Top tips for 2021 Murrow Award entries

January 26, 2021 11:00

It's Murrow Award season! The 2021 final entry deadline is February 18 at 5pm ET. Late entries will be accepted with a $40 late fee per entry through Feb. 22 at 5pm ET. Here's your comprehensive guide to putting your best foot forward with your entries, including:
Quick Tips  |  Common Mistakes to Avoid  |  Entry Checklist  |  Winning Work

To put together your best entries, the RTDNA Awards Committee shares top tips:

 

Quick Tips:

Keep a ‘best work’ folder on your computer with clips of your work. Update it throughout the year and your Murrow entry contenders will be ready for entry season. Plus, re-watching your best work is a great pick-me-up after a discouraging day.
 
Hold an inter-newsroom competition to refine your newsroom’s entries. A watch party of your team's best work from the past year is not only a great boost, but also an opportunity to provide feedback to make your work even stronger.
 
Have someone who did not work on the story look over the piece and entry with a critical eye, just like the judges will, to ensure it’s your best work. A second set of eyes can help you identify your strongest work, provide feedback to help you showcase it and catch mistakes you may have missed.
 
Watch past winning work. Wondering what it takes to win in a certain category? Looking for ideas of what types of work to enter? Check out past winning work here to get inspired.
 
Read category rules carefully and be sure to select the best category or categories for your work. Remember that some categories, like Excellence in Sound and Excellence in Video are looking for a single news story, while others like Excellence in Writing may include up to three stories. Find complete category rules here.
 

Ask questions early. We're a small awards team of one and membership team of one. The closer to the Feb. 18 deadline we get, the more urgent questions we get. Kate and Karen work diligently to answer every question as completely and quickly as possible in the order they are received. Ask your entry questions as early as possible to ensure you have the most time to put together the best entries possible.

If you’re going to be working on entries, first create a 2021 awards account at awards.rtdna.org (even if you’re not an RTDNA member from your station). Creating a 2021 awards entry account allows you to access the entry form and fill it out. Anyone who will be doing entry form submission should create a 2021 award entry account - there is no need to share one for your whole newsroom or with an RTDNA member at your station if that's not you. Award entry accounts are not tied to RTDNA membership and are active only through the February 18, 2021 deadline.

Look over the entry form (or watch a virtual walkthrough here) and gather all the materials you’ll need before starting to complete the form. The entry process will go much quicker and be much easier if you review the form and compile the information you'll need (including links, descriptions and supplemental materials if needed) before starting to fill the form out.
 

Make it as easy as possible for the judges to access the piece, whether it’s hosted on your website, YouTube, SoundCloud, or elsewhere. You want judges to spend their time being wowed by your work, not sifting through multiple or broken links. Remember, many categories require an entry be submitted as one link.
 

Take your time and get help if you’re stuck. Don’t submit something you know is wrong! It's much easier to correct an entry error before it's paid and submitted. If you think an entry fee looks wrong, aren't sure about your market size or have any questions, get help before submitting. Awards Director Kate is happy to help!

The one or two sentence short description on the entry form can be a great way to let the judges know what they’re about to see, so take advantage of the opportunity for a “teaser.” Supplemental materials, while not required for most categories, can also give judges more context for the story. Uploading a supplemental PDF or Word doc highlighting any behind-the-scenes production elements or impact of the reporting can give the judges important information they wouldn't have seen in your entry's link.
 

Make it as easy as possible for the judges to access the content of your entry. Whether your audio, video or digital media is hosted on your website, YouTube, SoundCloud, or elsewhere, you want judges to spend their time being wowed by your work, not sifting through multiple or broken links. Note that many categories require your entry be submitted as one single URL link.
 

Get the early bird discount! Entries submitted by February 11 automatically get $10 off, so get those entries in! But don't worry, you can come back and submit more entries right up through the final Feb.18 deadline as many times as you need.

