The Pulitzer board did not award a prize for feature writing this year.
The Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark, a former Pulitzer juror and a friend of features folks, speculated this week that part of the reason for the snub is that features journalism is a bit hard to define.
What is features writing anyway?
Members of our organization, the Society for Features Journalism, produce some of the finest narrative storytelling in journalism. Some of us drive cultural and artistic discussions in our communities. Many of us still tell stories no one else would spend to time to do.
And, yes, some of us are writing celebrity blogs, compiling Top 10 lists, making how-to videos, posting reality show recaps and cooking up crazy reader contests.
It’s all features.
Features writers, editors and producers have been rattled by the recession and the changes in the news industry. Arts critics are rare these days, and features sections have been decimated or eliminated.
But know this: Many of the survivors — lifestyle and arts and entertainment journalists — are leading newsrooms into a digital age and finding new ways to reach out to readers and tell stories. Innovative work in newsrooms is being driven by the features staffs, who, through powerful and resourceful storytelling, learned the hard way to create something exciting, often from nothing.
Quality features journalism is spreading beyond traditional print newsrooms. Some of the recent winners in our SFJ national writing awards were from CNN and Today.com.
Did features journalism take a hit Monday when the Pulitzer board decided to withhold a prize in features writing?
Features Editor, The State, Columbia, SC
P.S. SFJ guarantees prizes in its annual writing and best section contest. Enter by clicking here
We’re all about bringing good news on tax day. We are extending the deadline for entry in the 26th Annual Excellence in Features Journalism Awards!
Take a deep breath … you have one more week to pull together your best work. If you’ve waited to look over the contest rules and the submission guidelines, check them out here.
We have new categories too: Narrative Storytelling, Blog Portfolio and Digital Innovation, along with your old favorites.
THE NEW CONTEST DEADLINE: April 25, 2014
We hope the new contest platform makes it easier to submit, but if you have questions, we’re here for you! Please email your faithful contest committee: Suzy Leonard: email@example.com and Jim Haag: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SFJ’s Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program is seeking applications from journalists of color who are interested in attending our annual conference, happening Aug. 20-23 at the Freedom Forum in Nashville. Programming will have heavy emphasis on multimedia, leadership and writing.
Diversity fellows learn what’s happening in features departments nationwide while networking with outstanding journalists specializing in lifestyle coverage. Fellowships cover SFJ conference registration, airfare and hotel. Fellows will also receive a $300 stipend to be used toward conference-related expenses such as baggage and transportation fees and meals not covered by the conference.
Fellows are asked to contribute to the conference by completing a project and presenting a short report to the group at the conclusion of the event.
The 2014 SFJ Excellence-in-Features Awards is now taking entries. We’re using an online system this year, which we hope will make the experience less cumbersome. Here’s how to get started:
For details on the categories, check out the BNC site or find them under the “Contest” heading here labeled “26th annual Excellence in Features Journalism.”
The deadline for entries is April 18.
Also, this year we have three new categories:
Narrative Storytelling: A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme. Sidebars accepted. Each entry consists of one story. All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.Blog Portfolio: Three blog posts by the same writer on any feature topic, including commentary and reviews. Each entry consists of three blog posts. All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.Digital Innovation: New or improved online ventures, which can include new or upgraded websites, apps, social-media experiments or other ways to share information in the digital world. Entries will be judged on creativity and impact. Must include a description of no more than 250 words on how the innovation came about, its goals and its success. Submit explanation as a Word document attachment. One entry consists of one innovation, such as an app or a website. All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.
According to JournalismDegree.org, they are among the “151 Twitters Worth A Follow” in its recently released “Best in #Journalism” list.
So the Society for Feature Journalism — @WeAreSFJ — is in good company at spot #106!
Here’s JournalismDegree’s description of our Twitter account: “The Society of Features Journalism helps journalists refine their craft through some of the most innovative posts across the internet. They’re incredibly active in retweeting other notable journalism publications, which only makes their feed stronger.”
JournalismDegree.org describes itself as “a site dedicated to providing timely and relevant information about journalism degrees and programs.”
It decided to put out this list because of Twitter’s effect on journalism.
“These are some of the journalists, bloggers, and news organizations that are pushing the limits of what can be accomplished with Twitter,” the site explains. “Budding journalists and seasoned pros should be following every one of these accounts.”
Thank you! We are honored to have been included on this list and we’ll keep tweeting away.
The 2014 Golden Globes are over, and the general consensus seems to be: We love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as hosts; we love it when celebrities get drunk and unpredictable; and we have plenty of comments to offer on the dresses that hit the red carpet Jan. 12.
