Never again?

Two months since we started The CCC Awards…

…and 238 student media outlets submitted 995 entries containing 1,574 pieces of content. So did interns at 20 pro outlets, ranging from The Washington Post to New York Times to USA Today.

Since I predicted 50 entries a week and instead we averaged 140, I’d say The CCC Awards were a success. But we never want to do it again. Or to be more specific, we hope there’s no reason to ever repeat it.

Overall, 20,681 unique visitors clicked through this website 47,936 times. SPJ has decided to maintain it, and we’re offering our database of entries (with contact info removed) to those conducting research, now or in the future.

I think it’s safe to say The CCC Awards database is the most comprehensive and representative accounting of how college media covered this awful pandemic. Because the contest was both free and weekly, you can chart the coverage by day, from the Ivy League to community colleges. Even more revealing, 87 percent of entries came with comments detailing the authors’ process and motivation.

If you or someone you know wants access, email me.

Finally, The CCC Awards were notable for two more things, one more important than the other. First, this was the first time five media organizations worked together – SPJ, ACP, CBI, SND, and FIRE. I hope it’s not the last.

Second, The CCC Awards were about content, not categories. Whether it was broadcast or podcast, social or digital, radio or words, the judges only considered if the work was good. I’ve heard some accurate criticism on this point, but I think it was worth trying. Our readers, listeners, and viewers don’t think  about good content in categories, so why should we?


WOW

Meet the “winners of the winners.”

We asked our rotating cast of judges – 11 in all – to choose the best entries from among all their weekly winners.

For the past two months, trios of those judges perused each week’s entries and amiably bickered on Sunday night calls that could last well over an hour. This past Sunday night, it ended in mere minutes. There was simply no debate who wowed them.

Turns out those WOWs were as geographically diverse as their content, which included investigations from a broadcast outlet, a column from a newspaper, and a video posted to Facebook…


WUFT

One college media outlet dominated The CCC Awards. And four women – Dana CassidyAngela DiMicheleKarina Elwood, and Tobie Nell Perkins – dominated the COVID-19 coverage at WUFT, the public radio and TV station based in the j-school at the University of Florida.

Thanks to them, WUFT broke news that was picked up by statewide and national media. One of our pro judges (an editor in the DC area) thought one of their ideas was so good, he used it when his newsroom worked on a similar story.


Lily Lamadrid

Let me count the days

The Portland State University student wrote about her experiences dating in the coronavirus era, and more than one judge said it was the best writing among more than 1,500 pieces of content submitted to The CCC Awards. Gushed one judge, a newspaper reporter…

I couldn’t stop reading it, and I liked it so much I texted it to my friends so we could discuss it further. It’s an excellent blend of personal essay and information sharing, and it’s one of the few coronavirus stories I’ve read that’s left me feeling hopeful. I’m so impressed.


Amanda Siew

Siew is an international student at the University of Central Oklahoma who headed home to Malaysia to wait out the pandemic with family. One judge, a broadcaster currently covering COVID-19 herself, said of Siew’s individual effort…

It’s not easy being the subject of your own story, let alone having to produce it as a video story that presents all kinds of challenges. And add to that Siew’s forced confinement, and that presents challenges even a veteran journalist would find daunting. Siew has produced a compelling video, and her Twitter feed updates as she made her way through the airport were both enlightening and equally compelling.


What they win: Each student mentioned above gets a free one-year subscription to whatever publication they want. They deserve so much more.


WEEK 7 WINNERS

The last was vast.

The final round of weekly winners ranges from a column about lesbian dating during a shutdown, a pair of news stories about Asian racism and refugee struggles, a rigorous data visualization project, and a half-hour newscast featuring a macaroni-and-cheese recipe and some terrible singing.

Next week, our 11 rotating judges will select the Winners of the Winners – their favorite entries from all seven weeks of The CCC Awards. Those WOWs will receive a free subscription to whatever publication they choose.


Lily Lamadrid, PSU Vanguard

Let me count the days

Lamadrid, a student at Portland State University, isn’t the first or even fifth columnist to submit an entry about the hassles of dating while social distancing. But judges deemed it the best, saying. “It offered a unique perspective while being breathtakingly mesmerizing.”

Interestingly, Lamadrid is dating a woman named Lily, and they’ve decided…

I will change my first name’s spelling to hers, and she will take my last name. She will become Mrs. Lillie Lamadrid and I will become Mrs. Lillie Lamadrid. These are not daydreams, but certainties.

Concluded judges: “The piece mixed in general information and context about pandemic online dating, but it was Lily and Lillie who grabbed our attention.”


Peter Senzamici and Laila Maiden, New York City News Service

Judges combined two separate entries from the same amazing news service that runs out of the j-school at the City University of New York. The first is a story that ran on a site called Streetsblog, the second is a news service video, but both are tight.

In 1,200 words, Peter Senzamici interviews a doctor, business leader, and politician while citing stats from multiple sources.  And in just over two minutes, Laila Maiden wasted literally not a second interviewing three refugee experts – while she was at home.


The Red Line Project staff

Our lead judge, who’s a masochist and has been one of our trio of judges since the beginning, called this “the best data presentation we have seen.” He added, “It’s extraordinary the way the data is presented.” What impressed other judges was the multitude of ways that data was presented: animations, charts, maps, and infographics, all punctuated with multi-sourced reporting.

“The coverage was very good, but the data visualization was what made this entry shine,” they concluded.


WVU News staff

Spring 2020 – Episode 4

Our judges have watched a lot of newscasts over the past seven weeks. This was one from West Virginia University was among their favorites, partly because it was the most fun. Yes, fun in a time of tragedy. Check out the mac-and-cheese cooking-show segment and the very awful (in almost a good way) cover of  “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by a succession  of alumni sheltering at home.

“It was heartwarming to feel the connection of alums singing together, but apart,” judges said. “There is great spirit and commitment throughout this newscast.”


NEXT WEEK: The Winners of the Winners.


WEEK 6 WINNERS

The Empire State strikes back.

Both winners and one honorable mention are from New York. Coincidence or conspiracy? Neither, since none of our rotating trio of judges live there, although one grew up there. It’s just how those judges ranked the 84 entries they received last week.


Shannon Miller, The Pioneer

LIU to Receive $7 Million Stimulus After Layoffs and No Refunds

Miller is the co-EIC of the paper at Long Island University Post, and her investigation earned the ultimate sign of journalistic respect: Pro journalists couldn’t figure out how she did it.

She says the story “caught the attention of ABC News, which contacted me to confirm how I found the bailout/stimulus information, and asked if I could connect them with resident students who were looking for refunds. They put together a news package, along with a digital story covering the news.”

What happened next is sadly familiar to many college journalists:  “The school responded to ABC with a statement – however, they never responded to me.” Still, Miller won because the school refunded money it had refused to pay.

Said one judge…

Her university wasn’t giving information, so she went out and got it. It’s immensely valuable to students and families who were also in the dark about a topic that affects all of their lives. Even if their university wouldn’t give them the professional courtesy of a response, the local outlet that followed up had to go to the author and ask about her sourcing, then credited them in their story. That’s a big win.

Added another: “When the school caved and gave refunds, it was only because of The Pioneer’s pioneering work on this issue.”

Ithaca College Television

Remote Newscast 4/29

Nothing is harder to watch than an awkward TV news anchor. Nothing is easier to watch than a natural one.

