Rules of 2015 Column Contest

These are the rules for the 2015 column contest, covering columns published in the 2014 calendar year.

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

Deadline for entries is Sunday, March 15, 2015, now Wednesday, April 1, 2015, midnight Pacific.

Click either either line above for either a PDF or Word doc file of the contest application, which you can print and mail to NSNC headquarters with your check.

Online payment: Click this phrase to direct you to our payment page, which has buttons for a secure PayPal transaction window to pay by plastic. You can credit or debit, whether you postal-mail or email in your entry form.

The NSNC annual column contest welcomes bloggers, including those who are new to writing and publish 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 — Publications Over 50,000 Circulation
  • B. Humor – Print — Publications Over 50,000 Circulation
  • C. General Interest – Print — Publications Under 50,000 Circulation
  • D. Humor – Print — Publications 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

  • Email packets must be time-stamped — and postal packets postmarked — by midnight Pacific time, Sunday, March 15, 2015.
  • Members $25 per entry, non-members $45 per entry, with annual membership $50 per calendar year. Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, as well as checks are accepted. Online payment by PayPal is available. Details on membership are on NSNC’s Join or Renew page.
  • The PDF entry form or Word form may be duplicated as needed.
  • An entry consists of three columns, no more no fewer, published between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2014.
  • Format: For postal submission, the columns are to be printed out or photocopied, as they were published, onto 8.5×11 (A4) 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 completed entry form. Packets may be paper-clipped; no folders, no staples. Postal address: National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Attention: NSNC 2015 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: Scan, convert or export the three columns into PDFs of letter-size paper dimensions and attach to email. Complete the entry form and scan into a PDF. The attachments must show proof of publication and date (details below). MS Word or text documents of columns are NOT acceptable. Original clips mounted on letter paper, scrapbook-style, then scanned into PDFs, are acceptable. Email the attachments of three column samples, the completed form and acknowledgment of payment to
  • A multimedia entry should list on the entry form the three samples’ URLs, which must be valid through July 30, 2015. Contestants whose sites require fees should arrange for a work-around for judges and NSNC officials to access without payment (details below). Scan the completed entry form into a PDF. Email the completed form with acknowledgment 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.
  • None of the three columns in an entry may be entered in other categories; a columnist may enter another three in another category with a separate fee.
  • While judges’ decisions are final, the NSNC may disqualify winners if rules are found to have been broken. Entries will not be returned. Contest fees will not be refunded for disqualified entries. Winning entries may be republished by the NSNC in any media; credit will be given to the author and original publisher.
  • Prizes: First place $300, Second $200, third $100 in each category, with certificates. Judges may select honorable mentions, for which certificates are awarded.
  • Finalists will be notified by email. Winners will be announced at the awards banquet of the annual NSNC Conference in Indianapolis, June 25-28, 2015, in the post-conference edition of the NSNC member newsletter and on the NSNC website,

Category Rules

Print. Categories A, B, C and D: For the contest, the NSNC halves print publication 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 publication, 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

  • 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) Online editions of print publications, Web-only publications, aggregator sites, commercial and nonprofit media websites and portals, and so forth. 2) Individuals’ personal websites, independent blogs, small-group online journals, community or hyperlocal journalism sites, social media accounts, etc.
  • 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.
  • Online columns, blog columns and multimedia columns must have been first uploaded to the Internet between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2014, as documented by visible time-stamp, copyright notice, publication date etc.
  • Reader comments to a submitted post may be included as supporting documentation but are not required.
  • 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, 2015, so judges and NSNC officials can open them.
  • Entrants should note if online access might be limited to subscribers or by fee. The entrant should arrange for free access for judges and NSNC officials; otherwise, submit PDFs by email or 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 various 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 Firefox, Safari and Explorer. 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.
  • 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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  13 comments for “Rules of 2015 Column Contest

  1. January 14, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Has this contest taken the place of the other writing contest held with the workshop? In the past I’ve submitted essays written in “Erma Bombeck style” where there were two categories: Humorous and Personal.

    I do have a personal blog and published 13 online entries for 2014 with an audience of way under 100,000 monthly unique visitors, so I think I qualify for that category?



    • January 14, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      On the second question, you qualify for the under 100k uniques category. Send ’em in!

      On the first, you are confusing the National Society of Newspaper Columnists with the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. NSNC and EBWW are partners, with overlapping membership, but we have separate events and contests as well as different missions/objectives.

  2. January 13, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    I have essays published that I would like to submit. The essays were all published in 2014; however, the periodical doesn’t date their publications. I’m sure the editor can verify their dates. May I still submit them or will they be disqualified because they aren’t dated?

    • January 13, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      Yes, you can submit those pieces.
      Not all websites show that sort of data, as you note.
      And sometimes the date, or just the month, is visible in the web address or in a search by Google, for example.
      Besides, on the application you can — and should — give your editor’s contact info.

      • January 13, 2015 at 3:42 pm

        Thanks so very much for your prompt reply!

  3. January 12, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Quick question – is this for only first run pieces? If the column that ran in 2014 was a reprint that ran somewhere else prior to 2014, is it disqualified from being entered?
    Thanks a bunch!

    • January 12, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      If the original publication is during the qualifying year — 2014 here — then it does not matter which publication you enter the contest from. For example syndicated columnists they pick the publication that uses a good headline, didn’t cut something etc.

      Since you say the column in question came out earlier than 2014, it’s not eligible, unless you revised the piece significantly. For example, some writers update an annual Christmas column, and there’s usually a note in the text indicating that.

      I don’t know what a judge will think, but personally I’d think such a column would decrease your chances.


      • Joanne
        January 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm

        Makes perfect sense! Thanks for clearing that up!!

  4. January 7, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Just a quick question: when discussing pseudonyms, are you referring to the original publication, or for the submission for the contest, or both?

    I ask, b/c I have my own blog site, but I never put my full name on anything, and even things I’ve guest posted on include my pseudonym, not my full name.


    • January 7, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      We’ll get back to you soon on this, Melissa.

  5. January 7, 2015 at 6:56 am

    Is this contest open to Canadians and Canadian publications/websites/blogs?

    • January 7, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Gosh, yes, Kathy. The NSNC accepts contest entries from across the world, and every year we receive submissions from Canada.

      We also welcome Canadians as NSNC members!

      — Ben Pollock
      Director of Media

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