Column Contest Deadline – March 1st

2012 NSNC Column Contest Form
Click image for the NSNC Column Contest Form

The only sanctioned competition just for columnists enters the new year. The fee is reasonable, and the honor of winning has been a boon to several decades of writers.

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists takes pride in seeking entries of published columns in all media: newspapers, magazines, online and blogs written in column style, as well as multimedia formats including video.

The 2012 rules, much the same as last year’s, are below. The sample columns, published in 2011, can be submitted by email attachments or through postal mail. Click the image above left for a PDF of the application form.

Deadline for submissions is March 1, 2012. Finalists will be notified by email by early April. Winners will be announced Saturday, May 6, at the NSNC annual conference, this year in Macon, Ga., in the e-Columnist newsletter and

Click this sentence for the contest entry form.
Then pay securely by PayPal by clicking this sentence.

Winners receive plaques and a significant discount to the Macon conference. The convention, while fun as always, promises workshops on writing and publishing with an emphasis on online work and e-books.

Contest Chair Mike Deupree says judges will be experts in the categories they are evaluating. The contest deadline was moved up to March 1 due to the earlier date of the 2012 conference.

Please read rules and categories carefully. Submit questions via our contact form.


  • A. General Interest – Print — Newspapers Over 50,000 Circulation
  • B. Humor – Print — Newspapers Over 50,000 Circulation
  • C. General Interest – Print — Newspapers Under 50,000 Circulation
  • D. Humor – Print — Newspapers Under 50,000 Circulation
  • E. Online, Blog and Multimedia Columns — Over 100,000 Monthly Unique Visitors
  • F. Online, Blog and Multimedia Columns — Under 100,000 Monthly Unique Visitors

General Rules

Entry fees

  • $25 per entry for NSNC members
  • $45 per entry for non-members
  • Standard member dues $50 per calendar year; benefits summary

Visa, MasterCard and American Express, as well as checks, are accepted. Online payment by PayPal.

E-mail packets must by time-stamped — and postal packets postmarked — by March 1, 2012.

An entry consists of three columns, no more no fewer, published between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2011.


  • To submit by post: Columns are to be printed out or photocopied, as they were published, onto 8.5 x 11 letter paper. Word or text documents of columns are NOT acceptable. Photocopies of original clips mounted on letter size paper, scrapbook style, are acceptable. The postal-mail entry packet includes the three columns, check or card info, and the form, completed legibly. Packets may be paper-clipped; no folders, no staples. Address: National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Attention: NSNC 2012 Contest, P.O. Box 411532, San Francisco, CA 94141. UPS and FedEx shipping address: NSNC 2012 Contest, c/o Luenna Kim, 501 Crescent Way, Unit 5201, San Francisco, California 94134, (415) 722-7030.
  • To submit by email: Convert columns into PDFs of letter or legal paper dimensions and attached. The electronic submissions must show proof of publication and date (see details below). Word or text documents of columns are NOT acceptable. Original clips mounted on letter or legal size paper, scrapbook style, then scanned into PDFs, are acceptable. Type size of 12 pt or greater is preferred. Email attachments of three column samples, the contest entry form and proof of credit/debit card payment to:
  • A multimedia contest entry should list on the application form the three samples’ URLs, which must be valid through July 30, 2012. Contestants whose sites require fees should arrange for a work-around for judges and NSNC officials to access without payment (see details below). Email the completed application form with proof of payment to

There is no limit on how many columnists from the same publication may enter any category.

A columnist may enter more than one category, but is allowed to submit only one entry per category. Group authorship is acceptable; all names must be on the entry form. The fee is per entry.

Supporting documents in general are not necessary but not forbidden.

Any of the three columns in an entry may not be entered in other NSNC contest categories.

While judges’ decisions are final, the NSNC may disqualify winners if rules are found to have been broken. Entries will not be returned. Winning entries may be republished by the NSNC in any media; credit will be given to the author and original publisher.

Contest fees will not be returned for disqualified entries.

Prizes: Plaques for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. Judges may select honorable mentions, for which certificates are awarded.