“Kristen Mirand might be the most refined anchor we’ve seen on any college newscast,” said our lead judge, who’s been among our rotating trio since the beginning. “She’s prepared and comfortable, displaying a truly natural presence.”

Indeed, Mirand seems as comfortable in her living room as other anchors do in a studio. But it wasn’t all about her.

“It’s very obvious this staff learned to adapt to a new working environment and seems to be doing it with ease,” said another judge. “This is an impressive amount of reporting. I’ve reviewed other broadcast pieces that were nowhere near as informative. This news staff doesn’t B.S., keeps the show short, and does their jobs.”


NY City News Service

“Sometimes, letting a source speak – and standing aside – is the best way to tell a story and capture the person’s thinking,” judges said. But not always…

All three pieces give us insight into how people are coping. But the videographers in the two feature pieces don’t stand and observe. They move through each person’s life with them. The second piece about financial-services employee Maria Chambers was superb and had the feel of a short film, with a wonderful opening and closing – literally.

The other two pieces – a video and audio slideshow – from students at CUNY’s j-school reveal the lives of a young Brooklyn data manager with two roommates and a Bronx ER worker who’s recovering from COVID-19.


Carson TerBush and Vivek Rao, Indiana Daily Student

Pandemic playbook: How UITS took IU online

All three judges loved the lede: “If you watched recordings of all the IU-affiliated Zoom calls from March 9, it would take eight months of nonstop streaming. If you watched all the calls from March 30, the first day of online class after the novel coronavirus outbreak forced IU’s classes online for the duration of the spring semester, it would take four years.”

Judges said…

This story is packed full of beautifully presented information. Not only does it use data to tell stories in a way that I would say is uncommon for many college media outlets, but includes a narrative that puts that data into context.

Added one judge: “The highest praise I can give this article is that as a professional journalist, I’m going to go to work tomorrow and start collecting similar data to recreate this story for my community.”


Julia Arwine, Abby Bammerlin, Hannah Horsington, The Miami Student Magazine

The unfolding of a global pandemic

“We began this story before we knew how it would end,” Arwine told judges. The news editor for the magazine at Miami University of Ohio was handed the semester’s cover story but was clear about sharing credit…

My fellow reporters Abby Bammerlin and Hannah Horsington helped me to balance interviews and research with the upheaval we were all experiencing. I wrote the story, but could not have done it without their help. Together, we gathered student, teacher and administrative perspectives to capture the sense of disruption this pandemic has caused and talk about it on a deeper level than a traditional news article would allow for.

The judges were impressed with the entire package. “The writing and editing are sharp, and the presentation is enhanced with timeline graphics,” one said. “This was a good read, in the style of a tick-tock piece after the first few news cycles after a major event. It has a nice range of voices, including an opening source who can tie Miami of Ohio to Wuhan, the ground zero of COVID-19.”


Your last chance to enter The CCC Awards is this Friday at 11:59:59 p.m. in whatever time zone you’re sheltering in.




DESIGN WINNERS WEEKS 3-5

We’ve combined designs.

Most design entries have done something good, but none have excelled at everything.

And it’s probably our fault. Reporting and writing are difficult enough while sheltering at home hundreds or even thousands of miles from campus. Trying to meet our tough design requirements might be impossible.

The problem is that award-winning design isn’t just pretty or newsy. It’s both. The Society for News Design, which judges these entries, chooses each winner based on “how well it accomplishes its editorial and design objectives.”

That’s separate from purely visual excellence, which we’ve recognized before.

So we’re combining three weeks worth of entries and splitting each winner between two media outlets – because if we could merge their efforts, they’d be downright stunning. If that doesn’t make sense, we explain below.

The Red & Black staff

April 23, 2020 Special Issue

Kunal Mehta and Marci Suela, Spartan Daily

Vol. 154, April 23, 2020

Several college newspapers have published special COVID-19 print editions, which were available on Issuu. Page for page, perhaps none is cleaner and better than The Red & Black’s April 23 edition for its University of Georgia audience.

Coincidentally, that’s the same day the Spartan Daily did the same for its readers at San Jose State University. But here’s the challenge: If you’re going to essentially print a traditional newspaper online, you need to squeeze the only advantage newsprint still has. Namely, the sheer size of the canvas.

The Red & Black’s special edition starts strong with an illustrated cover that artistically captures social distancing, and each page is constructed at a pro level. But most of those inside pages resemble each other, and the photos, illustrations, and graphics would be just as easily consumed in more contemporary online formats.

What The Red & Black needed was some of what the Spartan Daily has done.

Check out the full-page infographic written by Kunal Mehta and designed by Marci Suela. Work like that will keep newsprint relevant, simply because it’s (not yet) easily transported to a phone or even a laptop. If print survives, it’ll need more of both The Red & Black and Spartan Daily.


Ben Korn and Lizzy Rueppel, The Michigan Daily

While in quarantine, here’s what University of Michigan Professors recommend

Kristen Grau, University Press Online

How many college students and faculty in Florida have had COVID-19?

University of Michigan writer Ben Korn said exactly what journalism judges love to hear, especially after they’ve reviewed dozens of nearly identical entries for the past three weeks: “We approached this project differently then we would a typical news story.”

Crediting “amazing graphic designer” Lizzy Rueppel, Korn explained…

We were inspired to make “Spotify profile” cards for each professor, reminiscent of how students actually use their music. Then we rolled the project out over social media, highlighting a few professors “profile cards” each day and directing readers to see the full list on our website.

It was hands-down the best social-media design we’ve seen in weeks. But what if that pro-level design was matched with powerful news reporting instead of book recommendations from professors? At Florida Atlantic University, Kristen Grau used Instagram – and only Instagram – to show how inconsistent (and frankly sketchy) Florida’s public universities have been about reporting COVID-19 cases.

“I hope Florida students and faculty view the case numbers and their student population with skepticism and push for more transparency,” Grau told judges. “It’s important to release these numbers and keep digging for this information.”

If Michigan and FAU ever joined forces, they’d own collegiate journalism on Instagram. That might sound like so-what praise, but journalism needs to go where the people are, and there are more than 120 million Instagram users in this country.


Your last chance to enter The CCC Awards is this Friday at 11:59:59 p.m. in whatever time zone you’re sheltering in.



 


3 weeks to go…

…but only two to enter.

The CCC Awards are almost over. They’ll end when the school year does, which is mid-May for most students.

So this week and next are your last chances to enter – but not your last chance to win.

After we announce the final round of weekly winners on Tuesday, May 12, we’ll reconvene all of our past judges and choose the Winners of Winners.

Those judges will take a fresh look at all the old winners and choose the most outstanding coverage of this terrible pandemic. These WOWs will each receive a free yearly subscription to any publication they choose – be it The New York Times or Furniture Today Magazine (which, weirdly, costs $20 more per year).

So enter now. The next-to-last deadline is this Friday at 11:59:59 p.m. in whatever time zone you’re sheltering in.



 


WEEK 5 WINNERS

Yale, Northwestern…and a tweet?

This week’s winners were wide-ranging – from Iowa to Florida, using podcasts and Twitter, and speaking in Spanish and Mandarin. The CCC Awards might be more than a month old, but the judges are still surprised by the quality and quantity (109 last week) of the entries.


The Daily Northwestern

While all three parts impressed the judges, click the first link above to hear their favorite podcast of this entire contest. Hands down, it was the most-lauded submission of the week and a contender for best of the entire CCC Awards. The art was enticing, too – it’s the image above.

