FAQ

MEMBERSHIP | CONTESTS | CRITIQUES | CONVENTIONS


MEMBERSHIP

How does one become a member of NSPA?
NSPA memberships are by publication, not by school or adviser. To become a member, fill out the membership form and send it to us along with your payment. We accept purchase orders, checks and credit cards (Visa/MasterCard/Discover/American Express). You may also register online.

What are the benefits of membership in NSPA?
Members earn reduced rates at our conventions, eligibility to enter our contests, copies of useful publications, access to educational resources, and more. A full list of membership benefits is available here.

What’s the difference between Level One and Level Two membership?
The only difference between the membership levels is that Level Two membership includes a publication critique, while Level One membership does not. More information about critiques and submitting your entry is available here.

When will I receive my membership packet?
Membership packets are sent out once a month by our staff. You should receive your packet within 2-4 weeks of paying for a new membership.

How can I find out if my publication is a member of NSPA, or when our membership expires?
You can check whether your publication is a member or when your membership expires using our online membership search.

I’m signing up for Level Two membership (with critique) now, but my critique entry will not be ready to send until later. How should I proceed?
Send in the form and payment now, but keep a photocopy of the membership/critique form. Once your entry is ready, send in the required copies of the publication along with the photocopy of the form. You’ll receive an email notification that your critique entry was received. Critique entries for a school year are due by the following Dec. 5 (i.e. critiques for 2014-15 school year are due Dec. 5, 2015).

Are there benefits to my junior high/middle school publication being a member of NSPA?
Yes, we offer separate categories in our Newspaper and Yearbook Pacemaker contests for junior high and middle school publications (meaning that they are judged against other junior high/middle school publications) as well as convention programming geared specifically toward middle school students and advisers. Memberships and critiques for these schools’ publications are available at reduced prices.

What about elementary school publications?
While elementary school publications can be NSPA members, they should also consider membership in the National Elementary Schools Press Association, which is not affiliated with NSPA.

My school isn’t in the United States, but we produce student publications in English. Can I still become a member?
Certainly. The only difference is that overseas members pay a $50 surcharge for shipping.


CONTESTS

How can I enter NSPA’s contests?
NSPA’s contests (excluding convention Best of Show contests) are free and open to all current members. If your publication has never been a member or its membership has expired as of the contest deadline, you will be alerted that your entry will not be judged unless payment for membership is received. For current contest information and entry forms, visit the awards page of our site. When submitting your entry, read the instructions carefully and be sure to include the required entry forms, other materials and payment, if necessary. Because there are limits on the number of entries in individual contests, NSPA recommends deciding as a staff which students’ works should be entered for the year.

Does entering the critique service automatically enter me for the Pacemaker?
No. Contest and critique entries are judged at separate times, in separate places, by different judges. Newspapers should be especially careful to include the correct issues when submitting both a critique and Pacemaker entry, as the requirements are different. (Note: Yearbook staffs who have submitted for a critique may not need to send an additional copy of their book to be considered for Pacemaker, but they are not automatically entered without sending in the form and, if necessary, updating membership.)

Can I enter my school’s news, feature, or specialty magazine in the Magazine Pacemaker contest?
The NSPA Magazine Pacemaker is for literary arts publications only. News and other magazines are encouraged to enter the NSPA Newspaper Pacemaker contest in the spring.

I’m looking for information about Crowns, Write-off Awards, etc.
You can find information on the contests and awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (including Crown and Circle awards) on CSPA’s website. The Journalism Education Association works with us at national conventions, and you can find information about Write-off and other JEA awards on JEA’s website.

I entered one of your contests. How will I know if we’ve won?
NSPA makes the results of contests available as soon as possible by posting them on our website immediately once they are announced. When Pacemaker finalists are announced, all members receive an email with a link to the results on our website, and results are also shared on social media. Convention Best of Show results and other awards announced at conventions are usually available from our website within hours of the close of the awards ceremony.

