Critiques and contests are distinctively different

051722_TT Contests critiques header

As you wrap up the year, remember to submit your yearbook for contests and critiques. Let’s dive into the differences between the two and how they can elevate your program.

Critiques use written sets of standards, developed by the associations, to detail the best practices for publications. Using the standards as a yardstick, one experienced adviser/judge determines the publication’s strengths and weaknesses. The judge writes comments to acknowledge strengths and suggestions to correct weaknesses. Consider including a letter with your entry to explain any limitations, improvements from past years, or changes made based on previous critiques.

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association designates books as Gold Medalists, Silver Medalists or Bronze Medalists based on the number of points awarded. The National Scholastic Press Association and Associated Collegiate Press assign All-Americans, First Class, Second Class and Third Class designations based on composite scores. State and regional critique services have similar delineations.

Contests, whether state, regional or national, are not tied to a publication’s critique. Entries are judged by teams of professionals based on theme, coverage, writing, design, graphics, and photography.

CSPA, NSPA and ACP annually select yearbooks from around the country to honor with a national award. CSPA awards Silver and Gold Crowns. ACP and NSPA name Pacemaker Finalists and designate Pacemaker Winners from the finalists. Only a small percentage of books are honored each year, typically 50-70 middle school and high school books. At the collegiate level, only three to 10 books receive national honors.

21 Peterson MS300Peterson Middle School had never submitted their yearbook for competition. Balfour suggested they join CSPA and NSPA. The 2021 book won a Silver Crown and was a Pacemaker Finalist.

The Crown and Pacemaker awards are the highest recognition given by CSPA, NSPA and ACP. They recognize overall excellence in yearbooks, honoring books with exceptional coverage, writing, photography, design and theme. Even if you’re unsure, submit your book. In the last two years, Balfour encouraged two middle school advisers to enter their books in national competitions. Both schools ended up on the Crown and Pacemaker lists.

In addition to overall publication awards, journalism associations have individual competitions for theme, writing, design, photography, etc. The awards bring national attention to the program and provide recognition (and a resume boost) for the staffer. (Note, award entry preparation is a great task for graduating editors.)

Quill and Scroll is an additional national organization you can submit the book for contests and critiques. NSPA keeps a comprehensive resource list of state, regional and other journalism organizations.

Journalism organizations provide a valuable service to yearbook staffs. Critiques can dramatically improve a publication, giving helpful feedback and suggestions. Staffs often use their critique to set goals for the following year. A high rating is an excuse to celebrate and promote the yearbook around the school. Similarly, contests are a fantastic way to recognize the program and build the publication’s brand.

Join CSPA, NSPA, regional and state associations, have your yearbook critiqued and enter the organizations’ contests. Check submission dates closely, several deadlines are in the summer. We can’t wait to see what you win!

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