Declared one judge…

The podcast had a lot going for it – the depth and vulnerability of the interviews, good writing, production value, and at 12 minutes, it was tight! Too many podcasts mistake length for depth, but this one showed that good reporting, scripting and editing are more important.

Gushed another: “I want NPR to pick this up.”


Charlotte Zimmer, Yale Daily News

As impressed as our rotating cast of judges have been, they’ve lamented a lack of “strong, knowledgeable science writing” – which is odd when you consider how much medical research happens at our universities.

Then they read Zimmer’s trio of stories and called them “interesting and potentially highly significant.” Here’s how Zimmer describes one of them…

I got wind of a study on COVID-19 saliva testing at Yale, and after talking to the lead author and a couple other researchers, as well as looking up a bunch of information on the CDC website, I was able to put together a story that I believe captures the promise of this new study as well as its incredible implications. And I was able to get the article published just 12 hours after the preprint of the paper was released online. During my sourcing, the more I learned about this research, the more passionate I became about it.

That passion come through on all three stories.


Amanda Siew

Siew is an international student at the University of Central Oklahoma who headed home to Malaysia to wait out the pandemic with family. Judges said of her individual effort…

Very enterprising to turn this stressful experience into a first-person news story so that viewers and readers can feel what it’s like to go through a government-mandated quarantine. Working in isolation, she had to write, edit, and shoot the video, which offered an inside view into her hotel room and her confined daily life for almost two weeks. The innovative and effective use of the Twitter thread to document each step of the quarantine process made this a unique and memorable package.


UCF Knightly Latino – NSM TODAY

The University of Central Florida represents the state that’s won the most CCC Awards (along with Florida International University and multiple weeks from the University of Florida). Judges were impressed by the detailed teamwork evident in the results..

Impressive breadth and depth of coverage of the COVID-19 crisis in Spanish-speaking countries that impacts UCF students. There was so much collective work done on this podcast in different countries and under challenging circumstances. The Spanish segment is an important piece, too, of this excellent package.


The Daily Iowan

Every week, the judges –and remember, they rotate – reward breadth of coverage. This was exactly that.

“I just love the variety of the topics, the quality of the writing, and the depth of the reporting,” one judge declared. “It ranged from serious to light, but all three felt unique.”

Still, the judges said one stood out: “We particularly enjoyed the piece about the new normal for these musicians. This was a new, compelling angle.” Still, the broadcaster among the judges added, “I was screaming for the piano story to be a video. But maybe next time.”


Because our judges never listen to the rules set forth by their contest director – which is me, and I get no respect – our latest rotating trio decided to give a special honorable mention to a single  media outlet at one school doing three different things…

Temple Update

天普时刻 Temple Moment

Lo Último

Lo Último Noticias Breves | Abril 23, 2020

Each of these three Temple University outlets entered separately, but our judges decided to package them together. Why? Because they’re all admittedly awesome – a newscast in English, another in Mandarin, and a third in Spanish. How often does that happen?

“Temple University’s broadcast crew has done an excellent job reworking what they were used to doing into something new,” our judges said. “The five-minute newscast works well. We were impressed by the ambition and execution to broadcast in Spanish and in Mandarin.”

I’m fairly certain the English-speaking Temple Update team is speaking for their counterparts when they told us, “We created these shows and will continue to create these shows because we value journalism, our audience, and our work.”


The next deadline for The CCC Awards is Friday at 11:59:59 p.m.




BROADCAST WINNERS

Let’s air an on-air grievance.

On Monday, the general manager of a student TV station emailed me…

What’s the criterion used for judging entries from campus television stations, especially when the students have to work from home? Seems like the winners chosen have been predominantly those from print/online journalism.

I told him there’s no criterion. Each week, our rotating trio of judges choose the content they deem best. (Interestingly, two of last week’s judges have been pro broadcasters – for ESPN and CNN – yet they chose no broadcast winners.)

Still, our judges are keenly aware of the extra hardships broadcasters face. So they decided, and I wholeheartedly agreed, that we should bestow some monthly awards to plug the broadcast gaps we’ve left – today being The CCC Awards one-month anniversary. In their own words…

The judges were very much impressed with the ability of broadcast journalist to almost instantly remake what they do and how they do it. And they’ve done it in smart and resourceful ways. Many rely on anchors and reporters giving their reports from a room in their home. It’s different, but it’s worked.

…so they’ve chosen the following for special recognition.


Newscasts

What the judges said about the Northwestern News Network – “the staff has expertly adapted and puts together a strong, smooth newscast” – is almost identical to what they’ve said about The Southeastern Channel (Southeastern Louisiana University) and Cronkite News (Arizona State University).

“They’ve been consistently good every week,” they said about The Southeastern Channel. “Very consistently professional,” they said about Cronkite News. And we won’t even tell you who they were talking about here: “The stories, the story choices, the diversity, the mix — all were excellent.” Because really, it’s all three.

It’s a chore to assemble a 15-to-30-minute newscast in a studio under optimal conditions. These three student stations haven’t just figured out how to make it work during a pandemic, they’ve excelled at it.


Audio

F Newsmagazine, When this is over

This is a hard entry to describe, but the judges gave it a shot…

It’s like a radio piece, but it’s labeled “audio collage.” It an array of snippets of what people plan to do when the health crisis is over. They’re interesting and make for a good compilation. But the piece is even better because as the clips play, you can scroll through to read their words at the same time – with some lightly pulsing graphics.

My short take: It’s great audio that looks good.


Newscasts

Just to end where we began, here are three more newscasts worth watching. They refuse to let a shutdown shut them down. They’ve tossed out the old rules and written new ones. It can get rough at times, but they make no excuses and take no prisoners.

One weekly judge – a broadcaster for two decades – remarked she was humbled, wondering if she could’ve pulled together regular newscasts under these conditions back when she was a student. “I don’t know,” she said on one of our regular Sunday night phone calls. “I just don’t know.”


The next deadline for The CCC Awards is Friday at 11:59:59 p.m.



 

 


VISUAL WINNERS

“Funny, campy, corny, and refreshing.”

That’s how judges described some of the entries we’re lauding here today. They didn’t win when they were first submitted, but they’re winning now. Why? Because after a month of these weekly awards, it’s time to reward sheer originality and creativity.


Xena Peterson, California State University

PANDEMIC: Sick with Vain – a Portrait on Society

It’s not journalism, but so what? So what is it? Peterson is a senior majoring in film production and minoring in art at California State University, Northridge. Here’s how she describes the fashion photos atop this post…

Despite the pandemic’s exponential severity, many of us are too acclimated in our lives to give up our privileges for the sake of others. In these portraits, a medical mask is donned as merely an accessory rather than for protection – a metaphor to convey that we, as a society, are sick with vain.


‍Reilly Branson, F Newsmagazine

Comics page

Branson has the rarest of college media titles: comics editor. His self-described “motley crew” of artists are students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. And while all are talented, Branson shows the most wit and range. He even designed the gif at the top of the comics page.

In true editorial cartoonist tradition, Branson’s frames alternate between inappropriately amusing and depressingly droll. It’s a testament to his brains as well as his hands that he can produce a steady stream of coronavirus comics at such a high level.


KBVR-TV staff

The staff at Oregon State University’s TV station is going a little stir crazy, admits broadcast coordinator Steven Sandberg, who submitted these entries.

