CTSPJ Contest Revision Proposal

Connecticut SPJ has been talking and thinking a lot about our contest. And we’ve decided it’s time for an update.

So we present to you our plans to move forward for the 2015 Excellence in Journalism Contest, which will open for entries in late December 2015, and close for entries some time in February 2016.

We invite your feedback at this critical stage in the redesign. Please send any comments, questions or suggestions to Contest Chair Jodie Mozdzer Gil at jmozdzer@ctspj.org by Aug. 15.

The Background

We’ve talked about changes for several years, as board members watched trends in news ownership and saw the evolution of online media outlets. Circulation changes at major print newspapers caused us to consider whether circulation alone is the measure of competition between news outlets. Fewer entries across the board made us question whether we should have fewer categories overall, to continue a healthy competition for all entrants. And so we decided to shift our axis of competition from a strictly circulation-based model to one that focuses on the audience type and resources of the news outlets. Experience level of journalists is among the resources considered.

Feedback from reporters and editors who took our survey indicated that more topic specific categories would enhance the contest and make the entry process easier. So our revision includes the removal of some generic categories, such as “general reporting,” and the inclusion of new, more topic specific categories.

The overview

Our proposed contest will now have fewer circulation classes that mix media types more freely than in the past. An online outlet might compete against daily newspapers or a magazine, based on the resources and intended audience of the news outlets. There are fewer distinctions between size of publication, to help bolster competition. And for the first time news groups, such as Hearst Connecticut and Digital First Media, will be required to enter in the larger media circulation for any team reporting or centralized copy desk work. (Individual work at the newspaper chains will still compete against similar media outlets.)

The number of categories increases under this proposal, but the number of circulation classes is reduced in half. Overall, it should create more competition in a fair way, while giving judges an more clear directive on judging.

Proposed Media Categories

Regional A: Any publication that covers more than five towns and statewide issues on a regular basis. Category A is for larger news organizations with more resources, including number of journalists and staff experience.

Media outlets: Hartford Courant, CT Mirror, Connecticut Post, New Haven Register, Connecticut Magazine, Waterbury Republican American, Connecticut Health Investigative Team, New Haven Living and Hartford Magazine and Hearst Connecticut or Digital First collaboration entries, including any work done by the centralized copy editing desks.


Regional B: Any publication that covers more than five towns and statewide issues on a regular basis. Category B is for medium news organizations with fewer resources than Category A, including number of journalists and staff experience.

Media outlets: Danbury News-Times, Meriden Record Journal, Norwich Bulletin, Manchester Journal-Inquirer, CTNewsJunkie, Stamford Advocate, Connecticut Law Tribune, Raising Hale


Regional C: Any publication that covers more than five towns and statewide issues on a regular basis. Category C is for smaller news organizations with fewer resources, including number of journalists and staff experience, than Regional B.

Media outlets: Greater New Milford Spectrum, The Chronicle, Litchfield County Times, Catholic Transcript, AAA Journeys, The Hour, New Britain Herald, Middletown Press, Register Citizen, CT Latino News


Regional D: Any broadcast station that covers more than five towns and statewide issues on a regular basis.

Media outlets: WTNH, WFSB, WTIC, WNPR, WSHU, News12


Hyperlocal: Any news organization that covers no more than five towns.

Media outlets:¬†Branford Eagle, NewCanaanite.com, Hersam Acorn weeklies, Shoreline Publications weeklies, Citizens News, It’sRelevant.com, Valley Independent Sentinel, New Haven Independent, Guilford Courier, CollinsvillPress.com, East Haven Courier, Fairfield Life Magazine, Greenwich Time, Life Publications, New Britain City Journal, New Canaan News, Seasons Magazine, Valley Courier, West Hartford News, WestportNow.com, The Daily Voice

*(These lists are based on past entrants into the contest. If your media outlet is not listed here, please e-mail Jodie Mozdzer Gil at jmozdzer@ctspj.org to be added to the list.)

Proposed Entry Categories

The key changes include collapsing categories for official reporting series into one single series category. The proposal also adds a “continuing coverage” category, for reporting that sticks with a topic, but isn’t a formal series. This proposal also streamlines some of the opinion columns for more clarity, and introduces a data reporting category. Spot News becomes “Breaking News” and clarifies the role of social media posts being welcome as part of the package.

Existing Categories to Remain:

Stephen A. Collins Public Service Award, Theodore Driscoll Award for Investigative Reporting, First Amendment Award, Editorial Cartoon, Single Editorial, In-Depth Reporting, Investigative Reporting, Feature, Arts & Entertainment, Business, Sports News, Sports Feature, Sports Column, Sports Photo, Feature Photo, News Photo, Page 1 Layout, Non-Page 1 Layout, Headline, Video Storytelling, Audio Storytelling

Categories to be Removed (or replaced):

In-Depth Series, Investigative Series, General Reporting Series, Opinion Writing, Op-Ed, General Reporting, Feature Series, Photo Layout, Infographic Design, Interactive Design, Interactive Reporting

New Categories:

  • Religion: Any news article or broadcast dealing with religious topics
  • Government: Any news article or broadcast dealing with governmental issues
  • Courts/Crime: Any news article or broadcast dealing with issues of the criminal justice system, except for breaking news coverage
  • Data: Any news article or broadcast that uses data in an enterprising way, to find new trends or report news
  • Leisure: Any news article or broadcast dealing with travel, food, gardening, leisure topics
  • Continuing Coverage: A group of no more than 10 articles or broadcasts showing follow-through reporting on a single topic over time. For example, coverage of a trial or controversy
  • General Column: A single column on any topic
  • Humorous Column: A single column on any topic, written to entertain
  • Diversity Coverage: A single story or broadcast about issues of diversity
  • Education: A single story or broadcast about educational issues, either local or statewide
  • Reporting Series: A formal series of articles, under a common heading, that looks at one issue in depth. Entries could be investigative, in-depth, feature or other. No more than 10 articles may be submitted for this category. Limit one (1) series per entrant.
  • Photo Essay: A collection of photos, either in print or online, that together tell one story. Any photo galleries should be entered here as well. No photos with “Staff” or “Contributed” credit will be accepted.
  • Infographic Design: A single static or interactive graphic. This category is for the design or presentation of the infographic.
  • Infographic Reporting: A single static of interactive graphic. This category is for the reporting and information contained in the infographic.
  • Local reporting: A single article or broadcast that shines light on an issue important to a single town or region. This category is meant for those stories that fulfill the mission of community journalism, keeping residents informed about their communities even when the story isn’t a bigger trend or statewide issue. Entries will be judged on depth of sourcing, clarity of writing and reporter’s ability to put the news into context for the audience.
  • Breaking News: A single story or package of stories and social media updates that involves coverage of a spot news event written under an immediate deadline. Please note if the story has been updated from the time of original publication, and if so, what updates were made.
  • Spanish Language General Reporting: An introductory category for any media outlet that publishes articles in Spanish. Expansion to this option may be made based on interest in the category.

Now, let us know what you think. Please reach out to Jodie Mozdzer Gil at jmozdzer@ctspj.org before Aug. 15 with any feedback or questions regarding the proposal. You enter the contest each year, so you are the best people to help make this proposal better.

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