The Murrow Awards (with the exception of Student categories) are station awards, not individual awards. We'll ask for contact information in case there are any questions about the entry, but there's no need to list all individual participants in a story. Murrows are awarded to the station as a whole.

Submit your best work in multiple categories. In most cases, you can submit a story in more than one category. A Feature Reporting entry would definitely not fit in Hard News also but (for example), that Feature piece you're especially proud of could be a great fit for Excellence in Sound, Video, or Writing too!

Get the RTDNA member discount! Before submitting your entries, be sure you or someone from your news team is an RTDNA member - that makes your news organization eligible for the discounted member rate on entry fees. You'll trigger the discount by entering the RTDNA member's member email in the "Membership Information" section of the entry form.
 

Think like a judge. When working on your entry, think like a judge. How will the way you craft the entry's description, link and (if used) supplemental materials help a judge understand what they're watching and the work that went into it? Watch our recent discussion with the Awards Committee above to hear more about what judges look for (and hate to see most).
 

Get help by chat. Our Murrow chat-bot doesn't know everything, but it can help with many commonly asked questions and give tips for finding answers.
 

Consider an Overall Excellence entry. Is your station submitting work in multiple categories? Submit in at least two categories (for TV and Radio, this must include Newscast) and your station is eligible to enter in Overall Excellence as well. Think of an Overall Excellence submission as a reel for your station. Find complete rules and guidelines here. The Overall Excellence rundown should include timestamps, topics, and dates of the work in your entry. The judges are just looking for a quick reference of what they’re watching in each section of the entry and it can be a pretty basic description: “ 00:00:00 – Special report on YXZ topic, aired on 123 date.”

Carefully review each entry for completeness and accuracy before submitting. Take your time to avoid errors and typos on the entry form. Should your entry win, the award information will appear on the RTDNA website and on physical awards exactly as entered. Entry errors can also confuse judges, place your entry into the wrong judging pool or even cause disqualification. Start early and take your time. Here's how to review and edit an entry in your Cart: 


 

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

Waiting too long to start. We work to make the entry process as quick and painless as possible, but you'll need to review the rules, confirm membership status, gather clips, possibly edit videos or compile rundowns (depending on which categories you're entering). And who knows what major news could break on deadline week. Waiting until the last minute to start leads to more entry mistakes, longer wait times for our awards director to answer questions, less likelihood your entries showcase your work to its best - and more stress for you!
 
Not entering. Whether due to a lack of confidence or simply waiting until too late, not entering at least one piece is a missed opportunity. In addition to the chance to be recognized by peers, submitting your work also gets more industry eyes on your work, helps boost your self-promotion skills and gives you an opportunity to reflect on your important impact.
 
Not coordinating with your newsroom. With the exception of Student categories, the Murrow Awards are presented to outlets rather than individuals. Coordinate with your news team to be sure you don't accidentally enter the same piece twice, leave out a key category or duplicate efforts when submitting.
 
Forgetting to renew your membership before submitting. RTDNA members save on entry fees for their newsroom! To qualify for member rates, you or a member of your newsroom's full-time news staff must be an RTDNA member through February 18, 2021. Member discounts are verified during the entry process so be sure to join or renew before submitting. Memberships are available for any journalist (and members also get additional benefits throughout the year). If you're not sure if you or someone at your station is a member, we can help.
 
Submitting too long an entry. Note category time limits and submit materials within them. Judges are instructed to only watch or listen up to the allotted time for each entry. Submit a 30-minute video in a category with a 10-minute time limit, and your entry may appear to have been submitted in error. Check the time limits for each category here.
 
Trying to log into the awards.rtdna.com site with last year’s awards portal credentials. We update and overhaul the award entry portal every year, so your past year award account login may be saved in your web browser or written down, but old accounts are no longer valid. Anyone who will be working on entries should create a 2021 award entry account, which will be active only through the February 18, 2021 deadline.
 

