2021 SFJ Excellence-in-Features awards now open!

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The 33rd annual Society for Features Journalism Excellence-in-Features contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living, is taking entries for 2021!

First-place winners in each category will receive $300, so don’t miss this chance to enter.

All entries – other than those in the Best Features Digital Presence category – must have been published in print or online between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020.

The writing contest is open to journalists working for legacy and new media (including nonprofit), whether you’re a freelancer or full-time employee.

Winners will be announced in June.

The cost of each entry is $45 for all professional writing, online and video entries, and $60 in the Niche Product, Features Digital Presence and Best Section categories.

To enter, go to https://betternewspapercontest.com and search for Society for Features Journalism.

Deadline for entries: February 18, 2021 has been extended to April 5, 2021!

If you have any questions, please contact Sharon Chapman at schapman@statesman.com.

2021 Categories

001 General Feature
Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic. Entries can be a single trend story, profile, interview, news feature or general feature of 1,000 words or more. Sidebars accepted. Each entry consists of one story. Multiple bylines accepted.

002 Arts & Entertainment Feature
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic – such as architecture, art, books, dance, movies, music, opera, television or theater. NOTE: Food stories should be entered in one of the food categories. Entries can be a single trend story, interview or feature story. Each entry consists of one story.

003 Short Feature
Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words. A word count is required with each entry; entries exceeding the limit will be disqualified. Enter the word count in the “Comments, Credits & Other Info” field on the entry form. Each entry consists of one story.

004 Food Feature
A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personality profile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic. Each entry consists of on story.

005 Food Criticism
A single story, such as a restaurant review, that offers opinions about a topic or restaurant in the food industry. Each entry consists of one story.

006 Features Series or Project
Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts. Sidebars accepted. Can include a written explanation of not more than 250 words on how the story was reported. Each entry consists of the stories that comprise the series or project. Multiple bylines accepted.

007 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. Each entry consists of one story.

008 Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio
Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, health, religion, technology or travel. NOTE: Food writing entries should be entered in the Food Writing Portfolio category. Entries can be trend stories, profiles, interviews, news features, general features or narratives covering the same topic. Columns and commentary are excluded. Each entry consists of three stories from the same writer.

009 Food Writing Portfolio
Three stories by the same writer on any food topic. Entries can be stories, columns or reviews. Each entry consists of three stories from the same writer.

010 General Commentary Portfolio
A collection of three columns or essays by the same writer on any human interest or specialty topic, excluding editorials. NOTE: Food writing entries should be entered in the Food Writing Portfolio category. Each entry consists of three examples of the writer’s work, showing a range of reporting styles.

011 Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio
A collection of three columns, essays or reviews by the same writer on any arts and entertainment topic, excluding editorials. NOTE: Food writing entries should be entered in the Food Writing Portfolio category. Each entry consists of three examples of the writer’s work.

012 Sports Feature
Feature treatment of any sports topic. Entries can be a trend story, interview or feature story. Each entry consists of one story.

013 Headline Writing Portfolio
A collection of three headlines and accompanying decks by the same writer for feature stories or columns. Headlines must be attached to the stories or columns and can be accompanied by related visuals. Entries will be judged on clarity, accuracy and creativity. One entry consists of three headlines and accompanying decks and stories. NOTE: All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.

014 Video Storytelling
The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length. One entry consists of one video.

015 Integrated Storytelling
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through the integrated use of print, digital, social media, video and any other platform. One entry consists of the package of stories and other elements used to cover the topic.

016 Features Podcast
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through a podcast. One entry consists of links to three podcast episodes by the same person or persons. NOTE: All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.

017 Diversity in Digital Features
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic that highlights the diversity within a publication’s audience. Diversity can include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies. One entry consists of a story or a series of stories on the same diversity topic. Multiple bylines accepted.

018 Digital Innovation
New or improved digital 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 or enter explanation in the “Comments, Credits & Other Info” field on the entry form. One entry consists of one innovation, such as an app or a website. NOTE: All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.

019 Special Section
A special section published in 2020 either in print and/or online once a year. (For sections published two or more times, enter Niche Product.) Submit one hard copy or PDFs of the entire or provide the URL (if it’s an online-only entry) in the comments section on the entry.

