Nieman Reports

"To promote and elevate the standards of journalism."

Mar 21
Awards season is well under way, and while the big-name prizes get all the attention, there are plenty of lesser-known and regional honors as well. Dig further still and maybe you’ll find the Womble Award, which 1980 Nieman Fellow Paul Lieberman received from a reader, Fred Womble, whose news tip he had investigated. In our Spring 1982 issue, he reminisced about the heart-shaped plaque he received, and decided that it “had only a positive effect, and that effect was one too rarely noted in the competitive process: the potential of an award to flatly humble the recipient.”
The full text of the essay is available as a PDF.
We e-mailed Lieberman to find out if he still has the award and if there was any follow-up with Fred, and he send this reply:
"I probably do have the Womble Award—or the "Womele" Award—in a file cabinet somewhere, but I’m not sure. What I DO still have, and on display, framed, is the State of Georgia hunting permit Fred got for me. Without asking, he applied for three of us—the other was his cousin Chas—to participate in a hunt of wild boar, notoriously dangerous animals that come charging out of the brush to gore you. Well, Fred called up excitedly to report that he sent my name in, along with the wonderful news, "Paul, you’ve won!" There was only one catch. I’d won the right to join the Chickasawhatchee game management area’s two day "primitive" hunt, meaning your only defense against the charging wild boars was … bows and arrows!"

Awards season is well under way, and while the big-name prizes get all the attention, there are plenty of lesser-known and regional honors as well. Dig further still and maybe you’ll find the Womble Award, which 1980 Nieman Fellow Paul Lieberman received from a reader, Fred Womble, whose news tip he had investigated. In our Spring 1982 issue, he reminisced about the heart-shaped plaque he received, and decided that it “had only a positive effect, and that effect was one too rarely noted in the competitive process: the potential of an award to flatly humble the recipient.”

The full text of the essay is available as a PDF.

We e-mailed Lieberman to find out if he still has the award and if there was any follow-up with Fred, and he send this reply:

"I probably do have the Womble Award—or the "Womele" Award—in a file cabinet somewhere, but I’m not sure. What I DO still have, and on display, framed, is the State of Georgia hunting permit Fred got for me. Without asking, he applied for three of us—the other was his cousin Chas—to participate in a hunt of wild boar, notoriously dangerous animals that come charging out of the brush to gore you. Well, Fred called up excitedly to report that he sent my name in, along with the wonderful news, "Paul, you’ve won!" There was only one catch. I’d won the right to join the Chickasawhatchee game management area’s two day "primitive" hunt, meaning your only defense against the charging wild boars was … bows and arrows!"