The NJ Society of Professional Journalists is proud of its annual quest to recognize the best journalism in the Garden State.

However, because of a sharp drop in contest entries last year, we have scaled back our competition to include only our four signature awards. These awards are open to journalists in all mediums and represent our core values, as they seek to recognize outstanding work by newcomers to our profession; reward journalists who dig deep and make use of public records; honor those who produce work that jump-starts critical conversations in their communities; and shine a light on reporters who, despite strong oppositional forces, uphold the principles of a free press.

For more details about this year’s NJ SPJ contest, keep scrolling down the page. Or, if you’d like to skip ahead and start submitting your work, click here to access the contest form.

To those who would like to participate in a more traditional contest with more categories, we encourage you to submit your work to the Keystone SPJ chapter’s Best in Journalism contest. The link to the Pennsylvania contest is: The Keystone chapter has agreed to allow New Jersey journalists to enter their competition.

How to enter the Keystone SPJ contest

To submit your work in the Pennsylvania contest you’ll need to set up a new open call login for entry submissions. NOTE:  Keystone uses the Better Newspaper Contest (BNC) to manage its submissions (as we did up until last year), but if you entered a BNC contest in New Jersey or elsewhere, that login will not work in the Keystone contest. This is true for individuals and for companies.

You can create your login in one of two ways. Go to the Keystone SPJ website ( and click on the url at the bottom of the contest announcement OR go directly to the Keystone BNC contest page by clicking on this url:

Once you’re on the BNC Keystone page, you’ll see the open call contestant login on the lower lefthand corner of the page. Click that.

Once you’re on the Open Call Contestant page, look on the lower right corner for the button that allows you to create an open call account. Fill in the info and submit. Pat Trosky, president of the Keystone chapter, will then get an email to approve you. When she does, you can then log in and set everything else up.

Questions about the Keystone contest should be directed to Pat Trosky at or

Here’s what you need to know about the NJ SPJ Excellence in Journalism contest:

How to enter: We are no longer using the Better Newspaper Contest (BNC) content management system to manage submissions. Instead, we have created our own online entry form, which you must use in order for your work to be considered. Click here for the form.

Contest period: NEW DEADLINE: Our contest opens Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. It closes at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, March 15, 2018. Winners will be announced online in early May. An awards brunch will be held in June.

What work can be submitted: The 2018 competition recognizes work that was published, broadcast or posted online during the 2017 calendar year.

Fees: $20 per entry for dues-paying SPJ members and $25 for non-SPJ members. To pay, use the PayPal “checkout” function at the end of the submission form.

Money generated from the contest is used to fund SPJ programs in New Jersey, including this contest. Entries without payment will not be considered.

If you’re not an SPJ member, seriously consider it. Not only do you get the member discount on your contest entries, there’s value in that $75 SPJ membership. To find out what you can get out of SPJ, go here. To learn more about our chapter, go here.)

Fees will not be refunded. All contest entries become property of NJ SPJ. Contestants agree to let us reproduce their work for the purpose of promoting future contests.

Eligibility: Any journalist who lives or works in New Jersey or who reports about New Jersey or the region. We also welcome submissions from people who live and work in New York City and Philadelphia, as long as the story affects New Jersey or New Jerseyans, or is about regional issues like transportation, the cleanliness of our beaches or the economic vitality of our region. We will accept stories on national and international issues if the authors live in New Jersey, or if the story has a strong NJ angle or if the publication, video channel or website is primarily situated in New Jersey.

Judging: All entries will be judged by SPJ members from chapters in other states.

Need more help getting through the process? Email Heather Taylor, our contest coordinator, at  or call (609) 250-2582.

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Our  Four Signature Awards

Note: all submissions should include any corrections, clarifications or retractions made after initial publishing or broadcast. Also, copies of any written challenges to the report’s accuracy sent to the entrant or the news organization by or on behalf of those mentioned — including but not limited to letters, e-mails or legal papers — must be included with the entry. Any responses by the news organization should also be included.

You may enter more than one submission per category.

For past winners, see our contest archives.