But if you’re looking for second-day story on the entertaining evening, here are three things that are generating talk (click on image for links).
Joining is easy. Just download and complete this registration form: https://db.tt/r2aeFpCO
You can also make your membership payment online with PayPal.
And, don’t forget! There is a multiple-member discount, so you can add new colleagues and save big.
Questions? Email Merrilee Cox.
Happy holidays, and see you next year!
By Greg Braxton
2013 SFJ Diversity Fellow
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — Ethics have always been a hallmark of journalism. But the advance of digital technology within newsroom is fueling an ethics revolution.
That was the message behind the session, “Ethics In a Digital Age,” officiated by Kelly McBride, a Poynter Institute faculty member specializing in media ethics.
“Journalism ethics will change,” McBride said during a spirited address during the Society for Features Journalism conference at the institute.
Although independence has been held as one of the pillars of journalism, readers now are valuing transparency over independence, said McBride.
“When we are transparent, then we have the trust that is crucial in a relationship with the audience,” she said. “We have to show people why they should believe, we have to communicate why we are trustworthy.”
By Greg Braxton
2013 SFJ Diversity Fellow
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — The business of journalism is such a relentless beast filled with deadlines and constant pressure that it can have a negative, even stifling impact effect on creativity and attitude.
In a session spiced with good humor and energy during the Society of Features Journalism conference, senior Poynter Institute faculty member Jill Geisler, who specializes in leadership and management, spoke on how to nurture creativity with newsrooms, and how to heighten it without sacrificing the demands of producing news.
“We’re often so tied up on the product,” said Geisler in an address that was mainly geared to editors. “We have to be as good at growing and nurturing people as we are about the product … you want your most creative people to be engaged in the workplace.”
She provoked laughter among the attendees when she said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun,” noting that “play” is important to people who are creative.
“Set up a climate where playfulness can or can’t happen with creative people,” said Geisler, who also said that editors should not be reluctant to use “tough love” when necessary.
Geisler provided several tips, including leading “with Feedback Glasses,” instructing editors to have continued meaningful interaction with their reporters and staff so that there is an understanding of mutual goals, which will fuel motivation between both parties.
By Greg Braxton
2013 SFJ Diversity Fellow
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — Personality profiles can be the most insightful, involving pieces in print journalism, providing in-depth glimpses into fascinating figures while simultaneously allowing writers time and space to display their craft.
But every so often, the process produces results that can be unexpected, and, in some instances, even tragic.
Tampa Bay Times enterprise reporter Leonora LaPeter Anton encountered that delicate situation with her award-winning 2012 profile of a woman suffering from persistent genital arousal disorder, a rare debilitating disease that produces unwanted sexual feelings and responses. The intricately detailed story which exposed the humiliating ordeal of Gretchen Molannen also proved to be a troubling experience for both Molannen and the seasoned Anton, who detailed their encounters during a gripping session at the October conference for the Society for Features Journalism.
Before the story with Molannen was published in late November, she committed suicide. She took her life on Dec. 1, the day after the story appeared online.
Choking up at times as she recalled the experience, Anton defined the experience as a journey between her and Molannen, two people that always had a trace of possibility that something horrible may happen.
By Carlos Frías
2013 SFJ Diversity Fellow
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — In the 40 minutes it takes Diane Cowen to commute from the Houston Chronicle, she’d considered, conceived and came home ready to celebrate the idea for her first book.
Cowen, the Chronicle’s food and religion writer, burst through the door, heading for her computer, and called out to her husband, “I’m going to write a cookbook!”
His response? “OK. What are we going to have for dinner tonight?”
They went out to dinner.
She came up with the idea for “Sunday Dinners,” a book that examines the Sunday mealtime traditions for famous families of faith such as Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes, simply by thinking about her beats — something she suggests any reporter can do.
“I thought sarcastically, ‘I guess I could write a cookbook for religious people.’ I literally laughed out loud in my car and then… I thought, ‘That is not a bad idea,’ ” she said during the Society for Features Journalism panel examining how books can spring from the newsroom.
By Carlos Frías
2013 SFJ Diversity Fellow
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — To watch Al Tompkins concoct story ideas is a free association spectacle.
Government shutdown, you say? Tompkins, a Poynter professor and journalist of 35 years, sees FHA loans that aren’t being processed, veterans’ disability checks getting held up, the flu spreading wildly without the CDC open to warn us, border patrols shutting down and food stamps not getting processed.
He can do that with just about any topic, conjuring story ideas simply by asking how a big, public event affects five areas: money, family, safety, health, community.
