Rules of the SEJ Awards for Reporting on the Environment

 
  1. NAME AND PURPOSE: The Society of Environmental Journalists Awards for Reporting on the Environment honor the year's most outstanding journalism on environmental subjects.
  2. GOVERNANCE: Annually, at its January meeting, the SEJ Board of Directors will appoint an awards committee consisting of at least three people, including a chairperson or co-chairs, each of whom will serve one-year terms. The committee must always have an odd number of members to avoid evenly split votes, and the board must appoint a replacement if there is a mid-year vacancy. The awards committee is responsible for establishing, amending and interpreting the contest rules, appointing judges and otherwise assisting the SEJ staff in administering the contest. The judging panels appointed by the awards committee are responsible for choosing place-winners from among those entries in each category that comply with the contest rules. The SEJ staff is responsible for day-to-day administration of the contest, in consultation with the awards committee. Only the judging panels may select the contest winners, not the awards committee or the SEJ board or staff.
  3. PRIZE: A $10,000 prize is offered for the book judged as the best environment journalism of the year. A $1,000 first-place prize may be awarded in all other categories except the student category. In the student category, the judges may award the winner a $250 first-place prize, free registration at SEJ's annual conference and up to $750 in travel and lodging expenses related to the SEJ conference. In all categories in which they have selected a winner, judges also may choose second- and third-place finishers. In categories where judges have not selected any place-winners, they may choose up to three entries as honorable mentions. Cash awards for second place, or for second and third place, may be offered if approved by the awards committee and the executive director, in consultation with the board of directors. No cash prizes are given for honorable mentions. At the discretion of the executive director, additional considerations, including conference fee waivers, may be awarded to second- and third-place winners or honorable mentions in the student category.
  4. ELIGIBLE ENTRANTS: Any journalist may enter unless he or she is a member of the SEJ Board of Directors, Awards Committee or the SEJ staff. Exception will be made if an SEJ board member is part of a group entry, provided that the board member did not play a significant role. Judges may enter except in a category to which their panel is assigned. Students may enter work that was published or broadcast in a media outlet accessible to the general public.
  5. ELIGIBLE SUBJECTS: Only journalism that is predominantly about an environmental subject is eligible for the contest. The awards committee is the final authority for determining whether an entered story meets that standard. 
  6. ELIGIBLE STORIES: Books must have been published during the calendar year directly preceding the contest deadline, i.e., January 1 - December 31, 2009, for the contest closing April 1, 2010. All other entries: Only journalism that is published or broadcast (including cable) in a media outlet accessible to the general public during the most recently completed 12-month period that began March 1 and ended the last day of February may be entered in the contest. Series that begin or end during the designated contest period qualify in their entirety, but a specific series may only be entered in one contest year, and rules concerning the number of stories to be submitted for each category still apply. A story that has been entered in the contest may not be entered in another category or in a subsequent year's contest, even if it has been republished in a different medium (print to web, for example). Stories or projects funded by or through SEJ are not eligible. Work published in web logs and other personal web sites is eligible for the online and student categories as long as the site is accessible to the general public. 
  7. NON-ENGLISH ENTRIES: Entries in languages other than English must be accompanied by a complete and accurate English translation.  
  8. GROUP ENTRIES: In addition to individuals, groups may enter as a team. Only individuals may enter, not publications, stations or other corporate entities. All reporters whose names appear on the submitted stories must be listed on a separate sheet and included with the entry form. Other journalists who contributed to the submitted stories (such as producers, editors, graphic artists and photographers) may be listed if the submitter chooses to do so. For the beat-reporting categories listed below, the same individual or group of individuals must have written or produced all reports submitted for judging. If a team is awarded prize money, the cash award will be divided among the journalists whose names are listed on the entry according to whatever division formula the team has specified on its entry form. SEJ may, for budgetary reasons, choose to limit the number of individual certificates or other materials presented to winning group entries.  
  9. CATEGORIES: The categories for the contest are as follows:
    • Rachel Carson Environment Book Award
      Definition: A published nonfiction book covering a topic of environment journalism.
    • Outstanding Beat or In-Depth Reporting, Radio
      Definition: Up to five radio reports, with a combined total running time of no more than 60 minutes, on one or more environmental subjects.
    • Outstanding Beat or In-Depth Reporting, Television
      Definition: Up to five television reports, with a combined total running time of no more than 60 minutes, on one or more environmental subjects.
