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MACHO MADNESS Temptation Island
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"Whoa," I thought to myself while looking at a newspaper column photo. "That guy has a big 'ol mustache, just like me."

I was in Sacramento in order to serve as a judge for the California Newspaper Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest, and was wading through dozens of entries, when one caught my eye.

One of about 80 reporters or editors present, I was back for my second year of judging and had been assigned to evaluate, and score, newspaper columns from throughout the state. The Sacramento venue is one of three locations where judging is held. Another is located in Southern California, and a third is in the Bay Area.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association's Better Newspaper Contest is an annual event where journalists enter their best work for judging. Categories range from the aforementioned columns to business stories, environmental reporting, sports articles, photographs, investigative reporting, and arts and entertainment, among others. There are thousands of entries each year, and the competition is pretty stiff.

Our newspaper group (The Leader, Times, and News) has done pretty well over the years. Our editor, Marg Jackson, has a number of award plaques on her wall, and even I was fortunate to have earned a second place award last year for a sports feature I wrote.

In addition to first and second place awards, entries can also be recognized with a certificate as being among the top ten in the state among its circulation category. I, along with reporter Kim Van Meter, also earned one of these awards last year.

But one of the column photos, or 'mug shots' as we like to call them, had caught my attention from among all the other entries I was preparing to judge.

"Wait a minute," I continued thinking. "That guy looks familiar."

A split second later, I realized I was looking at my own photo, right above my column. Which I was expected to score.

Worse yet, a little further down in the stack I saw a column submitted from one of my colleagues, Teresa Hammond.

Obviously, someone had made a mistake in assigning me the stack of entries sitting at my table. But judging is done anonymously, so no one would ever know if I scored my own column.

I looked down at my shoulders, expecting to see a little devil and angel fighting for my attention.

"Do it," the devil might say. "You can get first place, and beat out Teresa."

"Don't do it, Craig," the angel pipes up. "It wouldn't be right."

Teresa and I have this mini-competition going; after I put up my awards last year, she retrieved a couple of awards from home, including a first place award - La-Ti-Da - to put up in our office area, on the opposite wall from my awards.

"Wonder how she would like to come in last?" the little devil asks, smirking.

We've all been there, at one time or another.

Maybe the cashier at a store gives you too much change. Or when completing your taxes, you realize you could stretch a deduction or two.

I've certainly been tested, especially back during my career as a police officer.

Thousands of dollars in loose drug cash lying around during a search warrant, for example, and no one would know if I decided to abscond with some of it.

But it has always an easy decision for me, to do the right thing.

Now, here I was with an opportunity to guarantee a first place win.

Of course, all of this raced through my mind in seconds, and even before I realized what I was doing I was gathering up the entries to return to the coordinator of the contest.

He was appropriately aghast at the error, and had me exchange my stack of entries with another that held business stories.

The stack of columns went off to another judge, and we won't learn the results until later this year.

Hope the new judge likes mustaches...

Craig Macho is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.