With that filter, writers and editors can devise local angles to big stories. And not all of them have to focus on malfeasance.
“Part of our job is to investigate wrong-doing. Part of our job is to investigate right-doing,” Tompkins said. “There are people who do good work and we should hold them up when they do. … People are hungry for that.”
The core of reporting, he said, is to forget our stereotypes — that politicians are all crooked, that the elderly are all frail, that “kids today” all know nothing.
“It’s not all like you think,” Tompkins said.
Moneymakers: Reader contests, special promotions and new sections.
Saved The Day: Quick turn-around packages, great ideas stolen from the newsletter or last year’s Show & Steal.
Totally Entertaining: Fun topics from the world of entertainment and pop culture.
Holidays: How did you cover (any) holidays this year in a fresh, innovative way?
Editor’s Choice: Enterprise, special projects or any great concept that doesn’t fit elsewhere.
Online Superstars: Digital content only, a video, blog or anything else that got lots of traffic and buzz.
Content should have been published between June 1, 2012, and July 31, 2013.
For print entries, please send PDFs of your pages. For online entries, please send web links.
SEND ENTRIES: ShowSteal@chron.com
DEADLINE IS: Sept. 6, 2013
If you have any questions, contact Melissa Aguilar and Diane Cowen, Show & Steal committee co-chairs, at ShowSteal@chron.com.
We want to see you in October for #SFJ13. The annual features journalism conference is an excellent way to gain new skills, networks and friends in features journalism.
Need more convincing? Here are a few tips to make the sell to your editor or boss:
The challenge: Convince the boss to let me attend the SFJ Annual Conference at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg October 9-12.
The solution, Part 1: For three days, I will rub elbows with the most talented features journalists and the best journalism trainers in the country. I will return renewed, refreshed, energized and filled with new ideas to help make everyone in my newsroom a better journalist/writer/editor/producer.
The solution, Part 2: I will become more productive, a virtual “…Story Idea Machine”** and will be better prepared to handle the challenge of “Leading Creative People”**.
The solution, Part 3: I’ll move further along the ever changing cutting edge of the business with “Visual Thinking from Big Data to Simple Idea”** and “Tablet Storytelling”**
Take a moment to mark your calendar and make your plans to join us for the SFJ 2013 Features Journalism Conference.
Hotel reservations are being accepted now.
A bulk room rate has been secured for $109/night. The hotel offers free wifi and provides a shuttle to and from the Poynter campus.
You can reserve your room now by going to this link: http://cwp.marriott.com/tpasd/societyoffeaturesjournal
We would love to hear why you attended the conference and what’s the best idea you picked up at a recent SFJ conference that you put to use in your newsroom?
As the features editor of The Roanoke Times, I’ve attended five conferences and have felt recharged at each one. It’s a great way to network and meet other features editors and learn from one another. It’s also nice to have the time away from the daily pressures of the office to evaluate our jobs and challenges, and get advice if needed.
Thanks to the Show & Steal sessions, I’ve brought back great ideas to reproduce at my paper, including asking readers for their hilarious Scared of Santa photos. And you’ll never fail to find something amazing at our annual silent auction to benefit our diversity fellows program.
Now it’s time for you to share your testimonial. How did the conference help you in your job? Leave your comments below or tweet us at @WeareSFJ. We may share some of your thoughts in our conference program this year.
– Kathy Lu
SFJ would like to recognize the wonderful work being done on a daily basis by you and your colleagues around the country. The full list of winners can be found on our contest page.
All winners will be formally recognized at our annual conference at Poynter in October.
Congratulations one and all!
The Society for Features Journalism has awarded Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowships to two minority journalists to attend the organization’s 2013 annual conference.
Greg Braxton, entertainment reporter at the Los Angeles Times, and Carlos Frias, columnist and features writer at the Palm Beach Post, will receive all-expense paid trips to attend the conference Oct. 9-12 at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Braxton has been a journalist for 35 years. A graduate of the California State University at Northridge, he started as reporter at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He moved to the Los Angeles Times, where he has worked since 1982. Braxton has primarily covered television at the L.A. Times since 1992 and has been part of three Pulitzer Prize-winning teams at the paper. He has continually examined the issue of minority representation in film and television and says, “There is much more work to be done in the industry on this front, and I fully intend to keep reporting on it. Participating in this fellowship will help provide me with added perspectives and insights that no doubt will assist me in that endeavor.”