    • Outstanding Story, Television, Large Market
      Definition: A single television report, up to ten minutes long, on an environmental subject. (Eligible: national networks in U.S. and elsewhere and top 10 markets in U.S. as determined by Nielsen.)
    • Outstanding Story, Television, Small Market
      Definition: A single television report, up to ten minutes long, on an environmental subject. (Eligible: all networks falling outside the large market definition, above.)
    • Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting, Print
      Definition: An investigative story, series or occasional series of up to four parts on a single environmental subject, published in a newspaper, magazine, wire service, newsletter or other print medium. Only four parts of a longer series may be entered. Related stories published on the same day count as one part. (Kevin Carmody, a prize-winning investigative reporter and a founding board member of SEJ, died in 2005.)
    • Outstanding Explanatory Reporting, Print
      Definition: A story, series or occasional series of up to four parts that illuminates a significant and complex environmental subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing and clear presentation. The story or stories must be published in a newspaper, magazine, wire service, newsletter or other print medium. Only four parts of a longer series may be entered. Related stories published on the same day count as one part.
    • Outstanding Beat Reporting, Print
      Definition: Up to seven stories on various environmental subjects, published in a newspaper, magazine, wire service, newsletter or other print medium. Related stories published on the same day count as one story.
    • Outstanding Small-Market Reporting, Print
      Definition: Up to four stories on related or unrelated environmental topics initially published in a newspaper, magazine, wire service, newsletter or other print medium with a circulation of less than 100,000. Related stories published on the same day count as one story.
    • Outstanding Online Reporting
      Definition: Up to four stories on one or more environmental subjects. Entered stories may not simply be online versions of print, television or radio stories. They must be prepared either specifically for an online news outlet or for other media but displayed online with significant use of Internet-only tools demonstrating the power of online display. Examples include but are not limited to: streaming audio or video, podcasts, hyperlinks to additional documentation or web sites, interactive quizzes or simulations. Original work published in web logs and other personal web sites is also eligible as long as the site is accessible to the general public. Related stories published on the same day count as one story.
    • Outstanding Student Reporting
      Definition: A student-produced story or series on a single environmental subject in print, online, or on radio or television. Entrants in this category must have been students in a degree-granting program at the time their work was published or broadcast. Students who have had prior full-time, professional journalism experience, outside of internships, are not eligible to enter. Eligible work must have been published or broadcast in a media outlet accessible to the general public or the campus community. Work published, broadcast or produced while working as a student intern is eligible. Only four parts of a longer series may be entered. Related stories published or broadcast on the same day count as one story.
  10. MULTIPLE ENTRIES: Individuals or groups may participate in more than one entry per year, in the same category or in different categories. However, no story may be included in more than one entry and each entry must be mailed separately with a separate entry fee. This means, for example, that the same package of stories cannot be entered in more than one category and each story in a package may be part of only one entry.
  11. ENTRY FEE:  SEJ members in good standing, or teams that include at least one SEJ member, must pay SEJ a fee of $30 per entry to be eligible for judging in all categories except the book ($50 entry fee for members) and student categories ($15 for members). Entrants in the student category who qualify for membership may pay a special fee of $25 that covers one contest entry and one year's membership in SEJ; qualified book entrants pay $80. Non-members who do not wish to join must pay $50 for student entries, $125 for book entries and $80 per entry in all other categories. Non-members who are not entering the student or book categories and wish to join SEJ for the first time and who qualify for membership may pay a special rate of $50 that covers one contest entry and the first year's membership in SEJ. Group entries pay the same fee as individuals, but groups or individuals that enter the contest more than once in the same year must pay a separate fee for each entry. Groups pay the SEJ member rate if at least one of the reporters is an SEJ member.
  12. COPIES OF ENTERED STORIES:
    • Print category stories must be submitted in one of four ways: 1) clearly legible photocopies on paper measuring no smaller than 8.5 inches by 11 inches and no larger than 11 inches by 17 inches, 2) clips mounted on paper, cardboard or similar material (clips mounted on cardboard or other stiff paper may not be larger than 11 inches by 17 inches to allow for filing in the SEJ office), 3) reprints, or 4) printouts of PDF versions of print stories. In each case, the submitted material must show the same stories, headlines, photos and graphics that appeared originally in print, without any additions or deletions, and must be accompanied by at least one actual tearsheet or clipping. Tearsheets only are not accepted. News services may submit computer printouts. SEJ also requests entrants in print categories to include, if possible, an electronic copy on CD for archiving.
