Why Entering the EWA Awards is Worth Your Time

Alvin Chang

Sure, it takes a little time to go through your clips and write up an entry letter for the Education Writers Association’s awards program. But veteran entrants say there’s potentially a big payoff to you personally—and the journalism profession overall.

“We get so beaten down by people who attack our work that you can lose perspective. Go ahead and enter!” urges David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press. Jesse won the 2018 award for Beat Reporting in a medium-sized newsroom, as well as the Moskowitz Prize for best overall beat reporting.

“Just the process of applying makes you go back over your clips for the year, so you realize you did some good stuff,” Jesse says. 

Alvin Chang of, who has submitted entries over the past few years, says reading through descriptions of previous finalists and winners helped him craft the entry that made him an EWA winner last year. He won the 2018 top prize for Visual Storytelling.

Getting named as a finalist—and especially, of course, as a winner—can offer a big boost to your career, winners say.

Jackie Valley of the Nevada Independent, 2018 winner for Features for small newsrooms and 2015 winner for Single Topic News or Feature for medium-sized newsrooms says her awards have raised her newsroom profile. Her editors “have given even me more trust because they know that I can execute,” she says.

Valley said the awards also have given her confidence to follow her gut instincts on stories. 

“Sometimes we feel pressured have to have a very detailed narrow scope for an investigative story,” she says. “But winning reminded me it is good to follow your passion and your gut instincts.”

Having your name on EWA’s website as a finalist or winner can also help you get interviews with sources, says Jesse. 

“Now, when I am looking for experts, they recognize my name a little bit. If they Google me, the award pops up. It implies that I know what I am doing.”

In addition, winning raises your profile among mentors who can further up your game, says Chang. “If you win, it gives you visibility so that other people reach out and let you know what other people are doing and how you could be doing better. It helped me get some really valuable comments from people who had done similar work in the past.”

Another important benefit: the cash prizes. The award for winning an EWA category prize is $1,000. And some top prizes pay more. Jesse won $1,000 for the best Beat Reporting for mid-sized newsrooms category, and another $2,500 for the Moskowitz Prize for best beat reporting overall.

Entering the National Awards for Education Reporting is a good exercise to remind yourself of the real importance of the work you’re doing and gives you a chance to advance your career.

 “I don’t think people should be scared to apply,” says Valley.