“Entertainment show ‘Geeking Out About It’ are quarantined together in one house, so they are using anything they can to provide some laughs using homemade sets and skits,” he says.  “And Locals Live, which is normally a live music studio performance show, is getting creative in what can create music.”

What does that mean? In the first case, some skeptical “vlogging” that begins like this: “Do you have anything you want to say to the people at home?” “No.” “Cool, all right.”

Then it’s a weird minute and 42 seconds of watching a guy make music with celery. “The celery song was catchy,” one judge said. “I was singing along.”


Bethany Johnson, Empire State Tribune

On the Streets of New York: COVID-19 Gallery

The King’s College student lives in New York City and has taken some empty, creepy black-and-white photos. They were submitted by Susanna Loe from the school’s journalism program, who quite accurately describes them like this…

“Bethany captures an incredibly unique consequence of the current pandemic: The United State’s largest and most densely populated city has become a ghost town. Bethany uses her photojournalistic skill to convey a dramatic message to us from the eye of the storm.

It’s the opposite of musical vegetables, but no less creative.


Ball State Daily News staff

Daily Dining

One judge adored this, calling it “way cool.” Even thought it’s just a ramen noodle recipe. But it’s particularly well done.

“It’s a mini-cooking show on Facebook. The only episode so far is how to enhance ramen,” the judge said. “Look what you can make with ingredients around the house as you’re in seclusion.”


The next deadline for The CCC Awards is Friday at 11:59:59 p.m.



 


WEEK 4 WINNERS

“Wow.”

That was the verdict from one judge about a column and another judge about a feature package. Their surprise surprised me, because now that The CCC Awards are exactly one month old, I expected submissions to get stale. After all, how many ways can you cover COVID-19 from home?

According to our trio of judges, a lot. The entries are getting better, even as they’re getting fewer. We received 90 this week, compared to 114 the week before and 178 the week before that.


Shrishti Mathew, The NewsHouse

Fleeing in fear, landing in chaos

This isn’t the first column we’ve seen from a foreign student suddenly forced to figure out what to do next. But where it goes from there is novel. And it’s written like a novel.

“Wow, the language was so beautiful, I felt every emotion,” said one judge about Mathew’s flight from Syracuse to her home in Chennai, India. “The graphic was great – so jarring and fitting with the story.” That illustration is atop this post.

“This was supposed to be my ticket to a better life, to a good career,” Mathew wrote to judges. “And now it’s crashed down on me. Yet, I’m one of the lucky ones.” Her readers are, too.


staff, South Florida Media Network

Pandemic Profiles

Another judge’s wow was uttered upon reading this collection of 34 profiles tied together with an interactive map, compiled by students at Florida International University. Once again, this concept isn’t new to our rotating panel of judges. In fact, the nearby University of Miami won an honorable mention a couple weeks ago for something similar.

But in another sign that the shutdown is limiting story ideas but expanding their execution, this impressive package includes interviews with a pregnant nurse in South Florida to a transgender activist in Lima, Peru. A half-dozen include audio, and the subjects range in age from 20 to 65, living from Brooklyn to Prague, working in construction and teaching ethics. The only thing they all have in common is this awful pandemic.


Madeleine Romance, The Heights

With Federal Funds Depleted, BC Says it Won’t Pay Students Unable to Work

Romance is only a sophomore at Boston College, but as associate news editor at her student newspaper, she’s already proving fearless.

When Romance dove deep into several mysterious decisions her school has made regarding student pay – and how other nearby schools are doing more for their student employees – she got stonewalled…

  • “Representatives from Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, could not answer questions.”
  • “BC’s Office of Financial Aid did not respond to several calls and email requests.”
  • “After his initial response to The Heights, Pekala was unable to be reached for more information.”

…but she still wrote 2,500 words that judges called “outstanding and in-depth reporting with context on a vital, even existential issue, for many students, both at BC and across the country.”


Olivia Tucker, Yale Daily News

Faculty navigate balancing academics with child care

Last week, the Yale Daily News submitted 13 stories. That alone impressed judges, but this one moved them most. Again, the topic has been done before. But not quite this well. Judges admired the level of detail Tucker got. Here’s how it begins…

Shiri Goren and her family begin every day in quarantine by writing on a mirror, charting each family member’s responsibilities for the day in dry erase marker. The schedule is color-coded: red for 11-year-old Alma, blue for eight-year-old Mika, black for Goren — the director of Yale’s Modern Hebrew Program — and green for her partner.

Tucker says her goal was to “amplify the voices of professors who are struggling to teach during this pandemic, sometimes just as much as their students are struggling to learn.” Amplification complete.


Andy Blye and Jill Ryan, Arizona Republic

For those struggling with addiction, social isolation can bring a greater risk

Blye and Ryan are taking an investigative journalism class at Arizona State University. When they decided to report on COVID-19’s impact on addiction counseling, they faced two challenges: They couldn’t leave their apartments, and neither of them (thankfully) knew much about addiction.

“Andy and I had never really been exposed to the recovery community before,” Ryan says. “We called centers, recovery houses, and navigated social media in order to produce the article. We learned to quickly and sensitively find people willing to share their stories about recovery and addiction.”

Blye and Ryan were fast studies, and their story got picked up by their local Gannett newspaper. Judges called it “vigorously reported, well-sourced, and personalizing an under-appreciated outgrowth of pandemic lock-downs.”


staff, The GW Hatchet

Ending on the theme we began with: The student newspaper of the George Washington University isn’t the first to cover dedicated employees sacrificing their own health to help others. And The GW Hatchet isn’t the first to create a section that gathers uplifting stories of community support. But wow, they’re doing it so well.


The next deadline for The CCC Awards is Friday at 11:59:59 p.m.



 


WEEK 3 WINNERS

This looks suspicious…

How can students from a single broadcast outlet rank among the winners for all three weeks of The CCC Awards? Is the fix in for WUFT at the University of Florida?

It’s downright dubious when you realize the contest director  – me – went there and worked there.

But here’s the thing: I’m not a judge, none of the judges have even been to UF, and two of our three judges rotate each week. (We keep one for continuity.) These students simply did impressive work…


Tobie Nell Perkins and Karina Elwood, WUFT Fresh Take Florida

The judges once again took it upon themselves to combine two entries into one. Why? Because they don’t want to just pick winners. They want to send messages. And this week’s message is: Writing matters.

Even more impressive is where these writers work: WUFT, the University of Florida’s NPR and PBS affiliate. (Fresh Take Florida is their student-run news service.) There’s no audio or video in these entries. Just a few pictures and a lot of words.

None of the judges considered either of these stories to be the deepest reported among the winners. But taken together, they said it was the best writing out of the week’s 114 entries.

Perkins’ straightforward news story of a dog-racing track was, according to one judge, “super-well-written, with a certain maturity to it.” Added another: “It took what was a routine story and made you feel like you were there at the last race.”

Meanwhile, Elwood’s first-person account of her family’s struggling restaurant “incorporated really good writing with her experience.” Elwood says, “It was the first time I’d ever put myself into the story.” Judges don’t want it to be her last.


Rachel Berry, Ceili Doyle, and Emily Dattilo, Miami Student

Conspiracy theorists will also relish this: SPJ’s current president teaches at Miami University in Ohio, which is where these three journalists work. But two of our three judges didn’t know that, and the one who did said nothing during deliberations (which was a long, jovial, combative Sunday night phone call).

All the judges chose to reward the Miami Student’s breadth of coverage, which included breaking news of deep faculty cuts this fall, an explanation of a city stimulus plan, and a walkthrough of something called Club Penguin.

