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NSPA Contests & Critiques

You'll always find the latest information and forms for NSPA's contests by visiting this page. Downloadable PDF forms will be available from this page as soon as the forms are created and printed. If you have difficulty downloading the PDF files, please email us to request a copy by mail or fax.

The following contests are free of charge, but open only to NSPA member publications. To find out if your publication is a current member, check our database. Non-members who enter will be billed for membership.

  • Download NSPA membership and critique form in PDF format

Newspaper Pacemakers

Contest Details

Winners Announced:

Newspaper Pacemaker

Forms available:
May 2014

NSPA and the Newspaper Association of America Foundation have co-sponsored the Pacemaker competition since 1971. NSPA began the awards in 1927.

Judges select Pacemakers based on the following: coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership on the opinion page, evidence of in-depth reporting, design, photography, art and graphics.

Pacemakers are selected by the staff of a NAA-member newspaper or by journalism professionals. Finalists will be notified about one month before the fall convention.

Past Winners: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993

Online Pacemakers

Contest Details

Winners Announced:

Online Pacemaker

NSPA is offering its highest honor, the Pacemaker award, to online student publications. Member publication websites are not automatically entered in the Pacemaker competition - staffs must submit a Pacemaker entry form.

Online Pacemaker entries are judged during the months of February and March, based upon the following criteria: design, navigation, writing/editing, graphics and interactivity.

Past Winners: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001

Yearbook/Magazine Pacemakers

Since 1927, NSPA's Pacemaker competition has been considered by many to be student journalism's highest honor. All NSPA yearbook and magazine members are eligible to compete in their respective national Pacemaker competitions.

Yearbook/Magazine Pacemakers are judged based upon the following criteria: writing/editing, design, content, concept, photography, art and graphics.

Past Winners:
Yearbook Pacemaker: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993
Digital YB Pacemaker: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 1998-2002
Magazine Pacemaker: 2012 | 2011 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 |1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996 | 1995 | 1994 | 1993

Individual Awards

The Story of the Year competition, co-sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, recognizes initiative and original reporting of a situation, problem or issue affecting students. Judges look for entries which show leadership, quality writing, sensitivity and fairness. Categories include News Story, Feature Story, Editorial/Commentary, Sports Story, Diversity Story and Multimedia Package. The first place winners from each category, with the exception of Multimedia Package, will compete for the $1,000 Brasler Prize.

NSPA's Picture of the Year competition honors student photographers in six categories, including News, Feature, Sports Action, Sports Reaction, Environmental Portrait and Jr. High/Middle School. The competition is co-sponsored by the National Press Photographers Association.

Adobe Systems and NSPA sponsor a Design of the Year competition. First-place winners in each category receive an Adobe software package of their choice. Categories include Newspaper Page One, Newspaper Page/Spread, Yearbook Page/Spread, Magazine Page/Spread, Infographic and Illustration.

The NSPA Cartooning Awards, co-sponsored by Universal Uclick, are open to students at NSPA member newspapers in two categories: Editorial Cartoon and Comic Strip/Panel.

Past Winners:
Story of the Year: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996
Brasler Prize: 1996-2012
Multimedia Story of the Year: 2012
Picture of the Year: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996
Design of the Year: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000
Cartooning Awards: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003

Broadcast Awards

Contest Details

Winners Announced:

Broadcast Pacemaker

Broadcast Story of the Year

Forms available:
May 2014

The National Scholastic Press Association, in partnership with the High School Broadcast Journalism project of RTDNF and SchoolTube.com, presents the Broadcast Pacemaker and Broadcast Story of the Year contests for high school student-produced television news programs.

NSPA is accepting entries for these contests by having entrants upload them to SchoolTube.com, using the instructions in the contest form PDF.

Past Winners:
Broadcast Pacemaker: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996
Broadcast Story of the Year: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

Convention Best of Show

The Best of Show competition is held at all national and state conventions sponsored by the National Scholastic Press Association. The number of entries and places awarded may change from year to year, usually corresponding with overall attendance. Only publications and broadcast teams with students in attendance at the convention are eligible to enter the contest. Competitiveness varies depending on time of year and the convention location. The competing pool is typically much smaller and distinct from our national contests, such as the Pacemaker. The Best of Show award does not signify a ranking of national excellence, but rather overall excellence among the attendees and entries.

Because it is an onsite contest, the judging process is accelerated. NSPA makes every effort to obtain judges of the highest caliber. Customarily, one judge makes the selections for each category. There is no panel and no discussion is allowed. This also makes the judging process for Best of Show very different from our national contests, where a panel may have time for deliberation and debate. Best of Show judges do not provide NSPA with comments on winners or other entries. NSPA retains the winning entries for future use.

Contest forms are sent with convention registration confirmations or are available at the convention registration desk. Best of Show entries for print publications consist of one issue of a newspaper or a single broadcast program from the current school year or one copy of a magazine or yearbook from the previous school year.

