Contest Judging

Judging 2014

For more information:

Mike Sherman:

E-mail msherman@oklahoman.com | phone 405-475-3164

Jack Berninger:

E-mail jackapse@aol.com | 804-741-1565



All entries must be postmarked to catchers by Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.



Dues must be paid to be contest eligible.

If you haven't paid your 2014 APSE dues, there's still time to pay them and become eligible to enter APSE's annual contests. Go to this link to sign up.




Judging will take place at APSE's Winter Meetings March 1-5 in Indianapolis. The Campus Center at IUPUI will host the judging. Please arrive in time for a 4 p.m. meeting Saturday, March 1. Judging usually wraps up about 1 p.m. on Wednesday. We have two Marriott hotels – reservation deadline is Jan. 29 – and they are on opposite sides of  a shared parking lot in Indianapolis. The hotels are 3/4 of a mile from the Campus Center and 1 1/2 blocks from a campus shuttle stop. The shuttle stops at the Campus Center. The ride takes 3 minutes. The hotels are within walking business of downtown. The  rates: Courtyard (by Marriott) at the Capitol — $129 and does not include breakfast (an in-house bistro has breakfast for sale); kings and doubles are available. Residence Inn Canal – $139 and includes breakfast. One queen bed and one queen pullout sofa in each room (no room has two beds). Free internet access. $10 parking for overnight guests. Free parking for daily drive-ins.

Make your reservation here: http://www.marriott.com/meeting-event-hotels/group-corporate-travel/groupCorp.mi?resLinkData=Associated%20Press%20Sports%20Editors%5EINDCD%60PSEPSEB%7CPSEPSEA%60129%60USD%60false%60;INDRI%60PSEPSEA%7CPSEPSEB%60139%60USD%60false%602/28/14%603/5/14%601/29/14&app=resvlink&stop_mobi=yes



Circulation categories don’t change during the APSE dues year. The category for which you paid dues – if valid – is your contest category, even if your circulation increases or decreases before January. A paper may compete in a larger circulation category but not a smaller one. Contest categories remain the same as 2013. They are:

  • Category A: Over 175,000
  • Category B: 75,001 to 175,000
  • Category C: 30,000 to 75,000
  • Category D: Under 30,000
  •  There is a special fifth category for sections: Under 15,000. All papers under 30,000 enter Category D. Papers with a circulation of 15,000 and under — those that are not recognized in the Top 10 for Under 30,000 — are eligible for recognition in the special 15,000 and under division. A paper need not enter twice; it will automatically be judged in both categories, as eligible.


Contest categories do not match the circulation categories used to determine dues.

All contest entries – writing and section divisions – must be made in the same category. Editors wanting to compete in a larger category must notify contest chair Mike Sherman (405-475-3164, msherman@oklahoman.com) – and their respective contest catchers – before submitting entries. They will be required to pay the higher dues for the higher division.

When one staff publishes sports sections for several papers, they are considered one paper for APSE purposes. To enter individually, these papers need to pay dues individually. Questions on your organization and how it fits in should be directed to Sherman.

When one staff publishes sports sections for several papers, dues must have been paid accordingly, with the combined circulation determining the category. If you didn’t follow this procedure when you paid dues, your contest entries are subject to disqualification.



  • Entries may be electronic library copies or pasted entries measuring no larger than 8½-by-11-inch paper so that they can be photocopied easily.
  • Folding is not permitted. Multiple sheets must be stapled (no paper clips in the upper left-hand corner).
  • No post-publication changes. A news organization discovered to have entered a printout changed post-publication is subject to disqualification in all contest categories.
  • All headlines, graphics, bylines and other identifying objects must be removed. This allows entries to be judged without identification of writer or newspaper. One exception: Info graphics are allowed if they are clearly supplemental to the story’s content and not solely decorative. Remove or obliterate all references to the news organization that appear in the body of the story or the informational graphics, if used.
  • Entries must have been written by members of the Sports Department or directed by the Sports Department. Such entries may have appeared in any section of the newspaper or website.
  • All writing entries must include the following information in the top right-hand corner of the first page the story is pasted on:

Writing division: (Example Breaking News)

Circulation category: (Example Over 175,000)

Paper's numbered entry: (Example Breaking News 1)

Date entry was published: (Example Nov. 23, 2013)

  • IMPORTANT: With the exception of the beat writing category, no article may be entered in more than one writing division. There is a limit of one entry per writer per category, with a single exception: a writer may be entered in the same category a second time (and only a second time) if he/she is a member of a team (two or more writers) entry. A single team may not be entered twice. Example: Writer A could be entered once individually. She also could be entered a second time for an entry co-authored by Writer B. Or, Writer A could be entered twice as a part of a team, as long as the teams were not the same.
  • Submission of all writing entries must include a separate enclosure on letterhead stationery, listing the news organization's numbered entries and name of each writer in each category. A separate letter containing all numbered entry information must be sent to each catcher in your writing division.



