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

Our contest opens Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 and closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Sunday, March 1.

Here’s what you need to know:

(NOTE: scroll down to find detailed descriptions of each category; the info is also available on the contest form, which can be found here.)

  • The Stuart and Beverley Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Journalism by a weekly or hyperlocal publication
  • The Wilson Barto award for Outstanding “Rookie” Journalist of the Year
  • The David Carr Award for Reporter of the Year
  • The Ron Miskoff Award for Outstanding Journalism Educator of the Year
  • The Herbert Morrison Award for Best Audio News Story
  • The Tim O’Brien Award for Best Use of Public Records in a Story
  • The Gabe Pressman Award for Best Video News Story
  • The Barbara Reed Grassroots Journalism Award for Best Coverage by a Weekly or Hyperlocal
  • Best Investigative Journalism by a Weekly Publication
  • Best Investigative Journalism by a Daily Publication.

How to enter: Click here for the form.

Contest period: Our contest opens Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. It closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, March 1, 2020. Winners will be announced online in early May. An awards brunch will be held in June.

What work can be submitted: The 2020 competition recognizes work that was published, broadcast or posted online during the 2019 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 Sue Toth, our contest coordinator, at or call 973-378-0327.

For more detailed descriptions about our categories, keep scrolling down the page. Or, just click here to access the contest form and start submitting your work.

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Descriptions of NJ SPJ’s 10 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.


Stuart and Beverley Awbrey Award for Community-oriented Journalism

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.

Note: This award is for weekly publications and hyperlocal website only.

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.


Wilson Barto award for “Rookie of the Year” (best first-year journalist)

This award was established to recognize outstanding achievement by new reporters. To qualify, you must have begun working during 2019 or had your first anniversary of working in the newspaper field during 2019.

Interrupted careers should be computed so that the candidate completes a total of 12 months of full-time employment during 2018. 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.

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

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.

Barto died in 2010 at the age of 83. Colleagues remember him as a person who encouraged beginning reporters to aspire to become great journalists.


The David Carr Award for Reporter of the Year

This award for the best collection of work in 2019 honors the memory of David Carr, the former New York Times media reporter and SPJ member who lived for many years in Montclair.

Applicants can submit five examples of their work that collectively show overall excellence in work whether in print, broadcast or online platforms. The package should be accompanied by a nomination letter that explains why the reporter is deserving of this award for work done in 2019.


The Herbert Morrison Award for Best News Audio Story

Applicants can submit up to three examples of their work totaling no more than one hour in duration. Work will be judged both on the content and the sound quality of the audio. Thus, entries can include both the reporter and producer of audio aired in 2019.

This award is named after the radio broadcaster Herbert Morrison, whose dramatic on-the-scene coverage of the Hindenburg explosion in May 1937 in Lakehurst N.J. is still remembered today.


The Ron Miskoff Award for New Jersey Journalism Educator of the Year

Nominations should include a specific list of accomplishments in 2019 that show a deep commitment to students as well as scholarly research or journalism-related community service. Up to five endorsement letters may be included. This category is open to any journalism educator at the high school or college level in New Jersey.

This award is named after Ron Miskoff, a long-time journalism educator and former president of our chapter.


Tim O’Brien Award for Best Use of the Open Public Records Act

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 2019 (a series of stories that started in 2018 but was not completed until 2019 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.


The Gabe Pressman Award for Best News Video Story

Applicants can submit up to three examples of their work totaling no more than one hour in duration. Work will be judged both on the content of the video and the camera work, with an emphasis on story-telling. Entries should include both the reporter and photographer for video aired or posted in 2019.

This award honors the late Gabe Pressman, a veteran reporter for WNBC whose six-decade career began with a stint at the Newark Evening News.


The Barbara Reed Best Grassroots Journalism Award

In her long and continuing service to NJ-SPJ, Barbara Reed is a strong advocate for local journalism in New Jersey.  This award goes to the print weekly or local website that does the best, most comprehensive job covering the community which it serves.

This award is meant to honor the best in grassroots journalism, meaning publications, whether in print or online, that cover local communities exclusively. So, neither daily newspapers nor statewide publications of any kind should apply.

Criteria include quantity and quality of investigative and/or explanatory projects, diversity in covering community events, depth and nuance in covering breaking stories, recognition that a town or a county or a group of towns are not isolated places but part of a larger world, and other distinguishing characteristics.

Competitors will submit five issues if they are a print weekly, or five distinct cover pages if they are entirely web-based. An exceptional job in one area may outweigh other areas: for example, a site that does well doing investigative stories may overcome its lack of community events coverage.

Awards shall be made for first, second and third place. Nominees may submit separately for the Awbrey Award – in other words, submitting for one would not disqualify you for submitting for the other.


Best investigative story by a daily publication or broadcast outlet

Competitors may submit up to five stories. Stories will be judged on their ability to shine a light on previous undisclosed information.


Best investigative story by a weekly publication or hyperlocal website

Competitors may submit up to five stories. Stories will be judged on their ability to shine a light on previously undisclosed information.


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