Contest Deadline Extended! Here’s the Rules

Here are the rules for the 2016 column contest, covering columns published in the 2015 calendar year. Read carefully, as rules have been revised. Categories are the same.

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

Deadline Now midnight Pacific, Friday, April 1, 2016!

Deadline for entries is midnight Pacific, Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

Contestants must complete three steps:

  1. Submit an entry form online (this link goes to an introductory page with the form opening at its “Register Now” button)
  2. Pay fee, either online with Paypal via the online entry form or send a check to the NSNC office (postal address below)
  3. Email three columns as PDF attachments to [Update 2-8-16:] Alternatively, send by post paper copies of the completed entry form, of the Paypal entry fee receipt and the three columns to NSNC 2016 Contest, c/o Luenna Kim, 501 Crescent Way, Unit 5201, San Francisco, CA 94134.

The NSNC annual column contest welcomes writers for magazines and other media as well as bloggers, including those who are new to writing and publish column-like posts. Our 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 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 by midnight Pacific time, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. [Update 2-8-16:] Postal-mailed packets must be postmarked March 15, 2016, or earlier.
  • Members pay $25 per entry and non-members $50 per entry. Writers owe just the $25 entry fee if at the same time they join by paying membership dues, $50 per calendar year. Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Details on membership are on NSNC’s Join or Renew page.
  • An entry consists of three columns, no more no fewer, published between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2015.
  • Scan, convert or export the three columns into PDFs of letter-size (8.5×11 or A4) paper dimensions and attach to email. Each attachment must show proof of publication and date (details below). MS Word or text documents of columns are NOT acceptable. Print-edition clips mounted on letter paper, scrapbook-style, scanned into PDFs, are acceptable. The PDF of a column can be more than one page, for readability. Email the three column samples as attachments to
  • The specific Web page address — the URL or permalink — of each column in an entry must be listed on the online entry form and seen in the header or footer of the PDFs. The URL address should remain active through July 30, 2016, so judges and NSNC officials can open them to verify publication details. Contestants whose sites require fees, registration or the creation of an account should try to arrange for a work-around for judges and NSNC officials to access without payment or registration.
  • Contestants will receive an email confirming receipt of entries. If one is not received, email
  • A columnist is welcome to enter more than one category but may submit only one entry per category. Group authorship is acceptable; all names must be on the online entry form. The fee is per entry.
  • 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.
  • There is no limit on how many columnists from the same publication may enter any category.
  • Postal, UPS and FedEx address: National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Attention: NSNC 2016 Contest, c/o Luenna Kim, 501 Crescent Way, Unit 5201, San Francisco, CA 94134. Phone: (415) 722-7030 or (415) 488-NSNC (6762).
  • Pseudonyms — or sole writing credit given to pets etc. — are not acceptable in any category.
  • 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 Los Angeles, June 23-26, 2016, in the post-conference edition of the NSNC member newsletter and on the NSNC website,

Category Rules

Rules Policies ClipArtPanda 500x500PrintCategories 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.

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.
  • Online columns, blog columns and multimedia columns must have been first uploaded to the Internet between Jan. 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2015, as documented by visible time-stamp, copyright notice, publication date etc.
  • A multimedia entry should list on the online entry form the three samples’ URLs, which must be valid through July 30, 2016. Contestants whose sites require fees, registration or the creation of an account should arrange for a work-around for judges and NSNC officials to access these addresses without payment or registration.
  • Multimedia column entrants should note on the entry form if online access might be limited to subscribers or by fee. Free access for judges and NSNC officials should be arranged. 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 Chrome, 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.
  • 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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