Note: The Best of the West contest is open for entries. We are looking for your best work from 2020.
There are three key changes this year:
— A new category: Social Justice Reporting.
— Revisions to the Headline Writing category. It’s now for a single headline instead of a portfolio of five headlines. Also, the headline may have been written by a group or an individual.
— The maximum number of components for an entry in the “News coverage” group of categories has been cut to 10 from 20 to make the categories easier to enter.
Our entry deadline is Feb. 15, and our entry fee remains at $15.
Also, don’t forget to give our judges a way to bypass your paywall if your website has one. Otherwise, they cannot judge your entries.
2021 Newspaper, Magazine and Online Contest Rules
General Rules & Eligibility
The contest is open to the original work of journalists published in 2020 in a newspaper or magazine in the West, on a news or opinion website or app that primarily serves the West or in an area of a website or app that primarily serves the West.
The journalists must be based in the West or working for a media outlet based in the West, which covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington or Wyoming. A majority of the content must have been produced by eligible journalists.
The main purpose of the newspaper, magazine, website or app must be to inform the public, rather than sell products or promote a business, government, nonprofit organization or ideology.
There is no limit on the number of entries that may be submitted by an individual or publication.
Entries in languages other than English will be accepted in all categories if accompanied by an English transcript.
All entries must be submitted exactly as they originally appeared. Rewriting and re-editing are not allowed.
Letters of explanation are acceptable in all categories. Other supporting materials are not allowed.
Any entry found to violate contest rules will be disqualified and will forfeit entry fees.
Although all reasonable care will be taken in the handling and processing of entries, Best of the West is not responsible for lost, mislaid or damaged entries.
It’s your responsibility to make sure that our judges can get through the paywall on your company’s website to view your entries. Most companies provide a login and password for judges.
Best of the West revised the contest rules several years ago to reflect a trend toward print and online packages that include text, photos, videos, audio, graphics and special presentations. Those packages will compete in the seven categories under the “News coverage” grouping below.
The contest also retained the categories that reward the work of individuals – news, business and sports reporters, features and editorial writers, photographers, videographers, audio storytellers, artists, page designers and web producers. Those categories are listed below under the groupings of “Reporting and writing,” “Photography and audio and video storytelling,” “Art” and “Presentation.”
Thus, an article, photo, audio file, video, graphic and presentation may be submitted both as part of a package in the “News coverage” categories as well as in the appropriate category for an individual (for example, an article in News Writing, a photo in Sports Photography, and a graphic in Informational Graphics). However, an article may not be submitted in more than one of the News Coverage categories.
Judges will be instructed to evaluate the entire package in the “News coverage” categories but the individual component in each of the other categories (for example, an article in the Sports Writing category or a video in the Video Storytelling category).
Note, too, that the “News coverage” categories have limits on the number of articles, photos, videos, audio files and graphics so that the judges are not overwhelmed by the size of an entry. It is the entrant’s responsibility to mark the pieces included in the entry or provide a list of the pieces being included so that the scope of the entry is immediately apparent to the judge. Don’t make our judges guess what’s part of the entry.
1. Growth and Environment Reporting: A package on a growth and development or environmental issue in the West. The entry may include up to 10 components (text stories, photo packages, slideshows, videos, audio stories and graphics). Judged for depth of reporting, writing quality, completeness, balance, clarity, context and community importance.
2. Immigration and Border Reporting: A package on an immigration or border issue in the West. The entry may include up to 10 components (text stories, photo packages, slideshows, videos, audio stories and graphics). Judged for depth of reporting, writing quality, completeness, balance, clarity, context and community importance.
NEW! 3. Social Justice Reporting: A package on a social justice issue in the West. The entry may include up to 10 components (text stories, photo packages, slideshows, videos, audio stories and graphics). Judged for depth of reporting, writing quality, completeness, balance, clarity, context and community importance.
4. Breaking News Reporting: A single day’s reporting in print and online of one or more pieces of spot news, written under deadline pressure. The entry may include up to 10 components (text stories, photo packages, slideshows, videos, audio stories and graphics). Judged for quality of reporting and concise and comprehensive assembly and presentation of facts. Entrants are encouraged to submit a letter describing the deadline pressures and how they were overcome for both online and print.
5. Explanatory Reporting: A package that examines a significant and complex subject in depth, enabling readers to put news concerning it into a more meaningful context. The entry may include up to 10 components (text stories, photo packages, slideshows, videos, audio stories and graphics). Judged for depth and breadth of reporting, writing quality, timeliness, clarity, context, completeness, balance and community importance.
6. Project Reporting: A package on a single subject. The entry may include up to 10 components (text stories, photo packages, slideshows, videos, audio stories and graphics). Judged for depth and breadth of reporting, writing quality, clarity, context, completeness, balance and community importance.
7. Investigative Reporting: A package on a single subject that was the result of extensive research and original investigation. The entry may include up to 10 components (text stories, photo packages, slideshows, videos, audio stories and graphics). Judged for quality of investigation, timeliness, writing quality, clarity, context, balance and community importance.
Reporting and writing
8. News Writing: A single story and up to two sidebars, published on the same day, on a single topic that either expands on a breaking news event or analyzes an event and displays its impact on the community. Judged for reporting and writing quality, clarity, context, completeness and balance.
9. Feature Writing, Short Form: A feature story that is no more than 1,500 words long. Judged for originality, literary quality, creativity and overall flair.
10. Feature Writing, Long Form: One or two feature stories on a single subject that total more than 1,500 words. Judged for originality, literary quality, creativity and overall flair.
11. Arts and Entertainment Writing: A single story and up to two sidebars, published on the same day, of performing arts, visual arts, entertainment (movies, music), artist profiles/interviews or reviews. Judged for reporting quality, writing quality, clarity, context, completeness and balance.
12. Business and Financial Reporting: A single story and up to two sidebars, published on the same day, on a business or financial issue. Judged for reporting quality, writing quality, clarity, context, completeness and balance.
13. Sports Reporting: A single story and up to two sidebars, published on the same day, on any sports event, person or situation. Judged for reporting quality, writing quality, clarity, context, completeness and balance.
14. General Interest Column Writing: Five columns on topics of general interest. Judged for literary quality, originality, creativity and reader impact.
15. Special Topic Column Writing: Five columns or blog posts on a single subject, such as politics, sports, food, television or business. Judged for descriptive power, originality, reader impact and expertise in the subject.
REVISED! 16. Headline Writing: One headline published in print or online. Headlines over captions qualify. Include the stories and/or captions in the entry. Judged for clarity, accuracy, reader impact and imagination, plus the difficulty of the headline order for print and search-optimization needs for online.
17. Editorial Writing: A single piece that expresses the views of a publication and advocates a position or urges action. Judged for soundness of reasoning, persuasiveness, worthiness of purpose, clarity and reader impact.
Photography and audio and video storytelling
18. News Photography: One breaking news photo. Judged for news value, alertness of response, visual interest and technical quality.
19. Feature Photography: One feature photo. Judged for visual appeal, freshness and technical and aesthetic quality.
20. Sports Photography: One photo of a sporting event. Judged for visual appeal, ability to capture dramatic moments or emotions and technical and aesthetic quality.
21. News Slideshow: One slideshow with up to 50 photos on a single subject, without audio. Judged for news value, storytelling ability, visual appeal, continuity and technical and aesthetic quality. Entries with more than 50 photos will be disqualified.
22. Feature Slideshow: One slideshow with up to 50 photos on a single subject, without audio. Judged for visual appeal, storytelling ability, continuity and technical and aesthetic quality. Entries with more than 50 photos will be disqualified.
23. Audio Storytelling: A podcast or audio-focused digital report on a single subject or topic that demonstrates strong narrative and use of sound. Judged for news value, originality, audio editing, sound design and effective storytelling. Submit up to three pieces that total no more than 60 minutes in length.
24. Video Storytelling: A single news, feature or sports video of up to 10 minutes in length. The video must be original content produced for the Web. Judged for storytelling ability, overall presentation, reader interest, technical and aesthetic quality and creative use of the medium.
25. Informational Graphic: An informational graphic published in print or online. This includes maps, diagrams, charts, graphs, tables, timelines, quizzes, games, and data visualizations. The graphic may be static, interactive or animated. Judged for accuracy, completeness, timeliness, artistic quality and clarity and usability of presentation.
26. Page Design: A section front or a cover, plus the jump for the main story that best reflects the integration of stories, photos, art, editing, headlines and design. Judged for effectiveness, clarity and visual appeal of the presentation. Note that the jump page(s) included in the entry may only be for the main story on the section front or cover. This is not a category for entire special sections.
27. Online presentation: A single package on a single subject that demonstrates strong integration of text and multimedia elements. The package should include creative use of any of the following: text, audio, video, photos, graphics, animation, social media and/or interactivity. Judged for effectiveness, ease of navigation and innovative use of the medium. This is not a category for entire indexes or subdirectories.
Best of the West uses the Better Newspaper Contests software for entries and judging again. The software is the industry standard, used by hundreds of other journalism contests across the country.
The Better Newspaper Contests software is designed to work with Chrome and Firefox browsers and does not work as effectively in other browsers. If you are having problems with the software, you should change to Chrome or Firefox before doing anything else.
The software divides entrants into two types:
• Many of you are entering your own work. If that’s the case, then you will use the “Open Call” login.
• The rest of you are contest coordinators handling entries from a number of people at your newspaper magazine or website. You will use the “Contest Manager” or “Authorized Entrant” login.
Open Call contestants returning from previous years
If you were an Open Call contestant in 2013 or later, then you have already created an account and can sign in using last year’s password. If you can’t recall your password, you can create a new password.
You can skip the instructions below and start your entry. The process is the same as last year’s.
Once you have completed your entries, go to the “Manage entries” page and click on “Calculate entry fee” to get you to our website to pay your entry fees.
From there, you may pay your entry fees using PayPal, which accepts Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards as well as American Express and Discover cards and PayPal itself. Or you may pay your entry fees by check. Follow the prompts in the Better Newspaper Contest software for payment by credit and debit cards. See instructions below for payment by check.
