Archive for April, 2020

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




“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.




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.



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


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.



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…


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 

…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.


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.



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….



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.


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



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