APSE members,

At last, here is the format for the 2022 APSE Contest. It is later than I promised and, inspired by my predecessor Jorge Rojas, I took some bigger swings than I expected. Still, aside from big changes in the print contest, the format is largely the same as last year. Thanks to the contest committee for their input and to the members who filled out the contest survey for their feedback.

The deadline for entering the contest is Tuesday, January 17, 2023, at 11:59 p.m.

Here’s what’s new:

  • As previously announced, Daily and Sunday section categories have been combined into a print portfolio category. This is part of our continued effort to make the contest less print-centric and in response to a recent membership survey. A portfolio will consist of 5 sections from 2022: 2 dailies (1 mandatory), 2 Sundays (1 mandatory) and 1 wild card entry, which can be a daily or Sunday. “Weekend editions” that are published on Friday or Saturday are permitted as Sunday entries. If you do not have Sunday or weekend sections, please consult me about how to enter a portfolio.
  • Back by popular demand, all organizations can again enter the Special Section contest, but it will consist of two divisions: A/B and C/D.
  • In response to member suggestions, there are more opportunities to enter video and audio, including a video award added to the digital contest. Any video entered as a publishing example in the digital contest will be eligible for an “excellence in video” award. Judges in the digital contest can award up to five such citations in each division. This is, admittedly, an experiment, but if something like this works, it may be an avenue to recognizing audio, social media and other individual parts of the digital contest in the future without needing too many more judges.
  • This year the Triple Crown and Grand Slam categories will be: Print Portfolio, Digital, Event Coverage and Projects. The goal is to emphasize “team” awards. To be recognized for a Triple Crown, your publication will need to place in the Top 10 in any three of the four categories above. The news organizations with the most top 10s will also be recognized at the 2023 awards banquet in Las Vegas. 

Links to entry keys will soon be available for each member organization. You cannot enter the contest unless you have paid dues for 2023, so please pay your dues by Dec. 15 if you haven’t already. Any questions about dues and membership should be sent to Executive Director Bill Eichenberger at billapse707@gmail.com.

Until entry keys are created and dispersed, I consider us to be in a grace period with this format. If you have major concerns with the changes you see here, speak now. Once the official rules are published on this website with entry keys in a couple weeks, there will be less room for negotiation and tweaking.

We would love to have as many people as possible join us in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for in-person judging Feb. 19-23. If you plan to be a judge, please fill out this RSVP form. If you have questions about judging, send them my way at naila.meyers@gmail.com.

Thanks,

Naila-Jean Meyers, APSE first vice president

*****

The full official rules will be published soon. Until then, here’s a (very large) sample:

GENERAL RULES

Entries that do not adhere to the rules may be disqualified.

  • Any APSE member that has paid its 2023 dues can enter the contest.
  • If you haven’t paid your 2023 APSE dues, there’s still time to pay them and become eligible to enter APSE’s annual contests. Sign up here: https://www.apsportseditors.com/become-an-apse-member/
  • To enter, you must have a Google account. You’ll need this both to submit entries and to judge come February.
  • For writing entries, we will once again use story links from websites. This means if you have a paywall you need to provide on your entry key a contest username and password, good through March 31, 2023. Please make sure these passwords work. Much time was lost in judging last year trying to resolve website access problems. If for some reason you are unable to provide links to your website, we will provide alternate instructions. 
  • With the exception of Beat Writing, no article may be entered in more than one writing category.
  • There is a limit of one entry per writer per category, although a writer may be entered in the same category a second time (and only a second time) if he/she is a member of a team (two or more writers) entry. A single team may not be entered twice. 
  • Cover letters will be accepted in only Breaking News, Beat Writing and Investigative. In general, cover letters should NOT include an overview of the writer’s skills, or year of work as a whole, or cheerleading opinion.
  • Editors from newspaper chains will be asked to declare which reporters “belong” to which publications. For example, if Steve Wiseman covers Duke and the ACC for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer, the presiding editor should identify which publication he represents (probably Durham). Likewise, stories with multiple writers on a byline from different-sized publications must be entered in the highest division. If Wiseman and Scott Fowler share a dual byline, the story must be entered by the Charlotte Observer. This does not apply to contributing taglines. Editors are on their honor here. Please make time to provide a list of where writers who appear in multiple publications belong by the entry deadline.
  • Dual bylines by writers of different organizations are allowed in the single-story categories of Breaking News, Long and Short Features, and Explanatory. APSE will recognize both writers if the story finishes in the Top 10, but the home publication (with presumably the home editor) will be listed as the winner and be given the plaque/certificate. A maximum of two writers and a maximum of two publications are permitted. If the writers are from different divisions, the article must be entered in the highest category. Here’s an example of how it might look on the Top 10 list: Joe Guillen and Mark Alesia, Detroit Free Press (with Indianapolis Star)   
  • Special sections that include content from network and sister publications may be entered, but judges will place a premium on local/staff content. They will have the discretion to determine how much staff impact the section has — as well as how it was constructed — and grade the entry accordingly.  
  • If an article was published as a column but is entered in Game Stories, Long and Short Features or Breaking News, the judging group will have disqualification authority.

