ACP Contests

May 12, 2020

The contests sponsored by ACP are the most-competitive, most-honored prizes in collegiate journalism.

The prestigious Pacemaker recognizes overall excellence and distinguishes the top student media produced during a particular school year.  

The Individual Awards recognize the outstanding achievements of individual students and small teams of journalists. 

The Best of Show contest ranks the best student media represented at conventions sponsored by Associated Collegiate Press.

Participation in the Pacemaker and Individual Awards competition is a benefit of ACP membership. Membership also provides a reduced fee for convention Best of Show entries.Contest entries compete directly against each other. There are no written critiques or scoring rubrics. Student media staffs seeking a comprehensive evaluation including detailed feedback, a scoring rubric and an honor rating of Third Class to All American are encouraged to participate in the ACP critique service.

MORE INFO
New Pacemakers in Broadcast, Innovation & Business
DOWNLOAD a PDF with full information on the Business Pacemaker.
DOWNLOAD a PDF with full information on the Innovation Pacemaker.

ACP Pacemaker Awards

There is a category for each media type — broadcast, online, newspaper, magazine and yearbook — in addition to business and innovation specialty categories open to all media.

Participation in the Pacemaker contest is a benefit of NSPA membership. Pacemaker entries compete directly against each other.

There are no written critiques or scoring rubrics. Student media staffs seeking a comprehensive evaluation including detailed feedback, a scoring rubric and an honor rating of Third Class to All American are encouraged to participate in the ACP critique service.

TO ENTER PACEMAKERS: Visit the membership portal under the Contests tab.

Newspaper Pacemaker 2021

CLOSED FOR 2020
DEADLINE: JUNE 14, 2021
TO ENTER: Visit the membership portal under the Contests tab.

For this contest, digital entries only are accepted. A complete PDF should be submitted for each issue. PDFs of single pages will not be accepted. Issuu or Google drive links are not accepted.

Because of COVID-19, it is acceptable to submit a spring semester issue that was not printed. However, the issue must have been distributed electronically to your audience in some fashion.

The following issues should be entered:

  • One issue of choice published between July 1, 2019 and June 1, 2020.
  • Two consecutive issues during the fall semester.
  • Two consecutive issues during the spring semester.
  • Do not enter any special issues (e.g., orientation/homecoming/finals week editions). These special edition issues can be entered in the ACP Individual Awards.

Magazine Pacemaker 2021

CLOSED FOR 2020
DEADLINE: JUNE 14, 2021
TO ENTER: Visit the membership portal under the Contests tab.

For this contest, digital entries only are accepted. A complete PDF should be submitted for each issue. PDFs of single pages will not be accepted. Issuu or Google drive links are not accepted. The following issue should be entered:

  • One issue of your magazine published between June 8, 2019, and June 1, 2020.

Broadcast Pacemaker

CLOSED FOR 2020
TO ENTER: Visit the membership portal under the Contests tab.

For this contest, submit a direct URL link to an online site or a video-sharing site such as YouTube or Vimeo. The video-sharing site must be owned by your student media program rather than an individual. The following four full, student-produced news programs as they originally ran for their audience should be entered:

  • Two broadcast news programs that aired between Aug. 1 and Dec. 20, 2019.
  • Two broadcast news programs that aired between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2020.

Innovation Pacemaker

CLOSED FOR 2020
TO ENTER: Visit the membership portal under the Contests tab.
DOWNLOAD a PDF of this information on the Innovation Pacemaker.

The Innovation Pacemaker is designed to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and reward student media for the courage to take chances to improve service to their customers, readers and communities.

For complete information on preparing your application packet, go to the Student Media Innovation Pacemaker guidelines or download the PDF.

Business Pacemaker

in partnership with College Media Business and Advertising Managers
CLOSED FOR 2020
TO ENTER: Visit the membership portal under the Contests tab.
DOWNLOAD a PDF of this information on the Business Pacemaker.

This new award recognizes outstanding student media business and operations teams that work hard to ensure student journalism is supported financially so that it may thrive. 

An application packet is to be compiled and produced by students, with professional staff serving as advisers. Each media group must provide examples of work, plus additional documentation and descriptions of key organizational and operational information. The packet focuses on these five categories of success — strategic focus, people, sales and marketing, finances and your story.

For complete information on preparing your application packet, go to the Student Media Business Pacemaker guidelines or download the PDF.

Yearbook Pacemaker for 2020

OPEN NOW
DEADLINE: Dec. 21, 2020

TO ENTER: Visit the membership portal under the Contests tab.

For this contest only print entries are accepted. If your yearbook was submitted for a critique, a second copy must be submitted for Pacemaker competition:

  • One yearbook covering the 2019-20 academic year.

