Archive for the ‘updates’ Category

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?

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.


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.

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.


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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