    • Television stories must be on VHS cassettes or DVD (digital video disc). It is the entrant's responsibility to make sure entered DVDs are playable in multiple formats and readable on both PC and Mac.
    • Radio stories must be on audio compact discs. It is the entrant's responsibility to ensure each copy is readable on both PC and Mac.
    • Online entries must be submitted in one of three ways: 1) web addresses that are current and publicly accessible, 2) compact discs showing exactly how the material appeared online or 3) legible printouts of exactly how the material appears (or appeared) online. In each case, the submitted material may not reflect any changes made after the last day of February of the current contest year. Entries must also be accompanied by complete instructions indicating which stories and web pages are to be judged. It is the entrant's responsibility to ensure each copy is readable on both PC and Mac.
    • Book entries must be submitted as published. Computer printouts or proofing copies will not be accepted.
  13. SUPPORTING LETTER: Entries must be accompanied by a supporting letter, written by the entrant or a supervisor, providing supporting information about the entered stories, including the resources that went into reporting them, their impact and the deadlines or any other obstacles the reporters faced. If the entered stories are part of a longer series, this letter may also briefly summarize stories not included in the entry. The supporting letter may not be longer than one side of an 8½ by 11 sheet of paper, using 10-point type or larger. Entrants should not submit any additional supporting material, and judges may not consider any additional material submitted.
  14. DEADLINE: Entries must be postmarked no later than April 1, 2010,
    to qualify for judging in that year's contest.
  15. COMPLETENESS OF ENTRY: An entry will be considered complete and eligible for judging if it complies with the contest rules and includes the correct entry fee plus FIVE legible copies of the following: a completed entry form (on top), the supporting letter (below the entry form), and the entered stories (on bottom). Some entrants may also be asked to provide documentation demonstrating that they are eligible for the category they are entering.
  16. INCOMPLETE OR NON-COMPLYING ENTRIES: The awards committee or the committee chair or co-chairs may disqualify entries that are incomplete, illegible (exceptionally small type or poor photocopying), or otherwise do not comply with the contest rules. In cases where the staff or awards committee determines that an entry is substantially but not fully complete, the committee or SEJ staff may contact entrants and give them extra time to provide any missing copies or other required information after the regular entry deadline. But no additional documentation will be accepted without approval of the awards committee. Entry fees will not be refunded to disqualified entrants.
  17. CATEGORY SWITCHES: The SEJ awards committee may switch entries between categories if the committee determines the entry was classified incorrectly.
  18. APPOINTMENT OF JUDGES: For each category it establishes, the awards committee each year will appoint a panel of at least three judges, including a panel chairperson responsible for making sure the panel follows the rules, meets the judging deadline and writes citations for the place-winners. Each panel must have an odd number of judges to avoid evenly split votes. At its discretion, the awards committee may appoint the same judge or judging panels to select winners in more than one category. All judges will be selected before June 1, and preferably earlier, for the contest being judged the following month.
  19. QUALIFICATIONS FOR JUDGING: All judges must be either news professionals, or journalism educators, or have similar qualifications the awards committee considers appropriate. Judges must read and familiarize themselves with the contest rules and abide by them. Members of the SEJ awards committee, the SEJ governing board and SEJ staff may not serve as judges. Judges serve as volunteers.
  20. REMOVAL AND REPLACEMENT OF JUDGES: The awards committee will appoint a replacement for any judge unable or unwilling to follow the contest rules or otherwise fulfill his/her obligations as a judge in the contest. Mere disagreement with a judge's selection of a winner is not grounds for removal by the awards committee. If the awards committee determines that a judge it has selected is not qualified, the committee will name a replacement.
  21. JUDGE RECUSALS: Judges must recuse themselves from judging or in any way discussing all entries from their own news organizations. (This does not apply to organizations that share a common corporate ownership but are managed separately, such as newspapers or stations in different cities that are owned by the same corporate parent.) Whenever a judge is uncertain whether a recusal should occur, the judge will contact the awards committee, which will determine whether a recusal is appropriate. A judge who has recused herself/himself from judging an entry may participate in judging the other entries in the same category. However, if a judging panel determines that, because of a recusal, it cannot reach a decision on selecting place-winners, the awards committee may replace the recused judge.
