2014 Column Contest Rules

These are the rules for the 2014 column contest, covering columns published in the 2013 calendar year.

Click the image to open the PDF of the entry form.

Click the image to open a PDF of the 2014 entry form.

First place in each category will receive $300, second place $200 and third place $100, in addition to certificates suitable for framing. Honorable mentions receive certificates.

Deadline for entries is Saturday, March 15, 2014, midnight Pacific. Update: Deadline extended: Tuesday, April 1, 2014, midnight Pacific.

Click the image of the form to open a PDF of the application form, which you can print and mail to NSNC headquarters with your check.

An alternative is to click this sentence to fill out an online entry form, which when completed is transmitted automatically to the NSNC office. [This link has been corrected, as of March 23, 2014.]

Important: Click this sentence to direct you to a secure transaction page to pay by plastic, via PayPal. You can credit or debit whether you mail in your entry form or submit online.

The NSNC annual column contest welcomes bloggers, including those who are new to writing and publishing column-like posts. The column contest is more than three decades old and well-regarded in the journalism profession. Columns are so much broader than op-ed political commentaries, which is shown in our membership and in the winning columns.

The categories are:

  • 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

• E-mail packets must be time-stamped — and postal packets postmarked — by midnight Pacific time, Saturday, March 15, 2014. Update: Deadline extended to Tuesday, April 1, 2014.

• Members $25 per entry, non-members $45 per entry, annual membership $50 per calendar year. Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, as well as checks are accepted, are accepted. Online payment by PayPal available. Details on membership are on NSNC’s Join or Renew page.

• The PDF entry form may be photocopied as needed.

• An entry consists of three columns, no more, no fewer, published between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013.

• Format: The columns are to be printed out or photocopied, as they were published, onto 8.5×11 letter paper. MSWord 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 PayPal receipt print-out, and the form, completed legibly. Packets may be paper-clipped; no folders, no staples. Address: National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Attention: NSNC 2014 Contest, P.O. Box 411532, San Francisco, CA 94141. UPS and FEDEX shipping address: NSNC 2014 Contest, c/o Luenna Kim, 501 Crescent Way, Unit 5201, San Francisco, CA 94134. (415) 722-7030.

• To submit by email: Convert columns into PDFs of letter or legal paper dimensions and attach to email. 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 card/debit card payment to director@columnists.com.

• A multimedia contest entry should list on the entry form the three samples’ URLs, which must be valid through July 30, 2014. 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 entry form with proof of payment to director@columnists.com.

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

Category Rules

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 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” 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.

Categories E and F – Online, Blog and Multimedia 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 Web 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.

• 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.

• 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 January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013, 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 entry form and seen in the header or footer of the print-out hard copies. The URL address should remain active through July 30, 2014, 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 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 www.columnists.com.

• 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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  5 comments for “2014 Column Contest Rules

  1. Steve Young
    January 13, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    If the column was both in print and on the paper’s website, is it OK to print out the website edition of the column and create a PDF from that?


    • January 13, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      Yes, Steve. Often, a column in web page form (then converted to PDF) will be easier to read when photocopied for judges. That doesn’t hurt! Please give the URL of the website page of each column on the application form.

      We welcome questions.


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