NEWSPAPER/WEBSITE DIVISIONS

  • Each organization will be placed into a division based on size, and entries will be judged by division. Though the number of entrants in a division won’t be exact, the largest 25 percent of organizations will be in the A Division, the next-largest 25 percent in the B Division, the third-largest 25 percent in the C Division, and the smallest 25 percent in the D Division. Your organization’s size is based on the average daily circulation or unique monthly visitors you provided when you paid dues.
  • All contest entries must be made in the same division. Editors wanting to compete in a larger division must notify Naila before submitting entries. Those “playing up” will be required to pay the higher dues for the higher division.
  • When one staff publishes sports sections for several papers, they are considered one paper for APSE purposes. To enter individually, these papers need to pay dues individually. Questions on your organization and how it fits in should be directed to APSE Executive Director Bill Eichenberger at billapse707@gmail.com.
  • When one staff publishes sports sections for several papers, dues must have been paid accordingly, with the combined circulation determining the divisions. If you didn’t follow this procedure when you paid dues, your contest entries are subject to disqualification. Questions about this issue should be directed to APSE Executive Director Bill Eichenberger at billapse707@gmail.com.

PRINT CONTEST 

Print Portfolio

** NEW ** The print contest will now consist of a portfolio rather than separate daily and Sunday categories. A portfolio will consist of 5 sections from 2022: 2 dailies (1 mandatory), 2 Sundays (1 mandatory) and 1 wild card entry, which can be a daily or Sunday. “Weekend editions” that are published on Friday or Saturday are permitted as Sunday entries. If you do not have Sunday or weekend sections, please consult Naila about how to enter a portfolio.

Mandatory dates

  • Feb. 7-13: You can pick any paper from this week, including Sunday, Feb. 13.
  • The second mandatory week will be picked on random.org and announced on Dec. 31. If you pick a Sunday section from the first mandatory week, you must pick a daily section from the second week. If you pick a daily section from the first mandatory week, you must pick the Sunday/weekend section from the second week.  

Entry guidelines 

  • Print section entries may include: self-contained sports sections, sports-related A1 material, sports-related material from other sections of the paper, and special sections that include primarily live content or are regularly scheduled (For example: High school football wraps, college football gameday sections, quarterly outdoors sections.)
  • Print section entries may NOT include: Pre-planned standalone special sections (like previews of upcoming seasons or major events). Those must be entered in the special section or projects categories. 
  • Sections Entry Keys (in your Google folder) must be submitted by PDF.

Special Sections

**NEW ** News organizations may submit one special section to compete in two divisions: A/B and C/D. These are one-subject or one-theme sections issued one time. 

Entry guidelines

  • What’s not eligible: Special sections sold only as stand-alone products on newsstands or elsewhere are not eligible. The special section must have been part of the regular newspaper run. For example: Commemorative issues to mark the success of a team, a sports event (like the Olympics) or the death of a major personality; a theme section on running, fishing, hunting, auto racing, etc. A special section may contain live news (like stories in which a team wins a championship) related to the theme, but it may not include unrelated articles.
  • Special sections that include content from network and sister publications may be entered, but judges will place a premium on local/staff content. They will have the discretion to determine how much staff impact the section has.
  • Live special sections may be entered as long as they have not been entered as part of the print portfolio.

DIGITAL CONTEST

  • One entry per organization; five components per entry; no cover letters.
  • A Top 10 in Digital is now part of the Triple Crown and Grand Slam, so you must enter this contest if you aspire to win a Triple Crown/Grand Slam.
  • The digital contest is broken down into publishing examples (a recommended 85 percent weight) and live judging of your website (a recommended 15 percent).
  • A story entered in a writing category can be entered as one of the five “publishing examples” in the Digital Contest.
  • **NEW ** Videos entered in the digital contest are eligible for “Excellence in Video” certificates. More details below.

Publishing examples

Entries will be judged, foremost, on how well your staff uses digital tools, on and off platform, to tell stories and engage readers. What do you do digitally for your readers and what can your staff accomplish at its most creative? 

In your five publishing examples, you can include but are not limited to:

Individual story: Example of a story that is particularly effective online because it ties together multiple elements that play particularly well for a mobile or online audience. So the story and the art are the furniture — photos, graphics, interactive elements, video, podcasting that’s tied to the subject matter of the story, details boxes, pull quotes that enhance the reader experience are the emphasis for this score. 

Video: Video can stand alone or be embedded as supplementary material in an article, but it must be produced by your editorial department. Examples include feature videos like player profiles, live panel discussions and game highlights with analysis. Video produced by affiliated television stations is not allowed. Reporter stand-ups and press conference/locker room scrums can be included but would score lower. Videos will be judged on the strength of storytelling and expertise; visual and audio quality will be considered.

Other multimedia: Charts/lists/graphics that tell a story, game film reviews with original reporting, photo galleries, podcasts (just one episode, please), animation.

Interactives: “Stay or Go” graphics, quizzes, games, reader callouts.

Social Media: Demonstrate how you promote your content and engage with readers/sources off platform. Examples include Facebook groups, Instagram Live, TikTok video, a Reddit AMA, Twitter threads, Twitter Spaces.

Newsletters: A staff-written, -edited and -published newsletter (automated newsletters do not count)

Live judging of websites

The digital contest is not about who has the best website because sports editors often have no control over things like design, story placement and navigability, but here are some things for judges to consider when looking at entries:

  • Something that stands out: Did the site offer a variety of elements such as photo galleries, videos, graphics in addition to stories? 
  • Freshness of content, emphasis of content, mix of content
  • Enticing headlines that draw readers in.
  • Smart related content to keep you on the site
  • Did you enjoy the experience? Would you keep coming back? 

Excellence in video

** NEW ** In an effort to recognize the video work of our members as suggested in a recent survey about the APSE contest, judges in this year’s digital contest can also award up to five “excellence in video” citations in each division. Any video entered among the five publishing examples in the digital contest will be eligible for this award. 

NOTE OF CAUTION: While an organization could enter five videos as its publishing examples to compete for a video award, such an entry would be unlikely to earn a top 10 in the digital contest, which is a Triple Crown category.  

WRITING/PHOTO CONTEST

Investigative

  • One entry per organization; 1 to 10 articles per entry; cover letter accepted. 
  • There are no circulation divisions in Investigative. All entries are judged across all divisions.
  • Up to five contributors can be named per entry; if more than five people contributed to the entry, please use “Staff.”
  • Judging will be based on the entry’s enterprise, initiative, documentation, resourcefulness and original reporting in uncovering newsworthy and significant facts and developments that otherwise might not have been reported. Impact and aftermath of the work should be considered.
  • Investigative work should rely on reporting of facts discovered or uncovered by the author(s) rather than reports from anonymous sources offering unverified statements.
  • Investigative entries must not include articles for which payments were made for information. Pure and truly significant investigative reporting is rare. Relying solely on quotes from an FBI source does not make a story investigative. Doing the work the FBI would do in order to build a story might be investigative.
  • A maximum of 10 links, which can include graphics/charts and multimedia, can be submitted as part of the official entry. You may submit more articles as supplementary material on your entry key if you choose. The judges may read the supplementary material but are not required to. 

