The categories for the Online Journalism Awards are listed below. Scroll below for detailed descriptions of each category.
There are three new categories being introduced for the 2021 OJAs:
See all the 2020 categories and explore previous winners and finalists:
The following awards are not for submission; honorees are recommended and selected by committee:
Please read entry requirements carefully. Entries in some categories require more information. For detailed eligibility requirements, see the Rules & Eligibility.
# Breaking News
This category honors digital coverage throughout an unplanned breaking or developing news event. Judges will weigh evidence of exceptional journalism, quality of writing and creative use of digital, social and mobile platforms under deadline pressure. All work submitted must have been produced within 36 hours of the original news event. In addition to content, entrants are strongly encouraged to provide screenshots or other evidence from the first minutes and hours after the event to clarify publication times and how coverage developed over time.
# Gather Award in Engaged Journalism
This award honors people, projects, and processes that center community information needs and voices in the production of journalistic work. Entries should emphasize the following:
Please include links to relevant stories and productions, post-project reflections, and/or conversations with impacted community members. Judges will consider the intentional design of engagement strategies to better understand and serve a particular community, especially if that community is often unheard or underserved in your newsroom’s journalistic work. Judges will also consider the execution of the project, any innovative or unique uses of engagement platforms and techniques, the adaptability of the community-centered journalism approaches and the meaningful impact the engagement had on the community it serves. At this point, most newsrooms have experimented with social media engagement and callouts. Entries need to explicitly state what makes a particular project unique in terms of better serving a specific community.
Two project awards will be considered in this category:
ONA would like to acknowledge the Gather team’s support in establishing and defining this award, which is made possible by the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s Agora Journalism Center.
# Excellence in Collaboration and Partnerships
This award honors newsrooms and companies who have formed external partnerships or collaborations to cover a topic or story with a digital focus. Entries should include documentation from each partner in the collaboration and partnership, covering the contributions from various entities that made the collaboration a success. A winning entry should show creativity and innovation through a partnership that resulted in outstanding journalism and unique storytelling approaches using digital media.
# Excellence in Newsletters
This category honors email newsletters that serve as a conduit to delivering news and information. Entries should showcase a unique voice, whether the newsletter is issued by an individual or organization. Entries may span the increasingly wide array of newsletter formats, such as providing a digest of news or events, curating resources, sharing ideas or opinions from individual columnists, providing insight on topical issues or containing original reporting and exclusive content. Submitters should make note of any visual elements that regularly accompany stories and/or provide context. Entries may consist of daily, weekly or other regularly delivered offerings (and we all miss an issue or two, there is no penalty for a reasonable number of gaps). Judges will consider quality of writing, design, frequency, length of content based on the material, subject matter and overall strategy and impact of the newsletter.
# Excellence in Social Justice Reporting
This award honors exceptional works of digital journalism that highlight and report on systemic inequities encountered by marginalized and underrepresented communities. Examples of projects in this category may include, but are not limited to, coverage on social movements, racial justice, voting rights, migration, LGBTQ+ issues, gender equity and access to education, food or healthcare. Judges will weigh the quality of the journalism, digital innovation, engagement strategy and the impact of the project.
# Explanatory Reporting
This award honors excellence in sustained and ongoing explanatory journalism through digital means. Entries should cover a planned, significant news event or topic over a sustained period of time, and explain the relevance and impact of a subject or event to audiences through storytelling and presentation. Entries should showcase the ongoing and continued coverage of the event or topic and how the organization explained the issue and engaged audiences.
Judges will consider the execution and quality of the journalism; design and presentation of the coverage; and the ways in which multiple platforms, including social and mobile, were used to reach, inform and engage with the audience. Entries should consist of up to five work samples.
# Online Commentary
This category honors a unique and powerful voice of commentary original to the web. The journalism should display freshness of insight and explanation, as well as demonstrate a creative use of the medium and platforms, including mobile. Judges will give added weight to the use of social tools to attract user response or action, or to form and sustain a community. An entry may consist of up to five examples, including columns, blog posts, videos, graphics, podcasts, etc. (Print syndication after initial digital posting does not disqualify an entry; however, entries consisting of online publication of print-first content are not eligible.)
This category honors excellence in online journalism covering sports stories and sporting events. Successful entries not only demonstrate the highest standards of journalism, but also the digital production and design of the coverage; and the ways in which digital, social, mobile and other platforms are employed to reach, inform and engage with the audience.
This award honors excellence in online journalism presented in a single package or story that shows significant depth, insight and new understanding of a story or topic. Entries may be presented as profiles, feature packages, or watchdog journalism. Judges will consider the use of social tools to coalesce a participatory, online community around the topic being covered; the quality of the journalism; the digital production and design of the coverage; and the ways in which multiple platforms, including social and mobile, were used to reach, inform and engage with the audience.
# Student Journalism Award
This category honors excellent student work that uses digital storytelling and technologies to inform its audience across a breadth of topics or issues. Judges will consider the quality of the journalism; the digital production and design of the coverage; and the ways in which digital, social, mobile and other platforms are employed to reach, inform and engage with the audience.
# The University of Florida Award for Investigative Data Journalism
This award, made possible by the estate of Lorraine Dingman, honors work that best features and presents data journalism on digital and mobile platforms. The award will focus on the effectiveness of the data to tell a story, how well the data is presented to users, the journalistic impact and relevance of the data, and the design and functionality of the data presentation. Judges will also take into account the difficulty in acquiring the data. Winners will be asked to travel to the University of Florida (expenses paid) to lead full-day workshops.