Journalism Honor Roll

Contest Details

Deadline: Feb. 28, 2014

Published in Best of the High School Press

The NSPA Journalism Honor Roll honors student journalists who have achieved a 3.75 or higher grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) and have worked in student media for two or more years. Additionally, seniors who qualify for the Honor Roll and submit additional information requested on the entry form are entered into a competition for one or more $1,000 scholarships.

All Honor Roll inductees will receive a certificate of recognition, and a listing of all inductees into the Honor Roll will be published in NSPA's Best of the High School Press.

Past Winners: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997

Wikoff Scholarship for Editorial Leadership

Contest Details

Deadline: Feb. 28, 2014

Wikoff Scholarship online application

In recognition of his service to the National Scholastic Press Association as its executive director in the 1970s, NSPA has offered the Wally Wikoff Scholarship for Editorial Leadership since 1998.

The $1,000 award will be given to a high school senior on the staff of an NSPA member newspaper with a minimum 3.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale or equivalent. In addition to the entry form, applicants must submit three published editorials and a brief recommendation from the paper's adviser.

Past Winners: 1998-2013

Courage in Student Journalism Award

Contest Details

Deadline: Aug. 1, 2014

Winners Announced: Fall National High School Journalism Convention

Sponsored by NSPA with the Student Press Law Center

The Student Press Law Center and the National Scholastic Press Association co-sponsor the Courage in Student Journalism Award.

Two awards will be presented. The first award is presented to a deserving middle- or high school journalist who has shown determination, despite difficulty and resistance, in lawfully exercising his or her First Amendment press rights. A second award is presented to a school administrator who has demonstrated support, under difficult circumstances, for the First Amendment press rights of his or her school's student media. (The student journalist and administrator need not be from the same school.)

Additional information (including a list of past winners of this award) is available at this SPLC web page.

Past Winners: SPLC Award Winners

Pioneer Award

The Pioneer Award is the highest award NSPA offers to journalism educators. Pioneers are individuals who make substantial contributions to high school publications and journalism programs outside of their primary employment.

NSPA maintains a composite plaque of Pioneers and displays it at all JEA/NSPA fall national conventions. Candidates are nominated by previous Pioneer winners.

View the list of Pioneer Award winners

Other Awards

These awards have either been discontinued or have been replaced by another award.

Previous winners of these awards are linked below.

Best of the Net (replaced by Online Pacemaker):
1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996

Multicultural Award (now part of Story of the Year): 1997 | 1996

H.L. Hall/Melinda Foys Adviser Fellowships: 2000-2006

RFK Memorial Journalism Awards (co-sponsored by NSPA 2002-2009)

NSPA Critiques: An Educational Tool

NSPA All-American Hall of Fame

View the list of Hall of Fame inductees

In 1987, the National Scholastic Press Association established a Hall of Fame for member student publications - newspapers, yearbooks and magazines - which have earned 10 All-American ratings from our publication critique service within an 11-year span. Hall of Fame inductees receive a special honor plaque to mark the induction and are added to the NSPA Hall of Fame plaques, which are displayed at our JEA/NSPA high school journalism conventions.

New Hall of Fame inductions are made twice a year and are honored at our JEA/NSPA High School Journalism Conventions.

Advisers who believe their publication has achieved Hall of Fame status may apply for the Hall of Fame by writing a letter indicating the name of the publication, the years the publication received All-American ratings and publication/adviser contact information. Mail the letter to NSPA Hall of Fame, 2221 University Ave. SE, Suite 121, Minneapolis, MN 55414. The letter must be received by Feb. 15 to be inducted at that year's spring convention or Sept. 15 for the fall convention.

Evaluate your work in student media with an NSPA critique. NSPA provides a critique service for newspapers, magazines and yearbooks.
  • Download NSPA membership and critique form in PDF format

The critique is a written evaluation of work submitted by a publication. Professional journalists, experienced media advisers and other media professionals serve on the NSPA board of judges.

The judge writes comments and scores your publication in several different categories such as coverage, writing and design. The composite score from all sections gives the publication an honor rating ranging from Third Class to All American. The All American rating is the highest rating given to any publication in the critique service.

Media that have achieved 10 All American honor ratings in an 11-year span are inducted into the All American Hall of Fame. (See below for more information about this prestigious achievement.)

The critique service usually takes 10 to 14 weeks. NSPA makes every effort to return the completed critique as soon as possible.

Critique Fees
NSPA membership with critique (high school publications): $189

NSPA membership with critique (junior high and middle school publications): $99

Become an NSPA Critique Judge

View the current NSPA/ACP Board of Judges

NSPA is always looking for journalism educators or professionals with the qualifications to judge publications submitted for critique. Prospective judges should possess five years experience advising student publications (preferably award-winning ones) and/or professional experience in writing, editing, design, graphics and photography. Judges are paid an honorarium per publication, with an option to donate your honorarium fees to the NSPA Summer Workshops scholarship fund.

  • Download the NSPA Critique Service Judging Application