you work harder to live up the expectations.
But the real benefit is that quest to get there.
To any aspiring journalist who happened to find this blog, in the words of Evelyn Mims... "Come back and win an Emmy!"
Jeremy Campbell is an ATLien, storyteller, traveler... & often all three at once.