  • Preliminary judges will select the top 10 stories in each group as finalists. Each judge, separately and on a secret ballot, will list the stories in order from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best story. The final 10 will be given to a second judging group, which also will rank the stories 1-10 in the same fashion as the first group. The final judges’ ballots and the final 10 stories will be turned into the contest chair before 3 p.m. on March 5. The chair will tally all the votes awarding points in reverse order (No. 1 story gets 10 points, No. 2 gets 9, etc.) and the entries with the top 5 points will be the five winners in the category. The other five entries will be honorable mention.
  • The Top 10 in each category will be published on the APSE website immediately after certification by the contest chair. The five winning entries, including ties, will be announced by mid April after the contest chair tallies the ballots. The contest chair may move entries from one division to another but will do so only in extremely rare situations. It is the responsibility of the entering news organization, based on the judging guidelines, to select the proper division in which an entry should be placed.
  • For articles that appeared in the newspaper as columns but are entered in game, feature or news divisions, the judging group will have disqualification authority.



Breaking news story

  • Article of a sports news development (trades, hirings, firings, franchise shifts, etc.) that occurred in the most recent news cycle.
  • Online or print stories can be submitted.
  • A cover letter should explain who broke the story, when the news was obtained relative to publication, publication time online, and how it might have been expanded upon for print. For judging purposes, only the final story and cover letter must be read, but up to three examples of complementary material may be attached (stories or URLs that demonstrate story development) and read at the judges’ discretion. Judges, using their discretion, will weigh the various elements of a breaking news story: timeliness, thoroughness, exclusivity, significance. These should be explained in the cover letter.



  • Article along with any accompanying sidebars or graphics/charts that help supplement the story.
  • Sidebars will not be required reading by the judges. They will be included to answer judges’ questions concerning why material may be missing from the single-story entry. An editor also can attach a cover letter that is a synopsis of the sidebars.
  • Explanatory stories include trends, issues and original ideas. They shed new light on issues and personalities in the news. They are more than the feature and less than the project entry. They go beyond the “yesterday” of the breaking news story.


Beat writing

  • Collection of articles by a single author that shows authoritative, newsy and innovative coverage of a beat.
  • Each entry should consist of five pieces: at least one breaking news story; one event or game coverage story; one enterprise piece and two wild-card stories from any of the aforementioned categories (or other stories or analysis related to the beat).
  • A blog post or online-only report may be considered as a wild-card entry.
  • Entries should include a cover letter with a synopsis of how the combined submissions demonstrate excellence on the beat. The cover letter should note other metrics that show authority and audience engagement on the beat (such as blog, chat or message board traffic.)
  • Each paper or website will be allowed two entries in the beat writer category.


Feature story

  • The best single article. No series; no sidebars.
  • Judging will be on human interest, reader interest, and quality of writing and thoroughness of reporting.
  • Each paper or website will be allowed three entries in the feature writing category.


Column writing

  • Judged based on style, writing quality, originality and local appeal.
  • No restriction on subject matter and no requirement that they appear regularly.
  • Each paper or website will be allowed two entries in the column writing category.


Project reporting

  • Collection of articles that sheds new light on personalities and issues in the news, including trends and original ideas.
  • For judging purposes, the project is limited to 10 stories. Additional material may be attached and read at the judges’ discretion.
  • There should be a synopsis of the supplementary material in the cover letter. The material is not required to have appeared in a single day or on consecutive days.



  • Best single article or best series.
  • Judging will be based on the entry’s enterprise, initiative, documentation, resourcefulness and original reporting in uncovering newsworthy and significant facts and developments that otherwise might not have been reported. Impact and aftermath of the work should be considered.
  • Investigative work should rely on reporting of facts discovered or uncovered by the author rather than reports from anonymous sources offering unverified statements.
  • Investigative entries must not include articles for which payments were made for information. Pure and truly significant investigative reporting is rare. Relying solely on quotes from an FBI source does not make a story investigative. Doing the work the FBI would do in order to build a story might be investigative.