Each entry must also include a PDF of the cover or homepage of the section. On the back of each hard-copy issue, attach a printed entry label, which automatically appears after each entry is submitted. Mail entries to Sharon Chapman, Austin American-Statesman, 305 S. Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78704. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 18, 2021.

020 Niche Product
The best examples of a niche product – such as a magazine or special section – published at least two times a year. Submit two hard copies of each niche product or PDFs of the entire product of the same niche product.

Each entry must also include PDFs of the covers from both of the submitted entries. One entry consists of one copy of each of the two issues and the two PDFs. On the back of each hard-copy issue, attach a printed entry label, which automatically appears after each entry is submitted. Mail entries to Sharon Chapman, Austin American-Statesman, 305 S. Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78704. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 18, 2021.

021 Features Digital Presence
The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. Submit links to a website; features channel; app; and/or social-media page such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter. Entries are judged on content, which includes timeliness, depth of coverage, voice and style. One entry consists of links to a website, features channel, social-media pages or app.

022 Best Section
The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. Submit five sections, either hard copies or PDFs of the entire sections, from the 2020 calendar year. One must be an arts-and-entertainment-themed section, and one must be a Sunday section. (If your publication doesn’t print on Sunday, submit one section from Saturday or from your premiere weekly section and add a note of explanation).

The other three are the editor’s choice from regularly appearing features sections. Entries are judged on content, which includes the range of topics, depth, voice and style; service, which includes the inclusion of everyday people, useful information and the level of reader interaction; and design, which includes the use of photos and illustrations, headlines, navigational tools and the “wow” factor.

One hard copy of each section or PDFs of the entire section is required. One entry consists of one copy or PDFs of each of the five sections and PDFs of three of the submitted section fronts (PDFs of the section fronts only). On the back of each section, attached a printed version of the entry label, which automatically appears after each entry is submitted. Mail entries to Sharon Chapman, Austin American-Statesman, 305 S. Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78704. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 18, 2021.

023 Finest in Features Sweepstakes Awards
This award honors three publications in each circulation category that garner the most awards in the other 22 categories. No entry is necessary. Instead, points are assigned for each of the other winning entries, and the publications with the highest number of points receive the sweepstakes awards.

Meet the new 2017-18 SFJ board officers

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haagjim2016Jim Haag
President

Jim is the retired features editor at The Virginian-Pilot, where he finished his career of 35-plus years in journalism. Along the way, he was a reporter, copy editor and designer. But the best part of the job was helping to tell engaging stories. He’s the co-author of the “Food Lover’s Guide to Virginia” (Globe Pequod Press, 2013). He spent time at the Salina Journal and Hays Daily News in Kansas, where he graduated from Fort Hays State University.

 

MyersMargaret2016Margaret Myers
1st vice president

Margaret is an editor with Atlantic Media Strategies. She previously led a team of reporters at PBS NewsHour and ESPN, and was a features editor at the Amarillo (Texas)  Globe-News. Margaret is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Sharon ChapmanSharon Chapman
2nd vice president

is features editor at the Austin American-Statesman. She leads a team of passionate writers and editors who cover the culture and lifestyle of Austin, Texas. She previously was entertainment/food editor at the Statesman, leading the launch of Austin360 in print and online. She has also been assistant features editor at The Kansas City Star and Salem (Ore.) Statesman-Journal.

 

 

SpicerEmily

Emily Spicer
Treasurer/secretary

Emily is the features editor and The Spice of Life columnist at the San Antonio Express-News. In the many years she has worked at the paper, she has held various titles, including travel writer, fashion editor, real estate editor, and the most recent, business editor. She also worked for a year in the middle there as the public relations manager for Neiman Marcus San Antonio. Spicer graduated from the University of Texas in Austin in 1998 with degrees in journalism and Plan II (a liberal arts honors program.)

Digital tool of the day: Soundbite

The tool: Soundcite, created by KnightLabs.

What is it? A way to smoothly embed sound bites into a narrative

What can it do? Take sound clips, 9-1-1 call excerpts and other recorded material and use it as part of your story. Bring your stories to life with sound.

Use it to illustrate parts of songs; to bring quotes to life in a narrative. To insert audio history.

