Texas Better Newspaper Contest expands with new categories

The Texas Better Newspaper Contest has expanded to 18 categories for the 2019-20 event, giving member newspapers more ways show off their best work in statewide competition.
The contest period for the 2019-20 contest ends Aug. 31. Entries will be accepted Sept. 7 through Oct. 5.
The expansion comes a year after the Texas BNC contest period changed from a calendar year to Sept. 1 through Aug. 31 to allow for annual award presentations to be held during the January convention and trade show.
A TPA board-appointed contest committee studied current and historic versions of the annual statewide contest and recommended the addition of three new competition categories and elimination of one category which had declining participation. The committee proposed an increase in the entry fee to help cover rising expenses. The recommendations were approved by the TPA board June 18.
The contest fee has increased from $5 to $10 per category entered. With 18 categories, the most a participating newspaper could pay is $180 if all categories are entered. Entry fees help cover contest expenses, such as the cost of the online contest platform as well as more than 150 plaques and 400 award certificates presented at the annual awards luncheon. 
New competition categories include Online Live Coverage recognizing breaking coverage of a single news, sports or entertainment event, planned or unplanned; Public Notice Coverage for outstanding reporting that originated with a public notice or legal notice published in the newspaper, such as a story or series about citizens taking part in opposing or changing an action that would have happened if the notice had not run; and Best Magazine for outstanding work in a staff-produced special-interest magazine published by a newspaper twice or more each year. The Best Magazine category replaces the Blue Moon Special Section category, which had experienced declining participation among weekly newspapers in recent years.
The new Online Live Coverage category includes coverage published on a newspaper’s website and through social media venues as well as the print edition.
Here is the line-up of categories for the 2019-20 contest:
Best Magazine
Best Website
Column Writing
Community Service
Editorial Writing
Feature Photos
Feature Writing
General Excellence
Headline Writing
News Photos
News Writing
Online Live Coverage
Page Design
Public Notice
Special Section
Sports Coverage
Sports Photos
The contest will continue to have up to 10 divisions, with Division 1 reserved for the five metro dailies in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Divisions 2 and higher will be divided based on the total number of participating newspapers, frequency of publication (daily, semiweekly and weekly) and by circulation.
Since many newspapers changed frequency of publication in 2020, newspapers will enter divisions based on the frequency of their publication on Feb. 1, 2020. Circulation breakdowns will be based on newspapers’ Statements of Ownership, Management and Circulation (PS Form 3526) published in October 2019.
Material submitted in the contest must have been published during the contest period, Sept. 1, 2019 through Aug. 31, 2020. With the exception of the Best Magazine, Best Website and Online Live Coverage categories, material submitted must have been published in the participating newspaper’s print product.
The online contest platform will open for entries on Monday, Sept. 7. Deadline for entries is 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5. Awards will be presented at the annual awards luncheon during the 2021 TPA Convention and Trade Show, Jan. 21-23, 2021 in Denton.
Each year, volunteers from the memberships of state press groups “swap” out judging entries in their state newspaper contests. TPA’s partner for the 2019-20 contest season is the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.
Wisconsin’s and Texas have similar contest schedules and TPA volunteer judges will be needed in November.
To volunteer to help judge the WNA contest, contact contest coordinator Candace Velvin at cvelvin@texaspress.com or 512-477-6755.