Online Pacemaker 2021

CLOSED for 2019-2020 
DEADLINE: Feb. 1, 2021

For this contest, submit a URL. Online entry options:

  • Broadcast
  • Newspaper
  • Magazine
  • Yearbook
  • Online-only

ACP Individual Awards

CLOSED for 2019-2020 
DEADLINE: June 14, 2021

ACP Individual Awards honor the nation’s best collegiate journalism — in a wide range of categories. The awards are presented to individuals and small teams. This year, a new award management website offers an improved submission experience. There are 46 contests in nine categories outlined in detail below.

Rules & regulations

TO ENTER INDIVIDUAL AWARDS: Visit the new BetterBNC award platform.

The new BetterBNC award platform allows you to submit, track and manage Individual Award entries. Creating an Open Call account is required and takes only a few minutes for one-time set-up. Please register for your Open Call account using the name and email address associated with your membership. This will also be the name and email address used for the membership portal.

ELIGIBILITY: Entries must have been published between June 15, 2020, and June 14, 2021. The contest is open only to student media with a current ACP membership as of the contest deadline. Any student on the staff of an ACP-member media outlet is eligible to enter. The entry must be published in the ACP-member student media.

DEADLINE: The website for award submission will be closed at midnight EDT on June 14, 2021. The deadline will not be reopened. 

ANNOUNCEMENT: Finalists will be announced by October 2021. Winners will be announced at the ACP/CMA National College Media Convention, Oct. 13-17, 2021, in New Orleans.

ACP recognizes finalists and winners in its publication and on its websites and social media sites. ACP recognizes the right to publish the entrants’ work in its print and online publications as well as on social media.

RECOGNITION: The first-place winner in each category will receive a plaque for the student media outlet and a certificate for up to five students. Second- through 10th-place winners receive certificates. If the entry is the work of more than one student, up to five names will be listed in alphabetical order. If more than five students are responsible, the award will be presented to Staff. Some contests have cash prizes, as noted, and they are provided by co-sponsoring organizations. 

NUMBER OF ENTRIES: The number of entries allowed for each contest is indicated. In most cases, one or two entries per student media outlet are allowed. Staffs are encouraged to work together to select their highest quality work. Entries may not be submitted to more than one category. For example, the same story can’t be entered to both the In-Depth News Story and Diversity contests. 

SUBMISSION: The submission format required for each contest is indicated. In most categories, a URL link to a website or a PDF file of the printed page is required — but not both. For PDF files, the folio line with the publication date should be included. For Photo of the Year contests, actual image files (JPG, TIF, PNG) are required. Word documents and links to Google drives and FTP sites will be rejected.

QUESTIONS: Inquires about the ACP Individual Awards should be directed to Gary Lundgren, ACP associate director, at gary@studentpress.org.

1. Story of the Year

1A. Breaking News Story

Timely coverage of a significant news event impacting readers and written on deadline for immediate publication.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both. 

1B. In-Depth News Story

A story about a topic or issue of importance to your college community and explored in significant depth with multiple sources.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

1C. Feature Story

Personality profiles, trend stories or human-interest stories; not general news, breaking news or sports.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

1D. Sports Game Story

A story providing timely, accurate and dynamic coverage and analysis of a single game.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

1E. Sports Feature Story

A human-interest sports story that includes profiles of sports figures, but does not report the results of a single game.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

1F. Editorial

The statement of the publication’s opinion supported by fact generally without bylines.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

1G. Column

A reoccurring feature characterized by the voice, personality and opinions of the writer; may include humor and news analysis.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

1H. Diversity Story

An in-depth news or feature story focusing on some aspect of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

1I. Local Climate Change Reporting

Climate change is one of the most important stories of our generation. This contest, in partnership with the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, encourages local climate change reporting by college media.

Long-form stories, published in print or online, should be accompanied by sidebars, graphics and data. Broadcast packages may also be entered.

All student journalists who are interested in reporting on climate change as a local story are encouraged to use the Climate Matters in the Newsroom reporting resources, science-based reporting materials that are funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation. These materials can be used in award submissions.

The first-place winner earns $500, and the second and third place winners $300 and $200 respectively. Team reporting is permitted, and the cash prize will be divided among the names on the entry form.

Number of Entries: Unlimited entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

1J. Ernie Pyle Human-Interest Profile

Ernie Pyle

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent, Ernie Pyle is best known for his stories about ordinary American soldiers during World War II.

Pyle had the ability to reach out and make readers feel comfortable sharing their good as well as their hard times. He is also known for the columns he wrote as a roving, human-interest reporter for Scripps-Howard newspapers from 1935-1940. Selected columns of Pyle’s human-interest stories were published in “Home Country.”

