Tips for Submitting to the Online Journalism Awards

Submitting entries to the OJAs is an exciting time to showcase your best journalism work. It can also feel overwhelming.

To guide you through the submission process, we’ve put together our top tips so you feel prepared and confident when submitting your work — and improve your chances of impressing the reviewers.

 Before the call for submissions

  • Review general eligibility and important deadlines. It’s never too early to review the eligibility requirements. There are specific guidelines around the kind of organizations that may submit entries, newsroom size, publication dates and more. You’ll also want to note important dates like the submission deadlines and the awards ceremony, so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to get your work recognized.
  • Review category descriptions. Each year, the OJAs discover and honor journalism excellence across more than 20 categories spanning multiple mediums, topics and areas of expertise. Before crafting individual entries, get familiar with the categories and draft a short list of the ones that most resonate with your portfolio of work. We strongly encourage looking at finalists and winners from recent years as guideposts.
  • Check out the FAQs. We created an FAQ page as another great reference to get to know the OJAs.
  • Confirm your ONA Membership status. ONA members can enter the OJAs at a generously discounted rate. Entry fees are $125 per entry for members and $200 per entry for non-members. Want to receive a discounted rate per OJA submission? Renew your ONA membership or become a member.

Choose your favorite projects

  • Select your best work. While there is no limit to the number of entries you may submit, you’ll want to put forth your strongest pieces. “Best” looks different depending on the type of project, the team and the award category. As you review work from the past year, look out for projects that had a lot of engagement from your audiences (can you distill why that was?), demonstrated impact in your community (can you point to qualitative or quantitative indicators?) or was presented in a creative way. Also consider projects that may have informed or inspired work by other teams — if a peer from another newsroom has reached out with a question about how you did it, there’s probably something there! A great process tip is to create a shared folder for you and your team to compile standout projects throughout the year, so you have a portfolio that’s already narrowed down when the call for submissions opens.
  • Organize your information. From process descriptions to impact stories, we recommend compiling all project information in a shared document or folder outside of the submission portal for your team to review and contribute to.

Refine your submission content

  • Focus on strategy and impact. Across all categories, reviewers are looking for details about the strategy at play and the overall impact of your work. They want to know how you identified an area of need, how you devised a strategy and how you executed on it. Spotlight your wins, the obstacles you had to overcome and why this work is important. Impact can present in many ways — community members accessing new services, a shift in public discourse, people in a community looking at a restaurant or sports team with a fresh lens, new legislation, a high-profile leader resigning from their post and so on. Both quantitative and qualitative details will help the reviewers understand the breadth and depth of your work.
  • Tailor your responses to each category. You can enter the same project in up to three categories. Categories may have different requirements and criteria for evaluation, so it’s important to adjust your responses accordingly. For example, reviewers for the Breaking News category will be especially interested in content quickly developed within 72 hours of a major event, while the Feature category requires significant in-depth information about a specific topic.
  • Be concise. As the saying goes, “Brevity is confidence. Length is fear.” Be clear, specific and intentional in your entry. Don’t oversell your work or overwhelm reviewers with links that house multiple links and don’t clearly point to the work you want them to review. Take a look at the project descriptions of recent honorees for inspiration.

Enter all information through the portal

  • Familiarize yourself with the Submissions Portal. All OJA entrants must submit their work through our awards portal. Sign in and/or create a login as soon as possible to give yourself plenty of time to learn the system and be comfortable submitting your entry details.
  • Start early. Give yourself plenty of time — technical glitches and internet outages while you are rushing at the deadline can derail the hard work you put into gathering the submission materials. Some categories require additional information, e.g. the Student Journalism Awards require a letter of support.
  • Double-check everything. Once you submit an entry, you cannot edit it. Enlist someone else to review your responses before hitting that “Submit” button.
  • Contact ONA for help. We are here to support you throughout this process. Email with clarifying questions, technical issues with the submission portal or anything else that would make submitting easier.