The software company offers a PDF with basic instructions for Open Call entries.
New Open Call contestants
New Open Call users should start with the sign-up page.
Fill out the account information on signup page and click to submit it. The software will send you a verification e-mail. Click on the link in that e-mail and fill out the credentials form. The software requires this process – we did not request it, and we apologize for the red tape.
Once your credentials are submitted, you will see a link at the top of the page that will take you to the “My Contests” page. Click on “2019 Best of the West” to request permission to enter our contest. We did not request this red tape, but the software requires it.
Once you have been approved as a contestant, you should reload the “My Contests” page so that Best of the West moves from the “Pending” group on the left side of the “My Contests” page to the “Approved” group on the right side. Click on “Best of the West” there, and you will go to our “About the Contest” page.
The simple instructions on that page will tell you how to submit your entries and pay your entry fees.
Or, if you have gone on to other things and come back to submit your contest entries, then it’s best for you to log in at this page, taking you to the page where you can submit your entries.
Once you fill out the entry form and add URLs or digital files (see details below), then you click the “Submit” button to submit your entry. You can review all of your entries at any time by clicking on the “Manage entries” link.
Once you have completed your entries, go to the “Manage entries” page and click on “calculate entry fee” to get you to our website to pay your entry fees.
From there, you may pay your entry fees using PayPal, which accepts Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards, or you may pay your entry fees by check. Follow the prompts in the Better Newspaper Contest software for PayPal payments. See instructions below for payment by check.
The software company offers a PDF with basic instructions for Open Call entries.
The process for contest coordinators remains the same as it was for the Better Newspaper Contests software for the past few years.
Contest coordinators should start by going to the login page.
Once you are there, choose the “2019 Best of the West” contest from the list at the right.
Then, contest coordinators entering on behalf of a publication should select their publication from the second dropdown menu and enter the password. If you entered the contest last year, the password will be the same.
If you are new to the contest, contact our contest coordinator, Mary Jo Pitzl, at (602) 228-7566. If your publication isn’t listed, send Pitzl an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The software company offers a PDF with basic instructions for contest coordinators.
Help desk for contest software
If you are running into technical problems with the contest entry software, contact the Better Newspaper Contest’s support staff by submitting a help desk ticket anytime day or night or calling 360-427-6300, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific Time.
Or you may submit a Help Desk ticket at the software company’s website.
Best of the West accepts URLs for entries, plus a variety of digital files. Allowable file types are PDF, txt, doc, jpg, gif and png. For best results make a PDF at 72dpi with full compression. Distilling it as ‘Grayscale’ will significantly reduce file size. Total maximum upload size is 5 MB per file for all file types.
All articles should be submitted as URLs if they will be available to our judges on your website. If your website is behind a paywall, you must arrange for the judges to gain access to the articles online or you may submit PDFs of your articles. Word files will not be accepted for articles.
Photos should be submitted as jpg files, along with a URL or a PDF of the printed page to show proof of publication.
Editorial cartoons should be submitted as jpg, gif or png files, along with a URL or a PDF of the printed page to show proof of publication.
Videos and other multimedia must be submitted as URLs only. They can be posted on your website or a separate website such as youtube.com.
Letters of explanation are acceptable in all categories and should be submitted as doc or pdf files.
The Better Newspaper Contest software will ask you to upload an attachment early in the process. You’ll need to do that for any categories that require PDFs or jpgs (design and photo categories, for example) or if you are submitting a PDF of an article that is not available online. However, you can skip that step and click on “next” if you are submitting an entry as a URL or URLs, such as the URL for an article, video or multimedia entry that is available to judges online.
Entry Fee & Deadline
The entry fee is just $15 per entry. There is no limit on the number of entries from an individual or a publication.
Entry fees can be paid in two ways:
• By credit card: Pay your entry fees through the Better Newspaper Contest website as you submit your entries. The software uses PayPal but accepts major credit cards.
• By check: Make checks payable to “Best of the West” and mail to: Best of the West, 1321 W. Lynwood St., Phoenix, AZ 85007. Be sure to include the name of your publication on the check and enclose a list of entries so that we can match the payment to your entries.
A single check or credit card payment for multiple entries from the same journalist or news organization is appreciated.
Deadline: Entries must be submitted electronically no later than 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 15, 2021. No late entries will be accepted.
Judging & Prizes
Entries will be judged by professional journalists from outside of the region. Judges’ decisions are final unless a winning entry is found to violate contest rules, in which case the entry will be disqualified and the prize awarded to the next-place winner.
The first place prize is a medallion. If up to three people contribute to a first-place winner, each will receive a medallion. If there are four or more contributors, the medallion will be presented to the paper. Each contributor to a winner will get a certificate.
For complete contest results, return to this Web site in May. Or sign up for our Facebook page, where early results will be posted as they are received in April and May.
Call contest coordinator Mary Jo Pitzl at (602) 228-7566 during normal business hours Phoenix time or send an e-mail with your questions to email@example.com
Thank you for your interest in the Best of the West contest. Best of luck.