The Ernie Pyle Legacy Foundation, with funding from the Scripps-Howard Foundation, is a co-sponsor of this new ACP contest to encourage and recognize human-interest storytelling. 

Submissions should be columns or feature stories profiling people not already in the headlines.

The first-place winner earns $1,500, and the second and third place winners $600 and $400 respectively for both two-year and four-year schools.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

2. Reporter of the Year

Any reporter enrolled as a full-time student during the 2019-20 school year and working on the staff of an ACP member newspaper, magazine or news website is eligible to enter.

The portfolio must include three writing samples, including a news story, feature story and an additional piece of your choice published during the 2019-2020 school year in ACP-member student media outlet.

Writing submitted as part of the Report of the Year portfolio may also be entered in individual contest categories.

2A. Two-year School, Reporter of the Year

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member newspaper, magazine or online site.

Submission: Website URL links or PDF files of printed page(s), do not submit both.

2B. Four-year School, Reporter of the Year

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member newspaper, magazine or online site.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

3. Multimedia Story of the Year

3A. Multimedia News Story Package

Reporting on breaking news or an issue of importance to your audience that demonstrates strong news-gathering skills and delivers concise information. In addition to text and images, the entry must include audio, video, slideshows, interactive content (maps, timelines, etc.) or animation as part of a robust news package.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

3B. Multimedia Feature Story Package

Personality profiles, trend stories or human-interest stories; not general news, breaking news or sports. In addition to text and images, entry must include audio, video, slideshows, interactive content (maps, timelines, etc.) or animation as part of a robust feature package.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

3C. Multimedia Sports Story Package

Coverage of games or seasonal summary, and it may also include profiles of sports personalities or human-interest sports features. In addition to text and images, entry must include audio, video, slideshows, interactive content (maps, timelines, etc.) or animation as part of a robust sports package.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

3D. Photo Slideshow

A photo story on a single subject with each photo communicating a different angle. Captions must be included for every image.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

3E. Interactive Graphic

Allows reader to navigate through an informational graphic to engage with the information. Popular formats include factoids, lists, quizzes, bar charts, line charts, pie charts, tables, ratings, timelines, step-by-step guides, diagrams and maps.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

3F. Podcast

Delivers relevant content through engaging audio storytelling and should appear on your media outlet’s ACP-member website.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

3G. Blog

Must reflect journalistic standards in topics, coverage and writing and should appear on your media outlet’s ACP-member website.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

4. Design of the Year

4A. Newspaper Front Page

First page featuring dynamic nameplate and compelling verbal and visual content.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member publication.

Submission: PDF file of printed page.

4B. Newspaper Page/Spread

Single-page or spread entries including news, sports, opinion, feature, photo or entertainment that are intended to be viewed without facing pages or two facing pages that together display a single verbal/visual story or a package of related content.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member publication.

Submission: PDF file of printed page(s).

4C. Magazine Cover

First page featuring dynamic nameplate and compelling verbal and visual content.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member publication.

Submission: PDF file of cover.

4D. Magazine Page/Spread

Single-page entries including news, sports, opinion, feature, photo or entertainment that are intended to be viewed without facing pages or two facing pages that together display a single verbal/visual story or a package of related content.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member publication.

Submission: PDF file of printed page(s).

4E. Yearbook Cover

Creative exterior packaging of the yearbook introducing its verbal and visual branding.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member publication.

Submission: PDF file of cover.

4F. Yearbook Page/Spread

Single-page or spread entries including student life, academics, people, organizations and sports that are intended to be viewed without facing pages or two facing pages that together display a single verbal/visual story or a package of related content.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member publication.

Submission: PDF file of printed page(s).

4G. Informational Graphic

Combines illustration and information in an easy-to-read presentation. Popular formats include factoids, lists, quizzes, bar charts, line charts, pie charts, tables, ratings, timelines, step-by-step guides, diagrams and maps.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page, do not submit both.

4H. Illustration

Art or photography used to illustrate a story. All elements must be the original work of the photographer/artists. If appropriate for accuracy, must be labeled as an illustration when published.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page, do not submit both.

5. Photo of the Year

5A. News/Breaking News Photo

Captures a timely visual story and displays news value and evidence of on-the-spot coverage.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: An image file (JPG, TIF, PNG) is required along with a caption; do not submit URL link or PDF file.

5B. Feature Photo

Delivers a human-interest story with the emphasis on people in their environment.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: An image file (JPG, TIF, PNG) is required along with a caption; do not submit URL link or PDF file.

5C. Sports Game/Action Photo

Captures the competitive action and emotion of athletes on school teams competing in games, matches and meets or in personal, non-team sports.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: JPG, TIF, PNG image files, do not submit PDF of page; caption required.

5D. Sports Feature Photo

Images communicate a story other than direct action on the playing field including human-interest sports stories such as profiles of sports figures.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: JPG, TIF, PNG image files, do not submit PDF of page; caption required.