Frias is a graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville. He has been a staff writer at the Cincinnati Enquirer, the St. Petersburg Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has worked at the Palm Beach Post since 2004, focusing on long-form narrative journalism and previously on special projects in sports. He won the International Latino Book Award for best debut book for “Take Me With You: A Secret Search for Family in a Forbidden Cuba” in 2009 and first-place awards from SFJ for general and specialty features in 2011. Of his job, Frias says, “Features allows us to tell the stories of amazing people in amazing circumstances and ordinary folks in extraordinary times.”
The Diversity Fellowship offers an opportunity for journalists of color to gain a broader experience in features and underscores SFJ’s commitment to diversity within our newsrooms. Applicants were judged on the quality of their work samples, their interest in features journalism and their commitment to diversity issues. The society’s membership is open to any features writer interested in sharing and learning from a community dedicated to advancing storytelling in our society.
The Dallas Morning-News is sponsoring a new contest honoring narrative nonfiction writing in a daily U.S. newspaper or a U.S. newspaper website. It’s called the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest. The contest is conducted by the Mayborn Conference.
The prizes are impressive:
- First place winner will receive $5,000 and free registration to attend the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference July 19-21, 2013 in Grapevine, Texas
- Second place winner will receive $2,000
- Third place winner will receive $1,000
Submissions must have been published between Jan. 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012. Deadline to enter is June 1.
Deadline to apply for the fellowship has been extended a week (giving you time to finish your taxes AND your application!). Please encourage your colleagues look into this wonderful opportunity.
When: Oct. 9-12, 2013, at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Sponsor: Society for Features Journalism
Who is this for: Journalists of color who produce arts and features content for news organizations or those interested in pursuing careers in arts and features.
Application deadline: April 22, 2013
About the fellowship: The Society for Features Journalism is committed to developing news-gathering staffs representative of the multicultural communities its members serve. Toward this goal, SFJ is sponsoring the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program for journalists of color in conjunction with its annual conference at the Poynter Institute. Programming will have heavy emphasis on multimedia, leadership and writing.
Relax a little, we’ve extended our deadline — by popular demand — to Friday, April 5th.
But hurry, there’s only a few days left to submit your best in features journalism. Check out all the rules, and enter our contest now: http://featuresjournalism.org/contests-2/
The deadline for the 25th Annual Features Journalism Contest is fast approaching. Please visit our contest page to learn how you can enter. Don’t forget there are three new categories this year for entrants in video storytelling, integrated storytelling and student general features.
Contest information: http://featuresjournalism.org/contests-2/
For those of you submitting multiple entries this year, please follow a tip from Paul Saltzman of the Chicago Sun-Times:
When you have completed an entry, you will click “submit” to send the information. You will then see “message sent” along with a rundown of the information you entered.
At this point, you will also see “go back.” If you click on the “go back” it will indeed take you back, but it will also clear out all the fields in your submission. You can save yourself time and effort of retyping the same information (newspaper name, address, phone, etc.) if you use the back arrow on your browser instead. This way, you’ll only have to enter the new information for your next entry!
2013 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship
When: Oct. 9-12, 2013, at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Sponsor: Society for Features Journalism
Who is this for: Journalists of color who produce arts and features content for news organizations or those interested in pursuing careers in arts and features. There are two fellowships available.
Application deadline: April 15, 2013
The Society for Features Journalism is committed to developing news-gathering staffs that are representative of the multicultural communities its members serve. Toward this goal, SFJ is sponsoring the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program for journalists of color in conjunction with its 2013 annual conference, happening at the Poynter Institute. Programming will have heavy emphasis on multimedia, leadership and writing.
Diversity fellows learn what’s happening in features departments nationwide while networking with outstanding journalists specializing in lifestyle coverage.
Fellowships cover SFJ conference registration, airfare and hotel. Fellows will also receive a $300 stipend to be used toward conference-related expenses such as baggage and transportation fees and meals not covered by the conference.
How did features sections across the country cover the Oscars on Sunday? We sent a query out to our members and got this roundup. Check it out for ideas for next year!
SFJ is officially announcing our call for entries in two contests:
25th Annual SFJ Best Section, Niche Product
The SFJ Best Section and Best Niche Product awards honor the craft of feature writing and the people who do it for a living at news organizations and wire services. Winners of the 25th Annual contest will be announced in May and honored at SFJ’s national conference at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, FL., on Oct. 9-12, 2013. Learn more about SFJ’s 25th Annual Best Sections Contest here.