If I entered a contest and didn’t win, how can I be sure my entry was received?
NSPA sends confirmation emails as soon as contest entries are processed. If you received the email, your publication was entered. If you do not receive this email, please send a message to contests@studentpress.org.

Who judges NSPA’s contests?
Judges are journalists or other professionals with media-related job experience and knowledge, sometimes from news organizations that co-sponsor a competition. They review the entries and decide the winners independently of NSPA. Staff members of NSPA provide general written guidelines to judges, but they do not have any other input or influence in the judging process.

I saw the entry forms (or results) from the Newspaper Pacemaker contests recently – where are the forms/results for yearbooks and magazines (or vice versa)?
The Pacemaker contest happens at different times of year for different media, so forms may not yet be available for your publication. Newspapers and broadcast programs enter in the spring, with winners announced at the fall convention. Yearbooks, magazines and online publications enter the Pacemaker in the winter, and the winners are announced at the spring convention. Any forms available now will be accessible on our awards page.

I’ve won an award from NSPA and I won’t be at the convention to collect it. What will happen to my award certificate, plaque and/or trophy?
We will ship any unclaimed awards to the school within a few weeks of the end of the convention, but not in advance of it.

I want to find out if my publication won a Pacemaker award in a year before 1993 or 1995, and it isn’t on your website. Can I find out?
Probably. Ask us – our database has Pacemaker information going back to 1960. Information about individual contest winners is not as readily available but can be researched if we are given enough lead time.


CRITIQUES

How can I get my publication critiqued?
NSPA offers a critique service for newspapers, yearbooks, newsmagazines, literary magazines, feature magazines and websites. To submit your publication for a critique, you must have a Level Two membership. Once your publication is ready to enter (usually at the end of the school year or in the first weeks of school for fall-delivery yearbooks), send the required issues of your newspaper or one copy of your yearbook or magazine along with a completed critique form and any necessary payment. Even if you sent the form earlier, include a photocopy with your entry. When your entry is processed, you’ll receive a confirmation email.

The deadline for critique entries is always Dec. 5 for publications from the previous school year. (For example, to have a critique of your 2014-15 newspaper, the issues need to be submitted by Dec. 5, 2015.)

Can I send in some of our most recent issues of the newspaper to be critiqued along with those from last school year?
No, submitted issues must be from a single school year – three from before Jan. 31 of that school year and three from after. The submission should reflect the work of one staff over the course of the school year.

What’s the difference between a contest and a critique (or between a Pacemaker and an All-American/First Class rating)?
The Pacemaker and other contests are annual competitions in which hundreds of publications are judged to identify finalists and winners. The contests include no feedback or recommendations for any publication, while the critique service serves that primary purpose. Entering the critique ensures your publication staff personalized feedback from a professional journalist, experienced media adviser, or other media professional who serves on NSPA’s board of judges. Publications receive a rating based on their work. Critique ratings are Third Class through All American.

Any publication with a Level One membership may enter the contests, but a Level Two membership is necessary for a critique.

Does entering the critique service automatically enter me for the Pacemaker?
No. Contest and critique entries are judged at separate times, in separate places, by different judges. Newspapers should be especially careful to include the correct issues when submitting both a critique and Pacemaker entry, as the requirements are different. (Note: Yearbook staffs who have submitted for a critique may not need to send an additional copy of their book to be considered for Pacemaker, but they are not automatically entered without sending in the form and, if necessary, updating membership.)

Do you offer critiques of online publications?
NSPA began offering website critiques in 2009. Publications with a website produced by the same staff as their print publication can receive a website critique in addition to their print publication critique for an additional $80. Online-only publications (or print publication staffs that wish to receive only a web critique) can receive a website critique as part of their Level Two membership.

Do you offer critiques of broadcast programs?
NSPA does not yet offer critiques for broadcast media, although we do have Broadcast Pacemaker and Broadcast Story of the Year contests. Entries for these contests are due in June and winners are announced at the fall convention.