Individually, no story would’ve caught the judges’ attention. But as our rotating cast has stressed over the past three weeks, journalism is a team sport. Quite unintentionally, half of all General Content winners so far have been entries featuring multiple stories.


Dylan Grosz, The Stanford Daily

Visualized: COVID-19 cases in the Bay Area

Grosz proves journalism isn’t just for j-schools. The Stanford senior is majoring in something called “symbolic systems-AI” and minoring in economics. His charts on his area’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases, deaths by race and ethnicity, and daily confirmed cases impressed the judges for one simple reason: “They’re even more powerful because they’re combined with original reporting.”

As a data guy, Grosz doesn’t boast but cites stats instead: “This article has become a resource that both Bay Area citizens and medical staff check on daily to see how cases are developing, and it has become The Stanford Daily’s most viewed article in its current volume.”


Lesya Feinstein, Aggie TV News

Homecoming

Mormon missionaries returning home usually descend the escalator in the Salt Lake City airport to a throng of friends and family. Not these days. So one missionary pulled up to his parents’ house and was greeted by a homemade escalator and a social-distancing parade of Star Wars characters.

It’s as odd as it sounds, and Feinstein, a junior at Utah State University, tells the tale in under two minutes. One judge called it “fresh and upbeat,” while another added, “It really brought my spirits up.”


The next deadline for The CCC Awards is Friday at 11:59:59 p.m.



 


WEEK 2 DESIGN WINNER

This isn’t pretty good.

A common misconception about designers is that they only care about aesthetics. The Society of News Design will shoot you an ugly look for accusing them of only looking good. For SND, it’s about “visual journalism.”

That explains why SND chose this week’s winner: Imogen Francis, a senior at Florida International University.

Her data visualization, Impact: Stats on how the novel coronavirus is affecting Florida, “rose above the other submissions,” declared SND. Why? Because…

 Incorporating the interactive U.S. map from AP leads off the package, but Francis also produces a similar map for the state of Florida. She goes on to show cases by day, the curve (or lack thereof) for Florida, as well as a local county count by age and gender. If you’re a reader in South Florida, this information drives home the seriousness of COVID-19 and shows how close it hits home. Great work.

Francis was nominated by her adviser Daniel Evans, who called her work “a remarkable set of visualizations done by a single student.” Even more interesting, she did it 8,000 miles from Florida.

“After FIU closed its student dorms, Francis, who a New Zealand national, essentially was required to abandon the Northern Hemisphere,” Evans wrote us. “But instead of (e)mailing it in, she insisted on creating a series of visualizations – updated on a daily basis that provides a picture of the pandemic unmatched among South Florida publications, student or pro.”

Think you can do better from whatever hemisphere you’re in? Enter till Friday at 11:59:59 p.m. – in whatever time zone you’re reading this in.

 



 


Radio silence

Listen to this…

Only  handful of college radio stations have entered The CCC Awards and none have won. I understand why. In some ways, they’re the talented but neglected middle child of student media, stuck between the serious older brother of print and the hip younger brother of broadcast.

I expect more radio stations to enter now that College Broadcasters, Inc. has joined the awards as a sponsor, which happened just today. While CBI represents all electronic media, it’s best known as a force in college radio.

Contest directors like me don’t judge the entries, but I can still praise a few of them – specifically these from a pair of Texas college radio stations…


KTXT-FM

In some ways, recording video on an iPhone is easier than producing quality audio.

“Doing radio work from home is difficult without the right equipment,” Haley Goodman wrote in her entry last week. Goodman is digital content director at KTXT-FM, the student-operated radio station at Texas Tech University. “Students are using Audition who haven’t before, writing scripts about a tough topic, and setting up makeshift recording studios with a Zoom Recorder or their iPhone.”

KTXT’s operations manager Julia Sewing is sheltering in her closet, which she’s converted into her studio.

“Although not the ideal set up, I’ve been able to get creative in sound-proofing my room and still creating on-air content that quality-wise doesn’t differ from our usual on-air sound,” Sewing told us. “It’s taught me that even without access to our recording studio, I can still create great audio and inform my community in the best way I can.”

Goodman and Sewing submitted my favorite entries so far: one-minute public service announcements, perfectly produced. Here’s one from Sewing, with clips from the songs she cites…

Hey guys, it’s Julia Sewing, KTXT’s operations director, here to remind you to wash your hands. The proper way to wash your hands is for 20 seconds with soap and warm water. So one of my favorite songs to sing to make sure I’m doing that correctly is the chorus of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene,’ Prince’s ‘Raspberry Beret,’ and ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears. For more information on proper hand-washing techniques, visit cdc.gov/handwashing. 

…and the judges were much impressed. If it weren’t for the insane quality of 170 other entries last week, the PSAs would’ve qualified for at least an honorable mention. I hope Goodman and Sewing keep producing their PSAs – and they keep submitting them to The CCC Awards.


UTA Radio

Twice, I’ve advised the same college radio station for one semester. Both times, the station was between advisers. I was beside myself. The students only wanted to play their own favorite music – and insult everyone else’s music. The news director was the loneliest guy in the studio.

After commiserating with other advisers, I learned this musical egotism is quite common. So I admire stations that not only cover campus news, but kick ass doing it. UTA Radio kicks ass.

The University of Texas at Arlington staff packs a lot into 30 seconds about local unemployment, a minute about “study abroad gone wrong,” and three minutes about the all-too-familiar saga of online classes.

Lance Liguez agrees. He’s UTA Radio’s faculty adviser. Liguez entered those three reports on behalf of the staff, who he says is struggling yet succeeding to produce twice-weekly newscasts while sheltering at home – which many stations can’t even handle while hanging out in their studios.

“They’re scripting, interviewing, pitching, and recording content while also navigating the new normal of online classes,” Liguez says. “They understand they are in the midst of the biggest story so far this decade and have responded in kind.”

While neither station has won a CCC Award yet, if they keep this up, I can’t imagine they won’t. Are there other stations out there are creative and as journalistic as these two? I can imagine there are.


The next deadline for The CCC Awards is Friday at 11:59:59 p.m.




WEEK 2 WINNERS

Our judges refuse to follow the rules.

In fact, they insist on making up their own. For the second week in a row, they’ve decided to award more than one winner and two honorable mentions. Why? “Because there’s too much good stuff,” one judge said. “Not our fault.”

Here’s who to blame…


Angela DiMichele and Dana Cassidy, Fresh Take Florida

These stories were submitted individually, but our trio of judges decided – all by themselves – to merge them into the most lauded entry so far. And that covers 258 from two weeks ago and 172 from last week.

The two University of Florida students reported on separate stories that resonated well beyond their campus. DiMichele – who shared first place last week, believe it or not – wasn’t the first to report on pandemic-fueled gun sales. But she took it to another level, using new FBI stats and insightful interviews (which she conducted from her parents’ home). Said our judges…

What began as a local story ended up becoming a national story distributed by the AP and CNN with DiMichele’s byline. Excellent work in anticipating and jumping on the story about an increase in gun sales, starting in Florida and then expanding her reporting nationally. This is what enterprise reporting is all about.

Meanwhile, Cassidy made her own headlines when her school refused to reveal its COVID-19 plan – which is legal because of a loophole in Florida’s public records law that was intended to keep emergency plans from terrorists. Judges lauded Cassidy’s deadline hustle in tracking down the state lawmaker who sponsored the law – and who was shocked to learn how Florida schools are using it.