25th Annual SFJ Excellence-in-Feature Writing Competition
The SFJ Excellence-in-Features awards honor the craft of feature writing and the people who do it for a living at news organizations and wire services. Winners of the 25th Annual contest will be announced in May and honored at SFJ’s national conference at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, FL., on Oct. 9-12, 2013. Learn more about SFJ’s 25th Annual Excellence-in-Feature-Writing Contest here.
The deadline for all entries is March 29, 2013.
The page from the 2001 AASFE conference program about that year’s Hall of Fame inductees: Pauline Friedman Phillips (Dear Abby) and Eppie Lederer (Ann Landers).
Said SFJ President Alec Harvey, managing producer of The Birmingham News, “As the author of Dear Abby, Phillips was a giant in the features world, earning one of the first places in our features hall of fame. Her advice was timeless, and her audience was huge – something the likes of which newspaper feature writers will rarely see again.”
Click on the photo to read the New York Times obit on Phillips.
The SFJ Foundation is accepting donations to seed the start of its new life.
Perhaps this could be one of your #26actsofkindness, or your way to ensure the future of features journalism. Through our annual conference and the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows Program, SFJ aims to advance and recognize the important role features journalism plays in the media and society. What would we be without our stories?
To make a contribution, send a check payable to SFJ Foundation and mail to SFJ Foundation, 1100 Knight Hall, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.
No donation is too small.
Before the crunch of the holiday season and other year-end activities, don’t forget to renew your SFJ Membership.
We know very well that this brave new world of journalism presents some major challenges. We also know that your membership in SFJ provides a ready source of ideas, inspiration, support and camaraderie that can help in rapidly evolving times.
It’s an exciting time for the group. As you know, the newly-formed SFJ Foundation has received tax-exempt status, which will allow for the expansion of training and mentoring opportunities offered through our Diversity Fellowship program.
Renewals (or new memberships) are good for one year. If you don’t know when your membership expires, email Merrilee Cox or call 301-314-2631.
Share the word with your colleagues and take advantage of the multiple member rates.
SFJ Conference 2012, a set on Flickr.
A photo gallery from our August conference. Photos by Kathy Lu, features editor of The Roanoke Times.
A new national journalism awards program will recognize excellence in reporting on disability issues and people with disabilities.
The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability is the first national journalism contest devoted exclusively to disability coverage.
Our diversity fellows put together a short video interview with outgoing president, Alice Short, at the Society for Features Journalism Conference 2012.
Learn more about the craft of features journalism, the SFJ annual conference and what’s in store for the future of the organization:
Friday was packed with action at SFJ12. Check out the latest Storify in case you missed it: http://storify.com/WeAreSFJ/sfj-conference-2012-daily-wrap-up-day-2
Even if you can’t make it to this year’s annual conference, you can still follow along with our daily Storify round-ups. There’s plenty of tweets, photos and links that could help serve as valuable resources. To follow all the action at SFJ12, simply subscribe to SFJ here: http://storify.com/WeAreSFJ/sfj-conference-2012-daily-wrap-up
The Show & Steal handouts and presentation are now available for download to SFJ members.
We are counting down the days to August 22nd and the 2012 Society of Features Journalism Conference. The full conference schedule is now posted: http://featuresjournalism.org/conference/2012conference-schedule/
Registration for the conference continues, sign-up now: http://featuresjournalism.org/2012/07/18/sfj-2012-conference-registration-open/
Plans for our annual SFJ conference are underway, and we hope you’ll join us this year!
Registration link: To register for the conference, download a Word document here, and mail or fax it to the attention of Merrilee Cox at 301-314-9166. It’s that easy!
Dates: August 22-25, 2012
Location: University of Maryland, College Park
Host hotel: University of Maryland University College Inn and Conference Center, Adelphi, Md.
(our negotiated room rates range from $129-$149/night before taxes)
Member registration – $300
Non-Member registration — $500
Day Rate: $75
Student day rate: $25 (meals not included)
RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/384269938279813/
The Society for Features Journalism would like to congratulate all of this year’s contest winners!
To see the full list of award winners, please click on the jump. We hope to see all of the winners at the University of Maryland, College Park for our 2012 SFJ Conference.
The Society for Features Journalism has awarded Diversity Fellowships to two minority journalists to attend the organization’s 2012 annual conference.
Calling all journalists of color!
SFJ is looking for journalists of color who produce arts and features content, or those interested in pursuing careers in arts and features, to become Diversity Fellows at its annual conference in at the University of Maryland in August 2012. Conference programming will have heavy emphasis on multimedia, leadership and writing. The application deadline has been extended to April 13. Learn more.
Read about the Diversity Fellows who attended SFJ’s annual conference in 2011.