5E. Environmental Portrait

Posed images of one or more individuals taken in their natural surrounds to provide insight into their work, interests or personality.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: JPG, TIF, PNG image files, do not submit PDF of page; caption required.

6. Cartoon of the Year

6A. Editorial Cartoon

Typically printed on the editorial page or other opinion pages and often communicates an opinion on a subject presented in an accompanying editorial or other timely topic in the news. GIFs or multimedia editorial cartoons are allowed in this category.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page, do not submit both.

6B. Comic Strip/Panel

Usually but not always humorous or light-hearted in its message, with a recurring theme or cast of characters. Comics are fictional and for entertainment. An installment of the comic strip counts as a separate entry.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page, do not submit both.

7. Advertisement of the Year

7A. Print Advertisement

Designed by student(s) for a client and published in a student media print publication.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: PDF file of printed page.

7B. Online Advertisement

Designed by student(s) for a client and published on a student media website.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

7C. Video Advertisement

Produced by student(s) for a client and aired on student media.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

7D. Audio Advertisement

Produced by student(s) for a client and aired on student media.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

7E. Newspaper Special Section/Advertising

A special advertising edition/section of the newspaper designed to generate revenue and provide sponsored feature content. Options include back-to-school, homecoming, orientation, welcome-back editions, holiday gift guides, fashion, housing guides and “best of” publications.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member newspaper.

Submission: PDF file of special section.

7F. Rate Card

Designed by student(s) for a student media operation.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet/

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file, do not submit both.

8. Best Use of Social Media

8A. Social Media Reporting

Coverage using social media platforms for reporting, updating and engaging with the collegiate community. Collect all social media examples using an online content curation tool or by capturing screen shots with links to create a portfolio.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link to portfolio or PDF portfolio, do not submit both.

8B. Social Media Promotion

Use of social media platforms for promoting traffic to an online site, broadcast or print news publication or to promote the sale of the yearbook. Collect all social media examples using an online content curation tool or by capturing screen shots with links to create a portfolio.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link to portfolio or PDF portfolio, do not submit both.

9. COVID-19 Coverage

NEW

9A. Broadcast: News or Features

Broadcast news or features reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on your student audience. The student press has a distinct perspective and role in covering the broad effects upon college communities while confronting the challenge of campus closures and remote interviewing.

Please do not put yourself or others in jeopardy of being infected with COVID-19 through your reporting.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

9B. Online: News or Features

Online news or features reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on your student audience. The student press has a distinct perspective and role in covering the broad effects upon college communities while confronting the challenge of campus closures and remote interviewing.

Please do not put yourself or others in jeopardy of being infected with COVID-19 through your reporting.

Images must be properly sourced and credited, and possible copyright violations will be disqualified. 

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

9C. Print: News or Features

Print news or features reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on your student audience. The student press has a distinct perspective and role in covering the broad effects upon college communities while confronting the challenge of campus closures and remote interviewing.

Please do not put yourself or others in jeopardy of being infected with COVID-19 through your reporting.

Images must be properly sourced and credited, and possible copyright violations will be disqualified. 

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: PDF file of printed page(s).

9D. Design/Visuals: Print or Digital

Design of a story package, page or spread showcasing COVID-19 coverage; also visuals, including photo illustrations, illustrations, informational/multimedia graphics and editorial cartoons.

Number of Entries: One entry per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link or PDF file of printed page(s), do not submit both.

10. Broadcast Story of the Year

NEW

10A. Broadcast News Story

Reporting on breaking news or an issue of importance to your audience that demonstrates strong news-gathering skills while delivering concise information.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

10B. Broadcast Feature Story

Personality profiles or human-interest general features.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

10C. Broadcast Sports Story

Coverage of past or present games or a seasonal summary, may also include profiles of sports personalities or human-interest sports features.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

10D. Broadcast Commentary

An editorial segment designed to inform and persuade an audience.

Number of Entries: Two entries per ACP-member media outlet.

Submission: Website URL link.

Best of Show

OPEN FALL 2020
DEADLINE: NOVEMBER 2020

MORE INFO
Fall 2020 Best of Show information,
including categories, deadlines and submission instructions.

RELATED | Fall 2019 awards | Spring 2020 awards

The Best of Show contest ranks the best student media represented at three ACP conventions:
Fall National High School Journalism Convention
Best of the Midwest College Journalism Convention
ACP/CMBAM College Journalism Convention

The Best of Show award does not signify a national ranking, but rather excellence among the entries represented at the convention. 

The next Best of Show competition will be offered at the ACP/CMA Fall National College Media Convention, presented virtually Oct. 22-24, 2020. Complete information will be provided on the convention website.