Find it: https://soundcite.knightlab.com


Here’s how the New York Times used music bites in a great story you the lost history of American female musicians.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/13/magazine/blues.html

 

Meet 2016 SFJ diversity fellows from Bradenton Herald, Washington Post, UT-Austin

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We are excited to introduce our 2016 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows! They each will receive an expense-paid trip to attend our annual conference, happening in Aug. 10-13 in Austin, Texas.

Get to know them a little here.

Jenny Abella, The Washington Post

AAJA VOICES 2014 mugs

Jenny Abella

Jennifer Abella has been a copy editor at The Washington Post since 2000, when she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Currently the copy chief for Washington Post Magazine, she has held several positions at the paper, including features copy chief and deputy

copy chief of the universal news desk. In her spare time she is a pop culture junkie and Anglophile who blogs and manages social media for UNC’s annual Jane Austen Summer Program.

Q&A

Q: Tell us about your current job.

I oversee copy editing and production for The Washington Post Magazine: I slot copy, oversee proofing, manage production deadlines, publish stories to the Web and compile our entertainment calendar.

Q: What are some of the favorites stories you covered?

We’ve done some great stories recently, including a mascot boot camp and an infographic about black superheroes going mainstream.

Q: How do you use social media?

I am on social media every day mostly for personal use, but also to support my volunteer work for the Jane Austen Summer Program in North Carolina. My work with JASP allows me to experiment —  on a small scale —  with concepts I’ve gleaned from working at The Post.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

I love learning about the personal angles of stories — not just policies or politics, but also the way they affect people’s lives.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” – Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice”

It applies to anything you love, really — you don’t even feel it happening; it just happens.

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

I am thoroughly addicted to Twitter, particularly news accounts that have a geeky/entertainment bent: The Mary Sue, Hitfix, IGN, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter.

For fun, I read young adult literature as well as pop culture-centric nonfiction.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I’d like to get back in touch with the roots of editing and working with writers to craft a strong narrative without losing the writer’s voice. I’m also really interested in the impact of social media on features stories. I’d love to learn more about crafting compelling social headlines for our content and how other publications enhance their long reads for the web in an age when readers have such short attention spans.

 Amaris Castillo, Bradenton Herald

Amaris Castillo Photo

Amaris Castillo

Amaris Castillo is a law enforcement/island reporter for the Bradenton Herald, where she has worked since 2014.

Castillo has a multimedia series called Bodega Stories, where she publishes stories and portraits of people who frequent her parents’ Latin market in Saint Petersburg, Fla. The project is her small way of preserving language and culture, which means a lot to her as a first-generation American.

Castillo was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Dominican parents and has a master’s from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from the University of South Florida.

Q&A

Q: Tell us about your current job.

As the law enforcement/island reporter for the Bradenton Herald, I am regularly sent out to cover breaking news situations such as shootings, fires and crashes. I also report on Anna Maria Island, a 7-mile barrier island that’s filled with challenges related to tourism and all that it brings to residents and business owners. There are three cities on the island, so my job is to keep track of what’s going on in each city. As the night reporter at my newspaper, I’m also called on to cover general assignment stories that range from graduation ceremonies to animal rights protests.

Though law enforcement and the island are my primary beats, I am always searching for interesting feature stories, as well as stories on the immigrant experience — one of my interests.

Q: What are some of the favorite stories you covered?

One is a series on a Honduran boy who crossed the border to reunite with his parents in Bradenton and the challenges he now faces as he seeks asylum. Another story I enjoyed working on was the historic and absolutely bizarre election tie-breaker in Bradenton Beach between an ousted mayor and current-mayor/former- vice mayor — it was one of those “only in Florida” stories where I witnessed an election tie broken through a deck of cards.

Though interviewing people who are grieving after losing a loved one is extremely difficult, I feel it is an honor to tell their stories. Some of my favorite stories have been about grieving and loss; I wrote a story about a grieving mother who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose just days prior to our interview, and I also recently sat down with a local family who lost four relatives in the Ecuador earthquake. It means a lot to have people willing to speak to me despite their overwhelming grief — I do not take this lightly and always do my best to treat what they tell me with great care.

Q: How do you use social media?

I use social media to share my work, as well as the work of my colleagues and other journalists I admire.