Judges called it “an important examination and exposé of government’s addiction to secrecy” an concluded: “You know you’ve struck gold when your story includes a legislator pleading with school officials to stop misusing legislation he co-sponsored.” Sadly, those schools aren’t listening. Yet.


Eduardo Medina, Auburn Plainsman

‘My whole body was aching’: One Auburn student’s story of being diagnosed with coronavirus

The EIC tracked down Auburn University’s patient zero but didn’t stop there. Medina documents every significant development between March 15-23 – not easy to do while sheltering in place.

“Terrific description in telling the story of Auburn’s first student to contract COVID-19,” judges said. “It’s a compelling read and clearly illustrates that young adults are anything but immune to the dangers this virus presents.”


The Daily Iowan staff

Journalism is still a team sport, and few staffs play as well together as the newsroom at the University of Iowa. This entry features a rousing letter from the editor, a nuts-and-bolts report on student pay, and a very visual feature about Chicago, “Iowa’s neighbor to the east.”

Judges said, “Readers will appreciate the powerful message of commitment and determination to be a reliable information source.” The image atop this post is from this winning entry.


The Miami Hurricane

Another solid team effort, this one from the staff at the University of Miami. What clinched it: An interactive map that lets you navigate through a novel concept: The far-flung staff is reporting from wherever they’re self-quarantining, which totals a dozen states.

“A nice mix of stories and presentation,” judges said. “The map of Canes across the country was a neat idea, executed well.”


TuAnh Dam, NY City Lens

On the Frontlines: “A Deserted Island of Death”

Judges plucked this from a trio of submissions from NY City Lens, run by Columbia j-school students. It’s a Q&A with an emergency room doctor working in one of the city’s hardest-hit areas.  The judges called it “one of the most in-depth looks at what’s happening inside hospitals that we’ve read so far.”


Jonah Ocuto, The Columbia Chronicle

Column: Angry filmmaker yells at cloud, and other thoughts about procrastination

The judges wanted to recognize column-writing, and this was their favorite, especially this passage…

“I’m unable to stop my mind from thinking about how the rest of the world is dealing with this, how I should have taken it more seriously earlier on, how I wonder what my Animal Crossing villagers are up to and whether or not the air smells any different with everybody herded inside like grief-stricken cows.”


The next deadline for The CCC Awards is Friday at 11:59:59 p.m.



 


WEEK 1 DESIGN WINNER

There’s only one winner, and that’s by design.

We knew the debut of The CCC Awards design category would be difficult. For all the challenges reporters face, those are doubled for designers: Short deadlines, a lack of art, data projects built on underpowered laptops, and collaboration that’s limited to FaceTime and Zoom.

Still, the Society for News Design found a standout from among the entrants…


The Post staff

Covering COVID-19

At Ohio University, executive editor Taylor Johnston designed a landing page and interactive map for both her readers and her staff.

I didn’t want my reporters’ content to get hidden on our website because we were reporting so much,” Johnston told us. “At the time, the health department in our state did not explicitly show on their website the counties, they just listed them. I pinpointed the university on the map so that local readers can understand where cases are being confirmed around them.”

Judges’ comment: What this entry lacks in style, it more than makes up for in information and excellent use of a map and collection of links for other Coronavirus-related coverage.

The centerpiece of this entry is the map – a no-frills map of Ohio counties with consistently updated information of confirmed cases in each county. This site knows how to use the technology, and it provides a perfect platform for this map and the critical information it provides. It’s also nice to see that they’ve used it to be able to quickly scan other related stories that are linked. It’s also mobile-friendly!


Enter the second week of the CCC Design Awards by Friday 11:59:59 p.m….



 


PHOTO WINNERS

They’re first and last.

As we mentioned over the weekend, this is the beginning and end of The CCC Awards photo category. But our pair of photo judges found infinite excellence to choose from.

“We wanted to recognize the advance thought that went into a visual concept, and the commitment of time and energy to find situations and subjects that illustrate an idea well,” they said. “We were also necessarily cognizant of where we were in this crisis when the photo was taken, and what our understanding of social distancing best practices was at that time.”


Mengshin Lin, The Columbia Chronicle

From Chicago to Honolulu: a photojournalist travels in the age of the coronavirus

When Mengshin Lin heard Columbia College Chicago would go to online-only classes, “I was crushed and cried on my couch for an hour.” Originally from Taiwan, she decided to decamp to Hawaii. But along the way, she photographed other anxious students. The photo atop this post is just one of the nine she published.

Judges’ comment: This was a notable example of a photographer seizing the opportunity to document their own experience, while at the same time using that access to reporting on the experience of the other travelers around them. The photographer enlisted a variety of compositional structures and color palettes to create visual variety in situations that could have felt redundant. The captions reflected a strong storytelling initiative.


Michigan has dominated the first two weeks of The CCC Awards. Last week, the University of Michigan and Michigan State won (with two other schools) for General Content. Now Central Michigan University joins the University of Michigan as our two honorable mentions…


Isaac Ritchey, Central Michigan Life

Living on campus during a pandemic

Isaac Ritchey, the photo editor at Central Michigan University’s newspaper, followed one freshman who stayed behind in his almost-empty dorm. “There’s always a possibility that I may have it now, and I don’t want to bring it back to my family,” the freshman told Ritchey.

Judges’ comment: We recognize the photographer’s commitment to visualizing the experience of his subject, through a variety of situations over a period of time. The photographs do an effective job of communicating the concept of solitude, but felt a little thematically repetitive. We appreciate the work of the photographer to follow the subject into a lot of different visual environments, but would challenge them to try and create more of a story arc.


Dominick Sokotoff, The Michigan Daily

Dominick Sokotoff is both a reporter and photographer for the University of Michigan. He traveled around campus and  Ann Arbor documenting the run-up to the shutdown.

Judges’ comment: A strong example of initiative as a staff photographer. The images illustrate a variety of aspects of the developing story in a visually compelling, non-repetitive manner. The COVID testing photo in particular shows both a commitment of time to wait for the image to happen and forethought in arriving to the situation with the appropriate equipment.


If you want to enter photos in The CCC Awards, you can still do so under General Content – and we’ll announce those winners tomorrow.



 


Fade out

Our photo category was over in a flash.

On Monday,  The CCC Awards will announce our first – and only – photography winners. Then we’re closing the category. You can still enter photos under General Content.

So what happened? Three things…

  1. Entry entropy. We got a mere 21 entries for the category’s debut, which included everything since this crisis began. If we continued, next week would only cover Saturday through Friday – which would mean even fewer entries.
  2. Subject similarity. Shooting safely means lots of long lenses poking out of rolled-down car windows and pointed at empty parking lots, lines at drive-up testing centers, and inspirational/funny/sad outdoor signs. As one photographer (who objected to this category in the first place) told me last night, “That gets boring really fast.”
  3. NPPA unease. The National Press Photographers Association withdrew from The CCC Awards after its leaders worried their participation “could endanger the health of our members and the public.” This is their area of expertise, and journalists respect experts.

You’ll notice “Twitter outrage” wasn’t one of our reasons. As I wrote a couple days ago, Twitter isn’t where you go for calm, reasoned debate. It’s where you get accused of “putting lives in danger.” Still, through Twitter, we met some smart people who made the compelling arguments above. For that, we’re grateful.