Note: Submissions from all media, regardless of circulation or media market, are judged together.

This award honors a journalist (or journalists) who exhibited the most strength in defending the principles of a free press, open records, open meetings and transparent examination of public servants doing their jobs.

Guidelines: Entrants should include a cover letter explaining what barriers they faced when reporting their story and how they were overcome.


Note: This award is for local news organizations only.

Since its creation in the 1990s, this award has sought to honor both hard-hitting investigative journalism that is public spirited, as well as more “uplifting” efforts such as creating care packages for soldiers overseas, or helping a handicapped youngster get an education.

 Guidelines: In addition to submitting a body of work, be it traditionally reported stories or a combination of stories, columns and editorials (in any medium)entrants must also provide a letter and other supplementary materials that demonstrate how that coverage helped improve the quality of public life in the community. That could include, for example, documentation about how coverage of an issue helped facilitate public dialogue or encourage citizen involvement. The letter should be signed by the publisher, editor or other official from the news organization. It should contain title or description of the entry; name, address and phone number of the newspaper; and the name of the person submitting the entry and that person’s title.

The Awbrey pays tribute to Beverley Awbrey and her late husband, Stu, who ran The Cranford Chronicle from 1978 to 1988. The Awbreys believed their 100-year-old weekly was more than a livelihood; they saw it as an opportunity to contribute to the civic life of Cranford.

Stu, who died in 2004 at the age of 66, wrote: “We asked ourselves: Isn’t a newspaper a public trust as well as a private enterprise? Don’t its proprietors have a responsibility to the community to serve as a means of communication and as a forum for opinion? Our answer was `yes’ to both questions.”

In their time, The Chronicle’s circulation and advertising both rose – demonstrating that committed community journalism could be both noble and profitable. Citizens took up a collection to help the paper successfully defend against a libel suit. In an age when so many news outlets are struggling, we hope this award will serve as a reminder of why journalism matters.


Note: Submissions from all media, regardless of circulation or media market, are judged together.

This award honors the best reporting that uses the N.J. Open Public Records Act to expose issues of public significance.

Among the judging criteria are: significance of the issues to the audience for which the reporting was done; impact of the reporting, if any; creativity and ingenuity shown in finding and using public records to document matters of public importance; persistence needed to overcome obstacles to release the records, if any; integrity and honesty in presenting results.

Guidelines: Entries should include a cover letter to provide useful context about the entry, such as significant obstacles encountered or impacts achieved. If the nomination is for a team effort, the cover letter should identify either the news organization involved or the team members primarily responsible for the entry.

Entries must have been printed, broadcast or posted during the calendar year of 2016 (a series of stories that started in 2015 but was not completed until 2016 is also eligible).

This award pays tribute to Tim O’Brien, whose investigative reporting, first at The Star-Ledger and later at The New Jersey Law Journal, exemplified the qualities of courage, thoroughness, integrity, persistence and quiet idealism that we seek to honor.


Note: Submissions from all media, regardless of circulation or media market, are judged together.

This award was established to recognize outstanding achievement by new reportersTo qualify, you must have begun working during 2017 or had your first-year anniversary of working in the newspaper field during 2017.

Interrupted careers should be computed so that the candidate completes a total of 12 months of full-time employment during 2017. Previous part-time and freelancing work does not count toward the computation unless they were substantially full-time.

Guidelines: Entries should consist of links to three (3) individual articles or a series of articles. A series must be so identified in the text. Multiple byline articles will not be eligible. Include place(s) of employment and dates in your entry, plus the anniversary date of your first year.

This award is in honor of Wilson L. Barto Sr., the founding president of the New Jersey SPJ Professional chapter in 1959 and New Jersey’s first newspaper ombudsman in 1975 at The Times of Trenton.

Barto, of Skippack, Pa., finished a 40-year career in 1992 after working for five New Jersey papers and two in Pennsylvania. He was the only person to serve as city editor of both Trenton dailies. Wilson died in 2010 at the age of 83. Colleagues remember him as a person who encouraged beginning reporters to aspire to become great journalists.

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