EWA National Awards for Education Reporting Tips for Applying
Entering a journalism awards contest may seem daunting and perhaps even presumptuous. But veteran journalists and honorees of the Education Writers Association’s National Awards for Education Reporting recommend several techniques to make the process easy and inspiring — and improve your chances of impressing the judges.
The most important tip is simply to enter. You can’t win if you don’t enter. And even if you don’t win, you’ll get your work in front of veteran journalists and editors who may be looking for new talent.
This advice was complied with the assistance of EWA judges Denise Zapata and David Jesse, who also won the 2018 Ronald Moskowitz Prize for Outstanding Beat Reporting.
Choosing which of your stories to submit:
- Set aside an hour or two to review all the stories you
produced in the last year. At the very least, reminding yourself
of pieces from many months ago may spark follow-up story ideas.
You should find it inspiring to see all the hard work and
terrific stories you did!
- Be selective in choosing which stories and story elements
(video, graphics, etc.) to include in an entry. More is not
always better. Don’t let one average piece hold down three really
great pieces. If a contest allows you to submit up to four
pieces, only send four if all are really good. If only three are,
- Screen for stories with compelling tops. If you used an
anecdotal lede, opt for pieces that grab the reader’s attention
and get to the point of the story fairly quickly.
- When submitting an entry on a topic that has received widespread coverage (such as the pandemic), look for pieces that offer fresh approaches or perspectives the judges are more likely to remember.
What to say in your cover letter:
- Highlight the impact of your work: If your story resulted in
new laws, criminal charges, or another significant action,
clearly and succinctly explain that impact in your cover
- But do not oversell your entry. Don’t claim you broke a story
if you did not, for example. Our judges tend to be veteran and
experienced education journalists, and Google is a handy
- Don’t assume the judges, who may not be familiar with your
community, know about your story or its context. Explain why the
topic was of interest to your particular readers.
- Avoid typos and grammatical mistakes. If possible, ask someone to copy edit your letter.