Not creating your own 2021 awards account at awards.rtdna.org. The Murrow Awards are station awards and the RTDNA membership of anyone from your newsroom can be used for the member entry discount, but there's no need to all share an awards entry account. Anyone who will be working on entries should create a 2021 award entry account, which is not tied to RTDNA membership and is active only through the February 18, 2021 deadline.

Trying to use an RTDNA member from your station’s member username/password at awards.rtdna.org. If you'll be completing the entry form, you’ll want to create a 2021 award entry account, even if you will be using an RTDNA membership from someone else at your station for entry fee discounts. You won’t need to input member information to verify discounted member entry fees until you’re already in the entry form, and member usernames/passwords aren't stored in the award entry system so they won't be recognized for logging into the entry form.

Only creating one awards entry account for your whole newsroom. If you'll be completing the entry form, you’ll want to create a 2021 award entry account. Award entry accounts simply allow access to the entry form and do not have to match the member used for member entry discounts or other contact information with each entry. It can be helpful to divide and conquer your newsroom's entries by having multiple people from your station help with the submission process.
 

Submitting links that aren’t publicly accessible. Be sure the judges can access the work you'd like judged. Double check you aren't accidentally submitting links that require administrator access, logins or passwords. Remember, winning links are posted on RTDNA.org for the public to view.
 

Trying to submit multiple links in a category that doesn’t call for them. Make your entry as clear as possible for judges by submitting one link that goes directly to the content you want the judges to see. Note that most categories require the audio, video or digital media portion of your entry to be submitted in one, single URL link. 

Not reading all the rules of a category. For example, Overall Excellence for TV and radio entrants requires a newscast entry and at least one additional category and asks for an overview of the station’s digital work. Don't jeopardize an award by simply failing to meet category requirements. Check the .

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Selecting the wrong region (or forgetting to select a region). All entrants should select their region, including digital, student and network news organizations judged at the national level. Entries produced in partnerships of more than one newsroom should be submitted in the market and region of the largest partner Find the region list here.
 

Forgetting to list partners on a piece. Any newsrooms that provided production assistance or significant editorial input for an entry are considered partners and all partner organizations must be listen on the entry. Entries produced in partnerships of more than one newsroom should be submitted in the market and region of the largest partner. Read the full rules on partnerships and eligibility here.

Rushing when completing the entry form. Take your time to avoid errors and typos on the entry form. Should your entry win, the award information will appear on the RTDNA website and on physical awards exactly as entered. Entry errors can also confuse judges, place your entry into the wrong judging pool or even cause disqualification. Start early and take your time.
 

Not submitting great work in all the categories it qualifies for. In most cases, you can submit a story in more than one category. A Feature Reporting entry would definitely not fit in Hard News also but (for example), that Feature piece could be a great fit for Excellence in Sound, Video, or Writing too!

Missing the Early Bird discount. Entries submitted by February 11 automatically get $10 off, so get those entries in! But don't worry, you can come back and submit more entries right up through the final Feb.18 deadline as many times as you need.

Trying to list all the people who worked on an entry. The Murrow Awards are station rather than individual awards (with the exception of Student categories). The entry form will ask who to contact in case of questions about an entry, but we do not note or verify any individual participation in work submitted.

Trying to upload a video file. Our entry platform cannot accept uploads of video files. You'll want to submit the video, audio or digital media portion of your entry as a URL link. Media content can be hosted on your website, YouTube, SoundCloud or any platform of your choice. The link you submit is what the judges will click to view your work and what will be included on the winner page should your work win. (For Radio entrants, audio files can be accepted but a link is recommended.)
 

Entering in the wrong market size. Double check whether your TV or Radio station is Small Market, Large Market or Network or whether your Digital outlet is considered Small or Large by carefully reviewing the market size guidelines on the rules page.

Missing the member discount. Before submitting your entries, be sure you or someone from your news team is an RTDNA member - that makes your news organization eligible for the discounted member rate on entry fees. You'll trigger the discount by entering the RTDNA member's member email in the "Membership Information" section of the entry form.
 