# Topical Reporting: Climate Change
This award, generously supported by McKinsey Publishing, honors excellence in online journalism that covers climate change and its impact. The award recognizes journalism showcased in a variety of mediums, including exceptional efforts in telling stories through writing, photography, data visualization, video or audio. Beyond science and policy, entries in this category may address health, trade, agriculture, sports, business, insurance and a wide range of other facets of our daily lives. An entry in this category must be a stand-alone, single story. Judges will weigh the quality of the journalism, digital production and design, use of multiple platforms, engagement strategy and the impact of the project.
One award, $5,000 prize
# Topical Reporting: Pandemic Coverage
This award recognizes excellence in digital journalism focusing on coverage of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Entries in this category may address all aspects of the pandemic including topics such as science, health, policy, lifestyle and economic impact. Judges will weigh the quality of the journalism, digital production and design, use of platforms, engagement strategy and the impact of the coverage.
# Digital Video Storytelling
This award honors innovative work in telling stories through digital video, including animation. Judges will consider distinction of presentation, how the work incorporates digital storytelling techniques and is unique to digital platforms and the impact of the journalism produced. Attention will also be paid to innovative use of digital video, and creativity used to tell stories on digital, mobile and social platforms. Short Form, Medium Form and Long Form entries may consist of a single video or up to five examples. Entries for series must include at least three but no more than five examples. In all subcategories, credits do not count towards total overall length of the video.
# Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling
This award honors exceptional and innovative efforts in telling a story through photography, graphics, data visualization and other visual means. Strong visual digital storytelling often has reporting and text as a component of the piece which may be included with entries in this category. Judges will consider the quality and impact of the visuals, the selection of media and the effectiveness of the visuals in conveying the story’s topic or event. Judges also will give special attention to the originality, innovation and creativity being brought to bear to tell stories that are truly of digital and mobile platforms.
# Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling
This award honors exceptional efforts in telling stories through digitally focused audio media: podcasts, audio-focused online works, or other emerging media. Judges will consider the journalism behind an audio project, the uniqueness and originality of voice, overall production quality, and innovative use of storytelling techniques. Judges will give special attention to the creativity being brought to bear to tell stories that are truly of digital and mobile platforms. Entries may include up to 3 URLs directly linking to the audio media.
# Excellence in Immersive Storytelling
This award honors exceptional efforts in telling stories through digitally focused immersive media: virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, 360 video, or other emerging media. Judges will consider the journalism behind an immersive project, overall production quality, and innovative use of storytelling techniques. Judges also will give special attention to the handling of ethical considerations for immersive works and successful audience engagement efforts on digital and mobile platforms. A cash prize of $5,000 for this award is sponsored by John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Journalism 360.
# Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism
This award honors a person or company, journalistic in focus or not, that has built a digital tool or platform significantly enhancing the practice of online journalism. Entrants will be judged on the extent to which the technology serves online and mobile news gathering, production, presentation or distribution. In addition to providing a URL that explains the tool, entrants are strongly encouraged to submit up to four URLs where the tool is in use and an explanation, if necessary. The publication date restrictions for this award refer to the date of the initial release or substantial upgrade to this product. Judges will weigh the breadth and timeliness of an entrant’s impact on the journalistic community.
# The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award
This category honors a single or a series of stories that uncover major news based on the reporters’ own investigations that advance and serve the public interest. Clear presentation through user interface and interactivity, creative use of the medium and platforms (including mobile), use of social tools and evidence of the impact of the publication will be considered. Judges will also consider the impact of the work through subsequent coverage, conversations or resulting policy changes. An entry will consist of a single piece, series or package on the same subject, including an explanation detailing the investigation’s impact. An entry may consist of up to five examples, including articles, blog posts, videos, graphics, podcasts, etc.
# Knight Award for Public Service
This award recognizes digital journalism that performs a public service for a defined and specific community through compelling coverage of a vital community issue or event. Entries will be judged on the techniques and resources deployed to engage the community in the reporting process. Judges also will evaluate the use of digital media storytelling to compile, analyze and/or present critical information. Special emphasis will be placed on journalism that builds trust within the identified community, or addresses critical issues in traditionally underserved communities in innovative ways. In other words, judges are looking for storytelling that makes an impact, motivating the audience to act and improve a community’s welfare and quality of life. Entries may be a single package or continuing project and may consist of one main URL and up to four supporting URLs. Evidence of the project’s public service impact should be provided in the entry description.
# General Excellence in Online Journalism
This category, generously supported by SmartNews, honors a digitally focused news organization that successfully fulfills its editorial mission, effectively serves its audience, maximizes the use of digital tools and platforms and represents the highest journalistic standards. Entries will be judged on quality of journalism, a superb user experience and the use of social tools and other digital media to reach, inform and engage audiences.
The following awards are not open for submission; honorees are recommended and selected by committee:
# The James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting
This award honors a digital journalist who produces excellent reporting under the most challenging conditions, covering war, corruption, crime, culture and politics in countries around the world.
# The Rich Jaroslovsky Founder Award
This award honors an individual who has significantly advanced or made lasting contributions to the field of digital journalism through their work in the industry, and who exhibits extraordinary commitment to the journalistic values and ethics ONA represents.
# ONA Community Award
The ONA Community Award honors a person or small team in online journalism that has made outsize contributions to the field, particularly those who create tools or work environments that allow digital journalists to do their best work. These achievements are sometimes overshadowed by recognition given to individual projects and stories. This award is an opportunity to lift up those behind-the-scenes colleagues who have had an extraordinary impact on our field and the public at large.
Since the inception of the Online Journalism Awards, the program team has consistently re-evaluated the category structure. Below are categories from previous award years that are no longer in the current slate of awards: