The deadline for entering the 2019 NFPW communication contest seems like a long way off, but it will be here before you know it. Remember: You can save $25 if you enter before midnight in your time zone on Jan. 9, 2019. The contest deadline is midnight Jan. 15 for books and Jan. 22 for all other entries.
But don’t wait until the last minute to start gathering entries.
“I have found it much easier to jot down prospects day to day and retrieve PDFs of newspaper tearsheets from the Hub archives once or twice a month than to try to find everything all at once just ahead of an entry deadline,” says NFPW member Lori Potter.
The reporter, photographer and columnist for the Kearney (Neb.) Hub is a pro at entering the NFPW communications contest. She has received the national sweepstakes award four times, including 2018.
Here are her tips for selecting and organizing work to enter in the contest:
- Set aside good stuff early by starting a “2019 Contest Options” folder. When retrieving PDFs of your work to put in the folder, save a digital copy of the version actually published in print or online. Also save original digital images for photos.
- Label each file with the date, topic (column, feature, news story, series) and a topic, name, place, etc., so it’s easy to find later.
- Read the contest category descriptions to understand the judging criteria for each. Take note of categories that require a statement and the topics that must be addressed in that statement.
- Keep an old-fashioned clipbook with page tearsheets and dated clips of everything published with your byline or photo credit. I start selecting contest entries by reviewing the clipbook. The contest options folder can be used in the same way.
- Use a legal pad, laptop or tablet to list categories you might want to enter, leaving lots of space between category headers. Starting with January, I write the date and topic or headline of a story, photo, etc., I think fits a category. If something fits more than one category, I write the information under all of the categories.
- After selecting entries, go into the contest options folder and change PDF labels so they now start with the category-subcategory number, letter and description. For example: 1.A. News story 7-13-18 storm damage.
- Consolidate the start and jump pages for each story into one PDF, and size original photos to the contest limit. Then move the prepped PDFs, JPEGs, links, etc., into a “2019 Contest Entries” folder.
“I prefer to enter everything at once after all entries are sized, labeled and ready in the ‘entries’ folder,” Potter says. “The system also works for entries submitted over time, as long as nothing is moved to the ‘entries’ folder until it’s correctly prepped.”
The contest is two-tiered competition. You compete at the state level first. The contest has an at-large section for entrants from states without an affiliate-level contest and for international entries.
First-place winners at the state level are eligible to move on to the NFPW contest. Some states allow nonmembers to enter at the state level, then join NFPW if they win first place. Other state contests are open to members only, so make sure to check the rules in your state.
Winners in multiple categories are eligible for sweepstakes awards. Sweepstakes awards come with a cash prize at the national level.
NFPW member Gordon Hesse of Delaware says the contest definitely is worth the effort to enter.
He spent three-plus years researching, interviewing and taking photos for his nonfiction historical book, “Island Beach – a Sonnet in the Sands.” Some of the photos took nearly a year to capture, and others had to be taken when the seasons were right. The book also had to go through editorial honing, and layout and design, and he had to write captions for the photos.
He entered it in the contest because he wanted to see if it was worthy of recognition. It was: It won first place at the state and national level.
Visit https://nfpw.org/professional-contest-2/ for contest rules and categories.