I also use social media as a reporting tool; there have been times where these networks have helped me reach a new source. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I am able to dig and dig and dig until I am able to reach someone I need to speak to for a story.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

Features journalism is important to me because it stretches beyond the formulaic and cut-and-dried story. It allows journalists to expand and try to incorporate feeling and the essence of a source in the story — the exhausted eyes of a grieving mother, the nervous face of a graduate about to step onto the stage and receive his diploma. I am drawn to feature stories because they bring me in and make me feel as if I am a witness to what’s being done and what’s being said.

Features journalism not only informs the public, but it engages the public.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“Nothing happens unless first we dream” by the late poet/writer Carl Sandburg.

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

For news, I read the Bradenton Herald, Tampa Bay Times, The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, to name a few. I also listen to NPR and different podcasts on my commute to and from work.

For fun, I enjoy watching Buzzfeed videos and I enjoy reading cultural sites such as Remezcla. I also really enjoy reading independent media like The Mash-Up Americans and La Galeria Magazine.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I hope to leave the SFJ conference inspired, rejuvenated and with tools on how to become a better storyteller. My newspaper is smaller compared to other area newspapers, and so I hope to learn and soak in as much as I can to bring this knowledge back to my colleagues.

I look forward to meeting features editors from all over the U.S. and asking them what makes a great feature story to them personally — what are some do’s and, most importantly, what are some don’ts? I am so excited to be in the same space as others who are passionate about features journalism and look forward to productive discussions and workshops that will be both challenging and stimulating.

Emily Gibson, The University of Texas at Austin

emily

Emily Gibson

I was born in Baltimore, Md., and grew up reading preteen tabloids such as Tiger Beat and J-14. Thankfully, my taste in magazines and journalism evolved, but my appetite for it didn’t.

I measure my lifetime in what blog or project I was writing at the time (my first “novel” was written when I was in grade school and was called Lobster Face, my first middle school blog was about music and was called CantBeatIt, I currently co-run a magazine, etc.)

When I got to high school, I took a newspaper course and that small taste of newsroom experience confirmed what I already knew: that I was going to give this journalism thing a shot.

Q&A

Q: Tell us about your current job.

I currently intern for The Austin Chronicle, I am the communications assistant for the UT School of Biomedical Engineering and I run my own magazine, SMEAR Magazine, which published online and in print (we are currently working on our second print issue.)

Q: What are some of the favorites stories you covered?

I wrote a story about Texas’ first theatrical wrestling league run completely by female-identified people, which was a really awesome experience. I also worked on a story about the Austin Music Census citing a lack of gender diversity in the Austin scene, and how women musicians in Austin responded to that.

Most recently, I did a story about front man John Pelant from a band called Night Moves, which was a good experience because I had wanted to do a long form music feature for some time.

Q: How do you use social media?

I use social media to start conversations. Whether it is a joke status I post on Facebook or a questioning tweet about a policy or a news event, my main goal is always to get people talking and comfortable talking to each other. I think that, at its core, that is the purpose of social media: to be able to talk to people and bring people from different backgrounds and perspectives together.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

Features journalism is what attracted me to the field. Being able to meet people from different backgrounds and tell their stories seems like such an ideal job that I often have to remind myself that it is something I am really working toward. I think it’s important to use these platforms to tell stories that make people think – to represent the unrepresented voices and to provide a different perspective on issues. The fact that I am pursuing a job where I can tell people’s stories that could possibly incite some sort of change is exciting to me, and it is important to me to become the best features journalist I can be so I can better represent these people and their stories.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” – Chuck Palahniuk

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

For news, I read The Austin Chronicle, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and Texas Monthly. For fun, I typically like to read memoirs – the most memorable one I have read in the past year was “Slave: My True Story” by Mende Nazer, and I am currently reading “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” by Ruth Reichl. I also like to read music magazines, specifically Impose and Pitchfork. And fiction-wise, I typically enjoy books that are a little strange or dystopian – Chuck Palahniuk and Margaret Atwood, for example.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I am extremely excited to attend the SFJ conference. I hope to learn about the industry from people working in the field and hear the stories of how they decided to pursue features journalism and their favorite stories they’ve worked on.