The Katies’ Sad Fall

A Texas journalism award isn't all it has been cracked up to be.

The Katies, the southwest’s most prestigious journalism award, have a long and proud tradition. For 48 years, the Dallas Press Club has recognized excellent reporting with a foot-long statue — but Katie is now awash in scandal and stories of fraud, abuse, and deceit.

This isn’t the first controversy for Katie. In 1974, the shape of the award was changed to resemble a large naked woman. There were concerns over whether a nude female statue would be accepted by reporters, but in the end, board members determined that a nude Katie embodied the principles and ideals of “freedom of the press,” only asking that Katie’s breasts be reduced in size before approving an initial order of 400 Katies. Dignity and honor were preserved until a different sort of boob came along.

Elizabeth Albanese, former press club president and winner of 10 Katies in the past four years, may have “rigged” the contest, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Rigged might be the wrong word. It turns out entries were never read and no competition was actually held. Albanese could not produce the names of any judges for the 2006 competition. Or, for that matter, the names of judges from 2005, or, come to think of it, 2004. She was unable to provide them, giving a variety of reasons, including her switch from one laptop to another, club officials said.

Elizabeth Albanese, 37, if that is her real name — court documents show her to be Lisa Albanese, 41 — has a history of psychotic behavior dating back to her adolescence, and has been arrested in Texas, Virginia and Maryland on charges including passing bad checks, fraud, theft and forgery.

“It’s a shame to see this happen and for the pattern of fraud, lies and deceit to continue,” blogged Shaminder Dulai, a journalism student. “I guess as long as jobs are scare and the pressure to rise to the top is great, some people will give in to the temptation and begin their very public fall from grace.” The club is considering canceling the 2007 Katie Awards, which are distributed to reward the top work by journalists and communications professionals in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma but even that drastic measure may not be enough to restore Katie to her former glory. “The Katies are pretty much the biggest journalism awards available in Texas and the surrounding states,” wrote Seagraves on the blog newsfromhico. “Though, now with this scandal thing, I want one even less.”

Typical with any American tragedy, people are now looking backward for signs or clues that this was occurring. “That I won, should have been a dead giveaway,” wrote John Brummett, a two-time winner from Arkansas. “That must have been the illness again, picking us, I mean. Her cry for help, perhaps.”

Too bad the Oscars aren’t this entertaining.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Dan Goldberg is a CJR intern.