A news organization may submit a limited number of entries per category.

  • Breaking news story: three entries per paper; one article per entry; cover letter allowed.
  • Explanatory: two entries per paper; one+ article per entry; cover letter allowed.
  • Beat writing: two entries per paper; five articles per entry; cover letter allowed.
  • Feature story: three entries per paper; one article per entry; no cover letter.
  • Column writing: two entries per paper; five  articles per entry; no cover letter.
  • Project reporting: one entry per paper; one to 10 articles per entry (refer to category explanation for more detail); cover letter allowed.
  • Investigative: one entry per paper; one+ articles per entry; cover letter allowed.



A cover letter actually isn’t a letter at all. It's a form that gives judges pertinent information. You must follow this strict format or your letter may be tossed:

 —  The letter must be on a blank 8½-by-11 sheet of paper and can not identify the newspaper or writer.

  • Origin of the idea of the story: (Place your explanation here …)
  • Timeliness of its publication: (Place your explanation here …)
  • Difficulty in acquiring it: (Place your explanation here …)
  • Impact, reaction, aftermath: (Place your explanation here …)
  • Project reporting 1: (The numbered entry)



—  Entries consist of a single multimedia story.

  • A single story may be a series on the same topic (such as following a team through a season) with a limit of five installments per entry.
  • Multimedia includes video, audio, slideshows or combinations thereof. Entries will be judged, foremost, on the strength of storytelling. Visual and auditory quality will be considered.

 —  Entries should be submitted on a CD or zip drive and care should be taken that it is in a format can be read by a modern computer.

  • A cover letter (follow standard format above) can be submitted with the entry, and the CD should clearly be identified in the same format as story entires. In instances where the multimedia entry supplemented a written story, that should be summarized in the cover letter. The story itself may be submitted for background purposes and can be read at the judges’ discretion. The written story will not be a part of the material judged.
  • Limit two entries per organization.
  • Submissions must include a separate enclosure on letterhead stationery, listing the news organization's numbered multimedia entries and name of each contributor to the entry. A separate letter containing all numbered entry information must be sent to each catcher in your writing division.
  • If the complexity of a potential multimedia entry is such that it cannot be copied onto a CD or zip drive, a URL may be acceptable with the approval of the contest chair.
  • Multimedia entries will be categorized according to the website breakdowns presently used as part of the web portion of the contest. This year, that is:

Class A: 2 million uniques and above

Class B: 500,000 to 1,999,999 uniques

Class C: Below 500,000 uniques

 —  Judges will select a Top 5 and up to five honorable mention entries — unless the number of entries, at the contest chair’s discretion, supports expanding the number of entries honored. In any case, no more than 30 entries will be recognized.



 — There are section categories for Daily, Sunday and Special sections.

 —  Mandatory dates: Daily – Thursday, Feb. 28 and Thursday, Nov. 14; Sunday — Sunday, April 14 and Sunday, July 28

 —  Entries must include a 3-by-5 index card or facsimile with section division, news organization name, city, daily circulation, circulation category, and days of publication.

The information on the card should mirror the following format:

  • Section division: (Example Daily)
  • Newspaper: (Example Daily Bugle)
  • City: (Example Dallas, Texas)
  • Daily circulation: (Example 212,000)
  • Dates of publication: (Example Two mandatory dates and two optionals of your choosing.)
  • Circulation category: (Example Over 175,000).
  • The Daily section entries must contain four issues. This includes the two mandatory dates. The two optional issues in the daily divisions may come from any days except Sunday.

 —  The Sunday section entry must contain four issues, including the two mandatory dates. On mandatory dates, papers enter all sports-related content from that day’s paper, including special sections and page A-1 material.

  • Optional day entries may include: self-contained sports sections, sports-related Page A1 material and special sections that may include live (or yesterday) content and regular-scheduled preview content.
  • Stand-alone special preview (season and major event) sections are not allowed for optional-day entries.
  • On mandatory dates, papers enter all sports-related content, including special sections.
  • Optional day entries may include self-contained sports sections, sports-related A-1 material and special sections that include live content and regularly-scheduled preview content. Stand-alone special preview (season and major event) sections are not allowed for optional-day entries. Special sections that are not live may not be entered with optional entries.
  • Judges will select – but not rank – the top 10 sections in each circulation category and will select as many as 10 honorable mentions.