Category Rules

Print — Categories A, B, C and D

For the contest, the NSNC halves newspaper categories as being above and below 50,000 circulation. The contest entrant can get that figure from the publication’s management. Generally, the appropriate statistic is circulation of the section or zoned edition in which the columns appear. If one or more of the three columns in an entry ran in an over-50,000 edition, the entire entry must be submitted to the larger category. The NSNC welcomes entries from all periodicals, including weeklies, magazines and specialty publications. Whatever the periodical, note that NSNC judges base their decisions in part on journalism conventions and ethics.

Categories A and C, General Interest — print, includes columns on any subject, from politics to sports, criticism to hobbies, or mixtures of topics. Items columns, which comprise a series of short takes, are welcome. Columns posted online simultaneously or after print publication are acceptable. Unsigned editorials and the like are not acceptable.

Categories B and D, Humor — print, is broad-based, including columns intended just to entertain, and general or specialty columns that use wit heavily. Items-style or short-takes humor columns are welcome. Columns posted online simultaneously or after print publication are acceptable. Pseudonyms — or writing credit given to pets etc. — are acceptable only in print humor columns.

Online — Categories E and F

For the contest, the NSNC halves online categories as being above and below 100,000 monthly unique visitors. Columnists can get that figure from the publication’s management; bloggers from blog management tools or analytics. The NSNC welcomes entries from two main fields: 1) Newspapers’ online editions, Internet journals, aggregator sites, commercial and nonprofit media websites and portals, and so forth. 2) The NSNC also values entries from individuals’ personal websites, independent blogs, small-group online journals, community or hyperlocal journalism sites, social network accounts and so on.

Categories E and F — Online, Blog and Multimedia Columns

Any kind of column that appears on the Web is eligible — general interest, humor, specialty, “items” or set of short takes, criticism, politics, analysis, reportage, etc.

From left, Cary Grant, Frank Jenks, Roscoe Karns, Gene Lockhart, Pat Flaherty, Porter Hall, Alma Kruger & Rosalind Russell in "His Girl Friday"
Who’s it gonna be, columnist? Walter Burns or Hildy Johnson?

Online columns, blog columns and multimedia columns must be original, new material and not published in print. Their content must not have appeared previously, except for illustrations. Columns that ran both online and print must be entered in the appropriate print category.

Authors’ names must appear on each column, in the body or in the header, footer or sidebar. Pseudonyms online are not acceptable.

The three samples of online columns, blog columns and multimedia columns must have been first uploaded to the Internet between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011, as documented by visible time-stamp, copyright notice, publication date etc.

Supporting documents in general are not necessary but not forbidden. Online comments to a submitted post may be included as supporting documentation.

The specific Web page address — the URL or permalink — of each column in an entry must be listed on the application form and seen in the header or footer of the print-out hard copies. The URL address should remain active through July 30, 2012, so judges and NSNC officials can open them.

Entrants should note on the form if access might be limited to subscribers or by fee. The entrant should arrange for free online access for judges and NSNC officials; otherwise, submit PDFs by email or print-outs by post. The NSNC does not want to exclude entries, but judges and NSNC officials are not expected to pay for online access.

There is no limit as to how many entries a non-individual site can enter from its columnists, but only one online entry is permitted from each columnist.

The components of multimedia entries — video and audio, photo and other illustration, animation and so forth — must be of formats that can be opened by popular browsers including Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Entrants are cautioned that judges and NSNC officials sometimes use older computers and less-than-current software.

Online judges’ first criterion is quality of the work, bound by commonly accepted journalism conventions and ethics. Contestants are referred to the NSNC Code of Conduct on

Online judges’ second criterion is how well the entry, overall and individually, honors the three-century history of newspaper columns in tradition, format, spirit and variety.

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  4 comments for “Column Contest Deadline – March 1st

  1. Theresa Eichholz
    February 24, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    If I use a pseudonym in my online blog, does this mean that I am completely ineligible?

    • February 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      For the two blog-column categories, the author’s real name has to be somewhere on each of the three submitted samples, even within the small print, for example, as part of the web address.

      From the rules at “Authors’ names must appear on each column, in the body or in the header, footer or sidebar. Pseudonyms online are not acceptable.”

      — Ben Pollock

  2. January 10, 2012 at 11:47 am

    do you have a category of business trade magazines?

    • January 10, 2012 at 11:57 am

      Sorry, but no. Our six categories are very broad: Print general interest: large and small publications; print humor: large and small publications; and online (any genre) large and small websites. Business columns in recent years have done well in the NSNC contest, though.
      You might check out the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and similar organizations.

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