Breaking News

  • Three entries per organization; one article per entry; cover letter accepted.
  • Coverage of a sports news development (trades, hirings, firings, franchise shifts, etc.) that occurred in the most recent news cycle. No supplemental materials are allowed. Reporter(s) need not have broken the story, but judges can factor that in.
  • Online or print stories can be submitted.
  • If an article was published as a column but is entered in Breaking News, the judging group will have disqualification authority.

Beat Writing

  • Two entries per organization; five articles per entry; cover letter accepted.
  • This collection of articles by a single author (can be more than one on the Breaking News entry only) should show authoritative, newsy and innovative coverage of a beat.
  • Each entry should consist of five pieces:
    • One breaking news story. It can be coverage of breaking news, but judges are allowed to give more weight to beat writers who were first with the news.
    • One event or game coverage story. This can include a column or sidebar.
    • One enterprise piece
    • Two wild-card entries, from any of the aforementioned categories or other analysis related to the beat. Multimedia can be one or both wild cards. 
  • Examples of multimedia or digital features eligible to be entered as a wild card in Beat Writing are:
    • Newsletter authored by the entrant
    • Game predictions, report cards, mailbags
    • Charts/graphics researched, compiled and produced by the entrant
    • Video that the writer shoots and scripts and is the primary voice for. Video produced by affiliated television stations is not allowed. 
    • Social media content in which the entrant is the creator, host or moderator like Twitter threads and Spaces, Instagram Live videos, Reddit AMAs, etc. 
    • **NEW** Podcasts are eligible this year, but only one episode please and the entrant must be the host or primary contributor. Enter episodes that are much longer than 30 minutes at your own risk. 
  • This is the only writing category in which stories can be entered for a second time. The five articles that make up the entry can (but do not have to) be also entered in other categories (for instance, a breaking news story can be entered in Breaking News and Beat Writing). A single article that is part of a Projects entry can be included in Beat Writing. The one exception is Event Coverage. The same article can’t be entered in Beat Writing and Event Coverage.

Columns

  • Two entries per organization; four articles per entry; no cover letters.
  • Judged based on style, writing quality, originality and local appeal.
  • No restriction on subject matter and no requirement that the columns appear regularly.
  • A column cannot be entered in both Columns and Event Coverage. You must choose. 

Long Feature Writing

  • Two entries per organization; one entry per writer; one article per entry; no cover letters. 
  • No sidebars allowed.
  • Entries are more than 1,500 words in A and B categories and more than 1,150 words in C and D divisions. Shorter stories can be entered.
  • Entries will be judged on quality of writing, thoroughness of reporting and reader interest.
  • If an article was published as a column but is entered in Long or Short Feature, the judging group will have disqualification authority.

Short Feature Writing 

  • Two entries per organization; one entry per writer; one article per entry; no cover letters.
  • No sidebars allowed.
  • Entries are 1,500 words or less in A and B categories and 1,150 words or less in C and D divisions. Entries that exceed the above length limits could be disqualified.
    • Word counts will be determined by:
      • Copying the story onto a Google Doc
      • Editing out captions, headlines, summaries, subheads, advertisements, related links language, pull quotes, and any other content that is not the actual story. The byline DOES NOT COUNT toward the word length.
  • If a story is entered in Short Feature Writing but is too long to qualify, it can be re-entered in Long Feature Writing or replaced by a different story entry ONLY if the change is made no later than one week after the entry deadline.
  • Entries will be judged on quality of writing, thoroughness of reporting and reader interest.
  • If an article was published as a column but is entered in Long or Short Feature, the judging group will have disqualification authority.

Explanatory

  • Two entries per organization; one article per entry; no cover letters.
  • Accompanying sidebars, graphics/charts or multimedia can be entered as supplementary material. Judges are not required to read supplementary material. 
  • Explanatory stories explore the hows and whys of trends, issues and original ideas. They shed new light on issues and personalities in the news. They explain something through clear writing and thorough reporting. They are more than a feature and less than a project entry. They go beyond the “yesterday” of the breaking news story. The explanatory category is often a good home for data reporting.