Stay safe or stay away

The photo atop this post is from the front page of the last print issue of the Flyer News at the University of Dayton. It features the campus chapel – “the undisputed symbol of my university,” the EIC wrote us. This photo entry and the 20 others were impressive and even a little touching.

But we don’t want our entrants touching anything else, so we’ve added this to every category: If any entry even looks unsafe, our judges will disqualify it. If we didn’t listen to our critics, we never would’ve made that important change. So thanks to them.

Judge us like we judge others

It anyone else has ideas for further improving The CCC Awards, we’re all ears. Contact us. (While prepping nearly 250 entries for our judges after midnight, I was on the phone with a photographer who gave us some great ideas.)

Finally, to the tweeters who wondered, “Why do you even need to do this contest at all,” listen to Tara Lonsdorf, EIC at Rowan University in New Jersey. She entered one of her reporters, who won an honorable mention last week…

I want to acknowledge how much this means to The Whit, an underfunded publication at a D3 regional public university that most people have never even heard of. It is incredibly meaningful that ACP and SPJ have chosen to honor a struggling campus news outlet, and I hope you will continue to elevate the work of other outlets without significant institutional support.

That’s why.


 


Photo graphic

NPPA has withdrawn from The CCC Awards.

This afternoon, a tweet from a photographer with 1,700 followers spread like, well, a pandemic. Within hours, other Twitterites attacked the National Press Photographers Association and The CCC Awards for encouraging students to, as one tweet put it, “go out and put lives in danger to make images for a contest or your portfolio.”

SPJ replied…

…but of course, this is Twitter. No one ever claps back with, “Hmm, interesting argument. I might still disagree with you, but I see where you’re coming from.”

Nope. Instead there was lots of punctuation and abbreviation. As in, “OMG guys they’re trying to justify it?!?!!” Then it got weird….

SPJ’s position seems to run afoul of values expressed in even their own ethics code (e.g. “Minimize harm”).

…which isn’t what that means at all. “Minimize harm” refers to what we report, not where we go. Otherwise, journalists would never get out of bed.

Someone also tweeted, “This is a dicey decision for a contest. Have you checked that you’ll hold no liability if someone dies?”

(Shortest possible answer: No liability. Longer answer from an attorney we consulted: “An elevated quantum of risk in everyday life, of which everyone is equally informed and aware, doesn’t justify redistributing liability for the outcomes of voluntary actions.”)

Then there’s this, which seems to imply all awards are immoral…

Journalism is a public act, it is done for an audience and an awards committee should not be an audience. 

…which means, I guess, there shouldn’t be Oscars, Grammys, Tonys, or Olympic medals.

NPPA’s position – and ours

I respect NPPA’s decision to depart these awards much more than I respect Twitter’s. NPPA emailed its members…

While this contest was aimed at highlighting those already working on stories regarding the coronavirus, we know that many student publications have suspended operations, and we must discourage actions that could endanger the health of our members and the public. This contest was not compatible with those values, and therefore we are withdrawing from this program. Therefore, we have removed messaging regarding our participation.

For our part, we’ve added this edict to General Rules. In fact, it’s now the first rule…

Safety first and always. You’re expected to work responsibly and not endanger yourself (and thereby others) by risking exposure. Any submission that appears to violate established safety protocols will be disqualified.

…and we’re happy to clarify that. But myself and the others involved in these awards stand by them. We also give student journalists (and their advisers) much more credit than Twitter does.

These students often toil alone, wondering if anyone is reading, listening, or watching their work. One of last week’s inaugural winners was Michigan State’s Focal Point newscast. Professor Bob Gould, who oversees the broadcast, gave me permission to share this with you…

Our students are thrilled. This is fantastic! They’re working really hard on creating stories that are meaningful not only to the Michigan State community, but for those in their hometowns as well. We knew that we couldn’t use the studio, so we had to come up with a new way of doing business. Most of the newscast was shot with iPhones and edited with whatever software they had access to at home. It was truly a team effort.

And a safe effort, too.

What now

In fairness to the students who have already entered our photo category, we’re keeping it this first week, even as we remove NPPA’s name. We’ll find other judges.

As contest director – but not a judge – I’ve peered at the submissions so far. All were shot from a safe distance: empty parking lots, campus statues with masks over their bronze faces, inspirational signs in office and apartment windows. That sort of thing.

Tomorrow is the first deadline for the photo category, and we might very well get rid of it the next day. But that decision won’t be made on Twitter, and it won’t be made hastily. Like the journalists we are, we’ll consult experts and our partners. We’ll multi-source and then decide.

There’s nothing more hypocritical than a thin-skinned journalist, so I’m not offended by anything that happened today. I admit, though, I’m weary from it. I hate when journalists attack each other like free-press enemies attack all of us.

Sigh.

Anyway, as of right now, you can still enter The CCC Awards. It’s still free. And it’s still worth it.


 


WEEK 1 WINNERS

An embarrassment of excellence.

A radio and TV station publishes a 1,600-word story with no audio or video. The nation’s richest school writes about its poorest students. And two state rivals are co-winners.

Thus concludes Week 1 of The CCC Awards.

Our trio of judges was supposed to choose only one winner and a couple of honorable mentions. But since the first week was open to all previous coverage, the judges struggled to parse 258 entries from 125 student media outlets. So they insisted on four winners – and four honorable mentions.



In no particular order…


Angela DiMichele, WUFT News

Stuck In Peru: Coronavirus Strands Gainesville Woman Far From Home

The University of Florida senior and reporter for the school’s NPR/PBS affiliate wrote the judges’ favorite profile. And she did write it. There’s no video or audio.

DiMichele profiled a local yoga instructor who got stranded in Peru. It was actually one of many such profiles – in fact, one of two about people stuck in Peru. (The other won an honorable mention, see below.) But as the judges said…

The story works well because the writer, using WhatsApp for a video interview, has clearly asked the kind of questions that yield the best material – about the instructor’s nomad life, her best friend, her bathtub-turned-laundry-tub.

Conclusion: If a TV station can write an award-winning profile, maybe newspapers can produce award-winning video.


The Michigan Daily staff

There’s individual effort, and then there’s team variety. The University of Michigan’s newspaper impressed judges for both its depth and range. Let’s face it, they saw dozens of similar submissions…

There were a lot of stories about how sad and/or angry students were about school shutting down, and what they would lose. But this collection of mini-portraits was the deepest, because ample space was given to students to tell their stories in their own words.

Then there was the typical why-are-students-still-partying-during-a-pandemic story. While not flashily written, it was massively reported. Finally, there were some laughs: An Instagram post called BlueJean Bingo, what the judges called “a fun look at the life of distance learning.” While BlueJean is this school’s videoconferencing software of choice, anyone who’s endured a clumsy online meeting will relate.

Conclusion: Writing is important. But if your sources are articulate, let them talk. And it’s OK to make wry observations even during a tragedy.


Focal Point News staff

Focal Point 3/20/20

Video submissions for the debut of The CCC Awards ranged from gritty to slick. Michigan State’s 21-minute newscast wasn’t the only one dedicated to COVID-19’s impact on its campus and community (see: Arizona State University). But it edged out the competition for its all-around exceptionalism.

One of our three judges has decades of broadcast experience and was “impressed by everything”…

The team produced a polished, professional special report, tight and well-edited in a package of 22 minutes. The stories flow well from one to another, the result of good scripting. The camera work and editing were strong, with a variety of images. Viewers met a retiring MSU prof, an MSU student pulled home from a South Korean study-away program, seniors bereft at ending their MSU days early, a sidelined sports announcer, a concerned priest, and harried shoppers.