  22. JUDGING PROCESS: Judging panels must meet in person or via telephone conference call to select place-winners. The chairperson of each panel is responsible for selecting dates and times for judging that are convenient for the entire panel. Judges may never discuss contest entries with anyone outside their judging panel, and may not discuss entries with other panel members unless the entire panel is participating in the discussion. Judges will use their own judgment in determining which entries constitute the most outstanding journalism on environmental subjects in the categories they are judging. At its discretion, the awards committee may, at the beginning of the judging process, provide all of the contest's judges with standardized, non-binding guidelines to help judges evaluate entries. Judges must consider only the entered stories and the supplemental letter(s) in judging an entry. They may not consider any additional material.

  23. QUESTIONS FROM JUDGES: Judges will contact the awards committee if they have questions about interpreting the rules of the contest, including whether an entry is in the correct category, whether a story is on an "environmental subject," or whether an entrant is eligible to participate. The awards committee, by majority vote, has the final authority to interpret the rules of the contest and will advise the judges accordingly. The committee's role in those cases is strictly limited to interpreting the contest rules and may not include expressing a preference for any particular entry.
  24. NUMBER OF WINNERS: The judges may select up to three ranked place-winners or honorable mentions in each category. Judges are free to select fewer or no place-winners, if they believe no entries are deserving of the honors. Ties are not allowed. No more than three entrants may be honored per category.
  25. DISPUTES: Judging panels will make every reasonable effort to reach a consensus in selecting place-winners. In case of a split decision, the majority rules. If a member of a judging panel believes a fellow judge is not following the rules of the contest, the complaining judge may contact the awards committee, which will determine whether the contest rules are being violated. Judging panels' selections of place-winners are final except in extraordinary cases in which the awards committee determines that the contest's rules have been violated. The awards committee may not overturn a judging panel's decision merely because the committee believes another entry is more worthy. The committee may act only if by majority vote it determines that the judging process violated the contest rules or that a place-winning entry must be disqualified for failing to comply with the rules. In that extraordinary case, the judging panel will promptly reconvene and make another selection. Under no circumstances will the awards committee, the SEJ board of directors or the SEJ staff select winners or honorable mentions.
  26. CITATIONS FOR WINNING ENTRIES: With input from the rest of the panel, the judging chairperson will write brief statements (at least one paragraph each) explaining why the place-winning entries are worthy of special recognition. These citations must be reviewed and approved in writing by all members of the judging panel, and then sent to the awards committee chairperson(s). They may be published later in SEJournal and on SEJ's Internet newsgroups and web pages after the winners are publicly announced.
  27. JUDGING DEADLINE: All judging panels must make their final decision no later than July 1. By that date, the chairperson of each panel must inform the awards committee chairperson(s) of the panel's decision and send the committee the citations for the winning entries. All judges on each panel must independently communicate their agreement with the panel's decision. The committee chairperson(s) will then review all the place-winning entries and honorable mentions to ensure that they comply with contest rules.
  28. CONFIDENTIALITY: Judges must never divulge any information about their deliberations, including their evaluation of individual entries, except to inform the awards committee about which entries are award recipients and to transmit the citations for the prize-winning entries. The only exception is that under extraordinary circumstances judges may be asked by the awards committee to discuss their deliberations with the awards committee, but only if the committee believes that information will help the committee determine whether the judging process or a particular entry violates the contest rules. In that case, the awards committee will also keep that information strictly confidential.
  29. DISCLOSURE OF WINNERS: Winners will be announced in early July. Awards will be presented at SEJ's annual conference.
  30. DISPLAYING AND ARCHIVING WINNERS: Copies of place-winning stories will be retained as an archive by SEJ and may be reproduced on the SEJ web site and in SEJ publications at SEJ's discretion.
  31. RULES CHANGES: In close consultation with the SEJ staff and board of directors, the awards committee by majority vote may amend the contest rules prior to the call for entries, including modifying the categories, award amounts and entry fees. The contest's budget, however, must always remain within the limits established by the SEJ executive director and the board of directors.
  32. POSTING OF RULES: Contest rules are posted on the public portion of the SEJ Internet site. If possible, the names and affiliations of all judges and awards committee members will also be posted there.