2019 Newsroom Contests

Local news writing. Editorial excellence. Front page. Digital journalism. Community leadership


Please note that the News Photo competition is now its own separate contest. See instructions on entering the 2019 Inland News Photo Contest here.

2019 Newsroom Contests:


Sponsored by the University of Kentucky School of Journalism.

This contest is open to any news story or feature, or series of news stories or features, in the contest categories. Entries must be written by a staff member of an Inland-member newspaper and published anytime from August 2, 2018 and August 1, 2019.

Entry limits: Each newspaper may submit up to three entries in each category. The same story or series can be submitted in more than one category.

Local News Writing Categories:

Investigative Reporting

Submit a story or series of stories on a specific issue. A story plus all sidebars published with it on the same day will count as only one story. Judging criteria are:

  • Enterprise in developing sources, making judgments about evidence and compiling information.
  • Persistence in the face of indifference, hostility or technical difficulties.
  • Clarity and effectiveness of design and art.
  • Impact, as measured by subsequent events.

Explanatory Reporting

Submit a story or series of stories in which the newspaper makes a special and timely effort to explain a local issue, process or se of actions important to a large section of the community served. Judges will look for the best reporting that helps newspaper readers understand the community and the use of skillful writing to explain the significance of local and public issues. Criteria for judging will include:

  • Overall quality of writing and reporting.
  • Clarity and effectiveness of design and art.
  • Relevance of coverage to readers’ lives.

Personality/Individual Profile Stories

This category features the journalist as a “storyteller,” telling a person’s story, not necessarily related to individual fame. Obituaries that are stories above and beyond the newspaper’s standard obituary may be used in this category. Judges will look for he best storytelling, engaging prose, and the ability to make the subject interesting to the reader.


Sponsored by the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, University of Kansas

The Inland Press Association's Editorial Excellence award recognizes quality editorials from its member newspapers. The annual completion is open to all Inland member newspapers, daily and non-daily, with entrants divided into circulation classes.

Criteria for judging the quality of editorial are:

  • Clarity of thought
  • Pungency of phrase
  • Statement of a need or explanation in concrete terms as a basis for action
  • Fostering appreciation of humanity's limitations, capability for folly and potential for glory.

Overall quality of the five editorials submitted by each newspaper will be judged. However, editorials need not be written by a single person or be on the same subject. Rather, they should be representative of the editorial philosophies of the paper.


Entrants must submit any five editorials written and published between August 2, 2018 and August 1, 2019. The five editorials will be considered one entry.


Sponsored and judged by Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University 

Judging: Entries will be judged on four criteria:

  • Quality of writing
  • Story selection
  • Headline treatment
  • Graphics and design

Eligible editions: This contest is judged on the basis of four front pages: The editor's choice, which may be any front page published between August 2, 2018 and August 1, 2019 and the front page from each of these pre-selected dates:

  • Sunday, October 7, 2018
  • Wednesday, January 9, 2019
  • Friday, April 12, 2019

If the paper does not publish on one or more of these dates because it is not a daily or does not publish on Sundays, please enter the first issue published after the date listed.

Format: Submit PDFs of the front page. Because quality of writing is one of the judging criteria, inside pages containing jumps from the front page may be submitted along with the front page.


Sponsored and judged by Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University 

The Digital Journalism Contest honors the best in newspaper digital coverage and initiatives. Three categories recognize achievement in the quality of digital journalism, use of multimedia and online innovation.

The Digital Journalism Contest is open to all newspapers, whether or not they are Inland Press Association members.

Categories and Criteria:

General Excellence: Online News Service

A. Newspaper circulation under 50,000

B. Newspaper circulation 50,000 and over

Criteria: Entries will be evaluated on how well the site uses the medium to serve its audience. The first consideration should be given to the quality of journalism. Secondary consideration should then be given in equal parts to accessibility, interactivity and innovation. Judges will be looking at editorial content, site design, multimedia features, and community participation.


All circulation sizes

Criteria: Entries will be evaluated on how the multimedia presentation enhances the impact of the story by combining the use of static features with other media, including (but not limited to) audio, video and animation. Judges will be looking at how well multimedia features are integrated into the storytelling and information-delivery process.


All circulation sizes

Criteria: Entries may represent new print or online features, whether editorial, community or multimedia. Entries will be evaluated according to how well the audience is served, created or expanded. Consideration will be given to how the innovation benefits both the print and online product, as well as how the idea can be scaled for other newspapers.

Entry fees: Inland members $30 per entry; Non-members $40 per entry


Sponsored and judged by the University of Missouri School of Journalism

All circulation sizes

The purpose of the Inland Press Association Community Leadership Award is to encourage newspapers to take the initiative in making their communities better places in which to live and work. This award will recognize those newspapers providing such leadership in four circulation classes.

The Community Leadership Awards will recognize the initiative and achievements of newspapers working through the combined resources of news coverage, editorial support and staff involvement to improve the community. Entries should show how the local newspaper is effectively involved in the lie of its community.

Judging criteria: Each of the following judging criterion will be given equal weight:

  • Significance of the community project(s) or activity(-ies), need, depth, originality and public interest.
  • How the newspaper used the initiative, staff and resources, including news coverage, columnists and editorial voice
  • The impact or results of the project(s) or activity(-ies). Entrants show through clippings, narrative and support material the impact of the project(s) or activity(-ies).

Entry guidelines: The Community Leadership Awards are given on the basis of specific newspaper leadership and initiative to worthwhile community projects. Entries should include stories, columns, editorials and brief supporting narrative.