Conclusion: Production values are just a process. Journalism is the goal.


The Harvard Crimson staff

This could’ve been boring: Three double bylines, all focused on finances. Instead, “All three parts were smart, sound journalism,” the judges said.

Harvard has the largest endowment of any school at $40 billion – more than the GDP of Iceland and the Bahamas combined. So it might seem like the definition of a First World problem to fret over its investments. But The Crimson did a first-rate job explaining what could be “the beginning of a death spiral.”

Then the numbers got smaller. Crimson reporters peered at the financial insecurity of campus security guards. And in the best-written and most touching story, they focused on the 20 percent of Harvard students who rely on financial aid. COVID-19 has already hit them hard, even if they never contract the disease.

Conclusion: Follow the money, even during a pandemic. Especially during a pandemic.



In no particular order…


Gabriela Miranda, her own thing

COVID-19 Perspectives

The University of Georgia junior is a news editor at The Red & Black, the school’s independent student newspaper. But this website is her very personal project.

“On my own accord, I contacted individuals abroad to tell their stories of how the COVID-19 outbreak has affected them,” Miranda wrote us. “This series is a passion of mine – to share the outlook of not only Americans but those abroad on how this virus affects each of us and just how similarly or differently.”

The judges were equally passionate about recognizing her noteworthy and newsworthy individual effort.


Christopher Connors, The Whit

The news/graphics editor at New Jersey’s Rowan University wrote two stories that impressed his EIC so much, she entered them. Both impressed our judges…

Connors’ first article focuses on some study abroad students trying to return from Italy. The second article is about a pair of alums visiting Peru who were told to leave. His reporting attracted the attention of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, who then intervened. This is outstanding work.


Pauline Senet, Imprimatur

France’s homeless: the forgotten faces of the lockdown

Senet is a first-year masters student at the Insitut de Journlisme Bordeaux Acquitaine in southwestern France. This entry was submitted by her professor, who called it “a powerful piece about caretakers working with homeless people in Dijon. Her article highlights the challenges of writing a humane interest story while fully respecting social distancing measures.” From 4,000 miles away, the judges wholeheartedly agreed.


Naomi Andu and Sami Sparber, Texas Tribune

Andu is from Northwestern University and Sparber is from University of Texas at Austin. As interns at the Texas Tribune – the state’s only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan news outlet – they found discrepancies in the way COVID-19 cases were being recorded. The story ends with an easy-to-fill-out form for readers to tell their own stories.

Then Sparber found similiar discrepancies about “essential” businesses. Said the judges…

Both of these stories were examples of good watchdog reporting. The need for accurate information is essential when a government reacts to a crisis. Sparber and Andu showed how poorly that was happening in Texas, and why it was a problem.


So what do they win?

Their work shared far and wide, a free membership to SPJ, a CCC Awards badge or banner for their website if they want it, a laudatory letter to a skeptical dean or boss – and the chance to win again.

That’s right, each winner can win again. The CCC Awards are free and weekly, and no excellence is excused. So…



Getting graphic

Visualize your success.

Only days after launching, The CCC Awards are expanding. Thanks to the Society for News Design and the National Press Photographers Association, we’re adding weekly visual categories. Effective right now.

Like we did when we debuted last week, this first round of photo and design awards are open-ended: Submit anything you’ve already done during this crisis, as well as anything you do through this coming Friday.

Starting next week, you must enter photos and designs published only during that week. If that’s confusing – and it might be – contact us and we’ll explain it better.

This isn’t confusing: SND and NPPA have volunteered to judge the following categories, and give winners free memberships to their esteemed organizations.

CCC Photo Award

For a bunch of photographers, the NPPA can really write. Here’s how the 74-year-old organization describes its profession…

Visual journalists bear witness to history on a daily basis, standing on the sidewalks and in the living rooms of neighborhoods around the globe with a shared mission to tell us what happened and why it matters, to educate and to illuminate.

…so keep that in mind when you enter. The NPPA judges want to see more than pretty pictures. They also want you to be ethical and historical.

CCC Design Award

SND describes its mission this way: “to identify the best of journalism that pushes the boundaries of design and technology.” In its own contests, SND wants to see “writing, visual storytelling, use of resources, execution, photography, headlines and voice — as well as overall design.”

So again, it’s about intuitive and urgent design. Not flaming, spinning logos or show-offy Creative Suite tricks.

CCC General Content Award

Of course, there’s still the General Content category, which covers everything else. Learn more here.

You can enter all the categories each week, since The CCC Awards cost nothing. In fact, you could conceivably submit the same content in each category. But please don’t burden the judges if you know the stuff isn’t top shelf. They’ve already been overwhelmed by the crush of entries from the very first week.


Too much too soon

Too good, too bad.

We’re blowing our first deadline. We won’t select the inaugural winner for The CCC Awards until noon Tuesday, instead of noon Monday.

We need more time than we planned because we got more entries than we expected: 258 in just five days, from 125 student media outlets.

Most are amazing.

There’s radio from Cairovideo with Legos, and photos in Ka Leo. There are entries from the Ivy League (Harvard, Yale, Cornell) and community colleges (including one in a town I’ve never heard of: Liberal, Kansas).

After we announce the first winner – and definitely some runners-up – we’ll post the “Judges Cut.” This easily searchable list will hopefully motivate you to innovate. You’ll see what we mean later this week.

While our judges still sort through Week 1 submissions, you can enter for Week 2. Any COVID-19 coverage from Saturday through this Friday is eligible. If you make this deadline, we promise we’ll make ours, too.


Going viral

Boost your readership by 77,000.


If you’re a sleep-deprived and stressed-out college journalist covering COVID-19, the Society of Professional Journalists and Associated Collegiate Press applaud you. But we want you to receive a standing ovation.

Enter the CCC Awards here. It’s free.

The prize is the nation’s eyes upon you. Each week, SPJ will share the most compelling college coverage with its 72,000 Twitter followers, while ACP will do the same with its 5,000 followers. Weekly winners also receive a free one-year SPJ membership.

While SPJ and ACP commend the professional journalists scrambling to inform their readers and viewers during this unprecedented time, we recognize the added burdens you face covering COVID-19 on your campus and in your community.

“As a pro journalist who’s worked closely with student journalists, I know how hard both jobs can be, especially during a crisis,” says SPJ Awards chair Sue Kopen Katcef, who retired last year after two decades of teaching at University of Maryland’s j-school and directing three student newscasts per week.

Kopen Katcef is currently covering COVID-19 for Maryland Public Television. She observes…

I’ve worked side by side – with enough social distancing – with some amazing pro journalists these past few weeks. In an era when we hear constant accusations of fake news, I’ve seen nonstop commitment at great personal risk. But I also know the impossible pressure students face trying to juggle online classes with family obligations – and for little or no pay. Many students support themselves with retail and restaurant jobs that don’t exist right now. I don’t know how they’re doing it.

SPJ and ACP want to know how you’re doing it. Enter the CCC Awards now.

For our debut, you can enter any COVID-19 coverage published through this Friday, March 27. After that, we’ll continue on a weekly schedule – so on April 3, you can enter anything published from March 28 to April 3. Basically, every Friday is your new deadline.

If you win, we’d love to interview you in a post much like this one. We can also offer you a CCC Award “badge” for your website, designed to your specs.

Questions about any of this, holler.


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