Submitting an entry you know has an error. Errors on an entry are much easier to correct before they've been paid and submitted. Kate (Awards) and Karen (membership) are here to help, so if you have any questions or think something looks wrong, get help first.

More Common Mistakes to Avoid

Entry Checklist:

  • Gather possible stories
  • Conduct an internal review in your newsroom
  • Review category rules & requirements
  • Confirm RTDNA membership (yourself or someone in your newsroom)
  • Review the entry form (find a walkthrough here)
  • Note any questions you may have (Get help by chat or email)
  • Edit your audio/video clips and upload to host platforms as necessary
  • Create descriptions or supplemental materials as necessary (check your category’s rules)
  • Create your 2021 awards entry account
  • Complete entry form for each entry
  • Thoroughly check and review all the details, links and supplements for each entry
  • Provide payment and submit to judging
  • Repeat as needed!

Step-by-Step Entry Guide

Winning Work:

5 lessons from past Murrow Award winning stories
How 5 winning stories (in Innovation and beyond) offer lessons on trying new things and getting creative while meeting audience needs.

One part planning, one part luck, one part fun: The recipe for a Murrow-winning video story
“Every story has the potential to be great, but you have to be willing to put the work to make them shine."

What makes breaking news coverage Murrow Award-worthy
What one news team did to provide clear, comprehensive and compelling coverage of a big breaking story.

Let your audience in with public-powered journalism
How deeply engaging with audiences can drive Murrow-winning work.

How one student found the recipe for Murrow-winning (and community-changing) stories
A two-time Student Murrow Award winner shares his secrets to success.
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Take a 360° look into the making of three Murrow-winning 360 videos
How one station continues to innovate with 360 photography.

Inside the Texas Tribune’s formula for small-team social media success
How knowing the audience and taking a strategic approach (including saying "no") allow a small team to have big impact..

Murrow-winning investigation reveals shortcomings of opioid response – and its news coverage
Judges called the well-researched and investigated piece “journalism at its best.”

Digging deeper leads to change
From initial tragic workplace death to new legislation, how one station followed a story beyond the day it broke.

Investigating with impact: Why a major investigation was worth the investment
A story years in the making connected with a community and shined a light on stories going unheard.

Threshold: How one podcast went to the ends of the earth to tell an urgent human story
6 keys to turning a distant dream into a Murrow-winning series.

Active Sound: The making of a Murrow winner
A Q&A with a Murrow winner for Excellence in Sound

The Best Story I’ve Seen in Years (And the Story Behind it)
A Q&A with a Murrow winner for Excellence in Writing

Murrow-winning investigation uncovers pattern of wrong raids
A fight for law enforcement transparency and accountability pays of with ongoing change in Chicago.

National Murrow winner uses bilingual skills to tell new stories while still in college
A unique partnership is a win for journalism students, one public radio station and the community it serves.

The MMJane advantage
How one Murrow winner thrives as a solo journalist

Avoid $10,000 words: 'Write Like You Talk' talks writing with Murrow-winner Brian Bull
A multiple Murrow-winner talks top writing tips, the best writing advice he's gotten and what TV writers can learn from radio.

Breaking down Murrow-winning breaking news coverage
5 keys to Murrow Award-worthy breaking news

How WNIN built the foundation for an innovative podcast
A new format reaching a new audience came to life because of a newsroom-wide focus on listening to new voices.

Surprise! Lessons On Reveals From a Murrow Winner For writing
How to get out of the way and let key characters and moments drive your writing.

Investigating police takes collaboration and context
Several examples of 2020 Regional Murrow Award-winning journalism covered incidents of potential police misconduct. All reveled larger, systemic issues with law enforcement agencies’ cultures and how complains against law enforcement are handled.

5 ways to innovate like a Murrow Award winner

How a uniquely creative piece of journalism telling the story of a community, its history and its future through the eyes and voices of those who’ve known it longest and best.



 


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