RWA RITA Contest
A message from President HelenKay Dimon on behalf of the RWA Board
The 2019 RITA finalists were announced late last week. While we are happy for our finalists, we cannot ignore the lack of representation on the finalist list or the shadow this lack of representation casts on RWA. The Board apologizes to our members of color and LGBTQ+ members for putting them in a position where they feel unwanted and unheard. While the Board cannot undo the harm inflicted this year, it does make the following points and commitments:
- The Board affirmatively states that there is a serious problem with reader bias in the judging of the RITAs. This is most evident in the preliminary round of the RITAs.
- Currently, the preliminary round is judged by peer-review. All entrants must judge and the judging pool is limited to those who are eligible for PAN. The 2020 RITA contest will not be judged by the same peer-review process.
- The Board is currently investigating options and reviewing member feedback to change the scoring and judging of the RITAs.
- The Board’s working presumption is that the preliminary round judges must be vetted, likely through an application process and chosen by a committee with a stated process and whose membership is transparent and includes both authors and non-authors. We are reviewing the particulars of how this would work and will seek the assistance of an expert with a specialty in implicit bias and culture change to assist us in this process.
- The Board commits to providing the membership with an ongoing status report of its work on the proposed RITA changes prior to voting on the changes at the July Board meeting.
The Board has seen the suggestions about skipping a year, or more, of the RITA contest. We are reluctant to take that course for two reasons: (1) while the solution must be researched and well-reasoned, we prefer to harness the current momentum and stated will to do better, rather than wait for a new Board to get up to speed, especially when the issue predates this year's situation by many years; and (2) reader bias will be an issue and continue to carry across the entire industry next year just as it does today, so that waiting will not make that situation better.
While we work through this process and the large-scale change to RITA judging and other issues in the contest, we ask that members contact us with their comments, suggestions and concerns. You can contact
any Board member directly or email me at president@RWA.org
and I will share your email with the Board.
While we know we may not deserve your trust on this issue right now, we hope to earn it. We are aware that, for some members, this may be the last chance they give RWA and we hope to rise to that challenge.