What is a supercritique?
If you order a supercritique, your judge will write comments on your publication itself as well as comprehensive feedback in the critique scoresheet. Only publications who have a current Level Two membership may choose this option. We also request two copies of your entry if you are a yearbook staff/adviser requesting a supercritique AND submitting to the Yearbook Pacemaker contest.

I’m submitting my publication for critique and I want to make sure the judge knows about our special circumstances, or that a particular problem/defect was caused by circumstances beyond our control. How can I do that?
You or a member of your staff is welcome to include a letter describing your special circumstances to make the judge aware of these issues. Include the letter along with your critique entry.

I submitted my critique on (any date). Where is it?
If you received a confirmation email that your critique entry was received, it is in the process of being evaluated. Critiques first wait at our office until a judge becomes available, then are shipped to the judge, and then shipped back to our office for review. Please allow 8-10 weeks for a competed critique. In special circumstances, this process may take up to 16 weeks. If you didn’t receive the confirmation email or it has been longer than the time indicated, contact our critique coordinator.

I’m not satisfied with the critique I received. What are my options?
If you’re happy with the content of the critique but displeased with the rating awarded, you may submit the critique, your publication, and $80 to cover the cost of a recritique. Any recritique rating will replace the original rating, regardless of whether it is higher or lower.

We check all critiques for thoroughness and professionalism before they’re returned, but in the event you feel otherwise, send a letter to our critique coordinator describing the specific issues you find problematic about the critique. NSPA will review the critique, and in the event we, too, find it insufficient, your publication will be recritiqued by another judge at no cost to you. Otherwise, $80 would be required to cover the cost of a second critique.


CONVENTIONS

When can I get information about (any convention)?
A full registration booklet or brochure (with all the necessary forms) is mailed to members and past attendees about 2-3 months before the convention. For our largest national conventions (held in conjunction with the Journalism Education Association), a smaller promotional brochure with hotel reservation forms is also made available 9-12 months in advance of the convention. You can always find these brochures on our website in PDF format on our events page.

Can I still register online even if I don’t intend to pay with a credit card?
Yes. If you need to pay with a purchase order, just mail or fax the purchase order with a copy of the confirmation printed from your browser when your online registration is completed. If you wish to pay with a check, mail the check with a copy of your confirmation. The online registration form asks for check and purchase order numbers in the Payment section; if you don’t yet have this information, you may leave it blank. Keep in mind that the registrant, by completing the form, is responsible for full and prompt payment of all registration fees.

Can I still register online if my registration (and payment) needs to go through our business office?
The most common cause of registrations not being received by NSPA in time for the convention is that they are sent directly to the school district’s accounting department for processing rather than directly to NSPA. By registering online first, then forwarding the email confirmation (which contains a link to an online version of the registration confirmation and invoice) to your accounting department for processing and payment, you can bypass the administrative red tape and be sure we have your information before the convention. Registering online is always the best way to ensure a trouble-free registration and check-in process. For recent conventions, about 95 percent of pre-registered delegates have been registered online.

How can I find a complete schedule for (any upcoming convention) with detailed session descriptions, times and locations?
About 1-3 weeks before most conventions, a complete program will be available for download from our website. If it’s important that you obtain documentation of what an upcoming convention will be like (for your administration or business office, for example), contact us and we may be able to provide a PDF of a previous year’s convention program that you might find useful, keeping in mind that all convention content is subject to change from one year to the next.

How can I be considered to speak or present a session at one of your conventions?
If you’re interested in speaking or presenting at the spring or fall National High School Journalism Convention, contact the Journalism Education Association, which accepts speaker proposals for those conventions. To be considered as a speaker at our annual summer journalism workshops or other NSPA conventions, contact us.

How can I arrange for an exhibit booth or find out about other opportunities to promote our product or service at one of your conventions?
NSPA has several opportunities for sponsorship, exhibiting or advertising in conjunction with our conventions, which are among the largest gatherings of student journalists and publication advisers anywhere in the world. Visit our sponsorship page for more details.