  • Must be accompanied by a 3-by-5 index card or facsimile that specifies the section as a special section entry and lists the name of the newspaper, city, daily circulation and circulation category. (See format above).
  •  Examples: Commemorative to mark the success of a team, a sports event (like Olympics) or the death of a major personality; a theme section on running, fishing, hunting, auto racing, etc. The section may contain live news (stories in which a team wins a championship) related to the theme, but it may not include unrelated articles.
  • One per paper: Newspapers may submit only one special section. This includes one-subject or one-theme sections issued one time.
  • What’s not eligible: Special sections sold only as stand-alone products on newsstands or elsewhere are not eligible. The special section must have been part of the regular newspaper run.
  • What else is not eligible: Stories entered as a special section entry may not also be entered as a project writing entry.



  • Does the section have spunk? Does it project impact on big events?
  • Does it grab? Is it distinctive? Does it have imagination and originality?

Photos & graphics: Is there a coordinated presentation of pictures, graphics and articles that give a grasp of the big stories? Does it make sense? Is it attractive? Does it help the reader understand? Does it illustrate? Do the graphics go with the articles they are supposed to illustrate? Are there enough pictures or perhaps too many? Are they properly sized? Are they easily understood? Judges may consider color reproduction.

  • Is it well written, well edited and truly special. Is the content useful, informative and/or entertaining?
  • Judges will select – but not rank – the top 10 sections in each circulation category and will select as many as 10 honorable mentions.



The best sections offer coverage, news, features and opinion, supported by scores, results and standings of the day's activities as needed to reflect the interest of the readership. There should be an appeal to the fanatic as well as the casual fan – and an attempt to satisfy a range of readership diversity. Judges should look closely at three areas of content:

 —  Subject matter: Determine the quality of staff-written material. Space should be used wisely. Big-event coverage should be coordinated to avoid overlap. News should be played properly, and judges should look at reaction to breaking news. Where there are few professional teams, judges should look for strong treatment of college, high school and other results. Even where there are no professional teams, there should be coverage of such national stories as the Super Bowl, World Series, etc. Game coverage should reflect the reality of the web and have strong analytical and commentary components.

Judges should look at the agate package – are there scores, statistics, standings and box scores to fit the needs of the readership within the confines of available space? Examples: Does a paper with interest in pro teams run enough information in home team and league-wide box scores? Does a paper in a prep-dominated area run enough names and statistical leaders?

  • Enterprise: Judges must note if there is an effort to bring something extra. Does the section offer features, trend pieces, scoops, innovative standing features or reader nuggets? Do efforts show originality and a high level of reporting and writing? Is there an effort to entertain as well as inform? Are there light touches? Is there over-reliance on wires? Reliance on wires is OK on some days, but not as a steady diet.
  • Organization and editing: The section should be easy on the reader. Look for consistency in positioning of standing features. See if related material is grouped. Headlines should be clear, yet appealing. There should be the proper mix of breakout boxes or pullouts that enhance stories. At-a-glance information should be organized and well positioned. Judges should look for staff editing that improves content of wires. A section’s editing should reflect its space. A small section, for example, should be tightly edited and what it does have room to do, it does exceptionally well.



Designated catchers who be announced later this week. They will assemble entries and bring them to Indianapolis for judging. Remember, all entries must be postmarked by Thursday, Feb. 13.



Daily sections (over 175,000; 75,001-175,000): TBA.


Daily sections (30,000- 75,000; Under 30,000): TBA.


Sunday sections (Over 175,000; 75,001-175,000): TBA.


Sunday sections (30,000-75,000; Under 30,000): TBA.


Special sections (all divisions): TBA.




Investigative (all divisions): TBA.


Multimedia (all divisions): TBA.


Beat reporting (all divisions): TBA.


Writing categories, under-30,000: TBA.

(Columns, features, breaking news, explanatory, project)


Writing categories, 30,000-75,000: TBA.

(Columns, features, breaking news, explanatory, project)


Writing categories, 75,001-175,000: TBA.

(Columns, features, breaking news, explanatory, project)


Writing categories, Over-175,000: TBA.

(Columns, features, breaking news, explanatory, project)




Mary Byrne

Mary Byrne


Tommy Deas

Tommy Deas

First Vice President
The Tuscaloosa News

Todd Adams

Todd M. Adams

Second Vice President
San Diego Union-Tribune

Jack Berninger

Jack Berninger

Executive Director
Richmond Times-Dispatch

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