Event Coverage 

  • One entry per organization; 1-5 articles per entry; no cover letters. Up to five contributors can be named per entry; if more than five people have bylines/credits in Event Coverage, please use “Staff.”
  • Up to five examples of event coverage in a live one-day cycle. A 24-hour period beginning with the first story published on the event – no preview material, please – will be considered by the judges. Entries may consist of content that appeared in print or digital formats.
  • What is an event? The definition of an event is flexible for the purposes of the contest. The quality of the coverage is paramount to the “importance” of the event. You can enter a championship game or a regular season game, the first day of a tournament or the final day, a hiring/firing/retirement or significant death — as long as you produce comprehensive and creative one-day coverage of an event that matters to your readers. Show how your staff captures big moments in the moment. 
  • There are some restrictions, though. You cannot enter Final Four weekend coverage; you can enter coverage of the semifinals OR the championship. You cannot enter one day at the Olympics, but you can enter coverage of a specific event like the women’s free skate OR the gold-medal hockey game, for example. If you have questions about what qualifies as an event, just ask Naila.
  • If you choose a prominent death, a pre-written obit can be part of the coverage as long as you also include live reaction and analysis in your entry. 
  • Entries can include breaking news stories, columns, videos, photo galleries, charts, podcasts, social media posts and more. These should be your best selections of coverage within 24 hours of your first story published on a big happening for your readers. Entries may consist of content that appeared in print or digital formats. A live print special section may be entered as a PDF as “Optional Material” (as long as it isn’t entered in any other category), but it is advised to submit the best five elements of the section individually as judges are not required to consider optional material. 
  • Additional links can be included as optional material to show the breadth of the coverage, but will not be required reading by the judges. 
  • You cannot enter the same article in Event Coverage and any other writing category. A game story or column entered in Event Coverage cannot be entered in Beat Writing, Columns or Game Stories. 

Projects 

  • One entry per organization; 1-10 articles per entry; no cover letters.
  • Up to five contributors can be named per entry; if more than five people worked on a project, please use “Staff.”
  • A project sheds new light on personalities and issues in the news, including trends and original ideas. It is pre-planned content that is conceived and executed as a larger body of work. It is not ongoing coverage of a news event over a period of time in which a number of stories are compiled for an entry. 
  • Entries are limited to 10 links, which can be articles, multimedia and data visualization among other story forms. Additional material beyond the 10 links may be attached and read at the judges’ discretion.
  • ** NEW ** A video or audio series, or a long-form documentary or podcast, can be entered as a project as long as it meets the definition of a project (pre-planned content that is conceived and executed as a larger body of work, not ongoing coverage of a news event or topic). A video series, in fact, won the Projects category in A Division last year. 
  • Special section material can be entered in Projects as long as it is not also entered in the special section contest. You must choose. The entire special section may be included as a PDF as “Optional Material,” but it is advised to submit the best elements of the section individually among the 10 entries (with links) as judges are not required to consider optional material.
  • You CANNOT include any part of the Projects entry (including optional material) in any other writing category — with the exception of one story in the Beat Writing category. Again, you must choose. For example, you can’t take a sidebar from your project entry and enter it in Short Feature and two more pieces of an entered project and enter them in Explanatory.
  • Discovery of the same material entered under Projects and any other writing category (with the exception of one story in Beat Writing) will result in both entries being disqualified.

Game Stories (C and D only)

  • Two entries per organization; one article per entry; one entry per writer.
  • The best single game story by a single author. No series. No sidebars. No cover letters.
  • If an article was published as a column but is entered in Game Stories, the judging group will have disqualification authority.
  • The same article cannot be entered in Game Stories and Event Coverage. 

Action Photos

  • Two entries per organization; one photo per entry; no cover letters
  • A photographer can be entered in this category only once.
  • No cover letters.
  • Judging will be done by AP photo editors.
  • No galleries allowed. You must “snip” or download the individual photo and follow the instructions on the entry key. 

Feature Photos

  • Two entries per organization; one photo per entry; no cover letters.
  • A photographer can be entered in this category only once.
  • Judging will be done by AP photo editors.
  • No galleries allowed. You must “snip” or download the individual photo and follow the instructions on the entry key.