SEJ Awards Judges Job Description


SEj Awards logo









From SEJ rules: QUALIFICATIONS FOR JUDGING: All judges must be either current or retired news professionals or journalism educators, or have similar qualifications the Awards Committee considers appropriate. Judges must read and abide by the contest rules. Members of the SEJ Awards Committee, the SEJ governing board, SEJ staff and awards personnel may not serve as judges. Judges serve as volunteers.

Judges and screeners must be able to access online entries using Submittable, a contest cloud service which requires the latest update of the CHROME browser. 


SEJ is looking for judges and screeners with the following characteristics:

  • A profound understanding of journalism
  • An absence of bias with respect to environmental issues (e.g., "pet" issues or issues that don't "resonate"), media types, media groups, individual reporters, etc.
  • An ability to commit to a late April - July 1 schedule
  • Some knowledge of and familiarity with environmental issues
  • A good grasp of SEJ Awards RULES and FAQs

Four thoughts to keep in mind:

  • The SEJ Awards program is a journalism contest, not a contest about environmental issues. Judges are to select the best examples of journalism. Solid in-depth investigative reporting, clear explanatory writing, solid beat reporting, great storytelling, fact-finding that uncovers new information — these are the focus of SEJ's contest.
  • You're looking for the best examples of journalism, not the best of what's been entered. That's why you might end up with, for example, no first place. Don't limit your vision to only what's been entered. Does your first place exemplify truly great reporting? Or just the best you've read in your category?
  • With the above in mind, we know that recognizing more great journalism shines a light on this important beat. If your category yields up plenty of examples of truly great journalism, you're encouraged to award three place winners and three honorable mentions.
  • SEJ's vision includes diversity in all respects and through all programs and governance. Within the awards program, we encourage judges to appropriately recognize underrepresented voices, topics and geographies along with established journalists and media outlets.

SEJ awards consist of 10 categories and the Pulliam "best of the best" award, drawn from the first-place winners in all categories. SEJ will need 33 judges as well as at least eight screeners to narrow down categories with the largest number of entries.

  • Screening begins as soon after April 5 as SEJ staff has entries ready. Two screeners are needed for each category having high numbers of entries — usually four categories. 
  • Judging begins in late April or early May — as soon as the entries are ready for judges. (March 1 is the deadline to enter, with late entries due by April 5.)
  • BOOK JUDGING: Books will be sent to book judges as soon as they begin to be sent in. There are usually about 30 books entered, so 3-4 boxes will be shipped starting with the first ten or so entered — usually in March. 

While judges should become familiar with SEJ Awards Rules, here are some rules and guidelines to remember: 

  • Judges may enter SEJ's contest in any category they are not judging. No travel is required for this task. Judges work on panels of three.
  • SAME DAY LINKS count toward the entry, but SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS DO NOT. They are (sometimes) part of an entry to shed light on the entered stories, and not to be considered in any way as part of the entry, i.e., they are not being judged or awarded. (Same-day stories: related stories published or aired the same day count as one story.)
  • Judges may select up to six entries to be recognized in each category: 1st, 2nd and 3rd place and up to three Honorable Mentions. Judges are free to select fewer than six. 
  • Judges must recuse themselves if faced with a conflict of interest.
  • Series that begin or end outside the contest window of Feb. 1, 2021 - Jan. 31, 2022 are allowed, as long as some part of the series falls within the contest window.  (This rule doesn't apply to the Feature Story and Beat categories, where series are not allowed.)

Procedure on

  • Log into and if your entry list doesn't automatically pop up, mouse over your profile icon at the top right and click the drop-down arrow to the right of that icon. Select Society of Environmental Journalists. Your list will then load. If you don't yet have an account on Submittable, you'll be invited to create an account. Once you've accepted the invitation and created your account, we'll add you to the SEJ Awards category you'll be judging and give you access to entries. 
  • Judges access entries by clicking on the Submission name (e.g., Nessman/WKRP) in your list of entries. Entry info is on the left side of the page; Review selections are on the right. If you don't see the review section, click the REVIEW tab at the top of that area, under the black menu bar. Click My Review to begin. Make your selections, then save your selections as Draft. You can can edit selection anytime, even after finalizing your selections. After you've saved as Draft for the first time, open your selections by clicking [YOUR NAME] under the review section. 
  • Note that there are two SCREENER fields at the top. Judge fields follow the screener fields, and staff checklist is at the bottom. Only fill out the fields in the JUDGES' section. 
  • Remember to save your selections! It's easy to miss this step and you don't want to lose your work. Save as DRAFT until you're finished, then Finalize the review. You can still edit the review after finalizing.
  • Please reread the rules listed above!

Judges can use their own means of going through entries, but we've found selecting your top ten works well. SEJ uses Submittable for reviews. You can see other judges' selections in your category. Once all three judges have their top ten selections, a conference call or two will allow for discussion and deciding on the final list of winners and honorable mentions.

Judges may select up to three place winners and three honorable mentions, so you may recognize no more than six, and you can also recognize none if no entries meet what you consider great environmental journalism. Remember, you're selecting the best examples of environmental journalism, not the best entries in SEJ's contest. So you might, for instance, decide no entry merits first place, or only two merit an honorable mention. 

Please contact Chris Bruggers if you have ANY questions. I'm in the Eastern time zone and check email in the evenings and weekends while judges and screeners are working. 


July 1: The deadline for judges' results plus a write-up of why each entry was selected for honor
August 17 (Pulliam judges only): The deadline for the Pulliam selections (the winner plus one honorable mention)


If you haven't been selected as a judge or screener...

...and you're interested in volunteering, please respond to a few questions to help us with selection and placement.