Poynter Institute to run respected 45-year-old journalism contest, now renamed The Poynter Journalism Prizes

Previously part of the News Leaders Association, the awards honor the best in American journalism across platforms


The Poynter Institute announced Thursday that it will become the new home for the prestigious awards contest honoring the best journalism in the United States that previously was run by the News Leaders Association.

The awards will be renamed The Poynter Journalism Prizes.

The NLA has transitioned stewardship of its contest, which includes awards and cash prizes for local accountability reporting, distinctive writing, diversity, innovation, commentary, editorials and more, to Poynter as the NLA winds down operations.

Poynter will administer the 2024 contest covering work from 2023, with plans to open the awards for entries in January, close entries in mid-February and name winners in April. 

“Poynter is honored to be the new home of one of the most respected contests in journalism. These awards have a rich history of recognizing excellence in writing and reporting, and we are excited to continue a tradition that showcases quality journalism that is serving democracy in vibrant and vital ways,” said Poynter President Neil Brown. “We appreciate the NLA’s choosing Poynter to safeguard the legacy of these distinguished prizes.” 

“NLA is grateful these awards, which have such a storied history and celebrate the best of American journalism, will be stewarded by the Poynter Institute, a deeply respected journalism organization with enormous reach,” said Alison Gerber, NLA president and editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Poynter has a long history with the contest, which started in 1979. The awards began as the American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Awards and were inspired by the late Gene Patterson when he was editor of the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times). Patterson served as ASNE president, and was chairman of the Poynter Institute, which owns the Times. (ASNE merged with the Associated Press Managing Editors in 2019 to form the NLA.) For many years, Poynter hosted the judging for the ASNE awards at its St. Petersburg headquarters and published an annual book compiling the work of the winners, Best Newspaper Writing.

While initially the awards focused on newspaper writing, the contest now honors excellence in journalism across U.S. news organizations and platforms, Brown said, adding that distinguished writing remains a key measure in most categories. 

Categories have specific entry requirements, which will be available along with contest rules when entries are open in January. Many of the awards are named in honor of accomplished news industry leaders and journalists and sponsored by leading media organizations. 

The current awards that are part of the Poynter Journalism Prizes are:

The Batten Medal – for distinguished coverage of an important news topic, sponsored by editors of the former Knight Ridder. 

The Frank A. Blethen Award for Local Accountability Reporting – for outstanding work holding local officials accountable, sponsored by the Seattle Times. 

The First Amendment Award – for the best example of protecting or advancing freedom of information principles, sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University’s Free Speech Center. 

The Deborah Howell Award for Writing Excellence – for exceptional writing, sponsored by Advance Publications.

The Dori J. Maynard Justice Award – for reporting on social justice issues, sponsored by the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism at Marquette University.

The Robert G. McGruder Diversity Award – for the accomplishments of media professionals who encourage diversity in hiring and coverage. 

The Burl Osborne Editorial and Opinion Award – for editorial writing that has made an impact, sponsored by the Dallas Morning News.

The Mike Royko Award for Commentary and Column Writing – for excellence in writing by an individual expressing a personal point of view, sponsored by the Chicago Tribune.

The Punch Sulzberger Innovative Editor of Year – for a leader who excels in pushing a  newsroom into new ways of executing the craft of journalism, sponsored by the New York Times.

Poynter will launch a new website for the contest and expects entries to open in January 2024 and close in mid-February 2024. Juries will select finalists in each category, and some members of the departing NLA board have agreed to serve as judges for 2024. Winners will be announced in April, at a livestreamed event from the Poynter Institute.

For updates on the contest and a link to enter when it begins, bookmark www.poynter.org/prizes, follow Poynter on social media, or subscribe to our newsletters

About the Poynter Institute:

The Poynter Institute is a global nonprofit working to address society’s most pressing issues by teaching journalists and journalism, covering the media and the complexities facing the industry, convening and community building, improving the capacity and sustainability of news organizations and fostering trust and reliability of information. The Institute is a gold standard in journalistic excellence and dedicated to the preservation and advancement of press freedom in democracies worldwide. Through Poynter, journalists, newsrooms, businesses, big tech corporations and citizens convene to find solutions that promote trust and transparency in news and stoke meaningful public discourse. The world’s top journalists and emerging media leaders rely on the Institute to learn new skills, adopt best practices, better serve audiences, scale operations and improve the quality of the universally shared information ecosystem.

The Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), MediaWise and PolitiFact are all members of the Poynter organization.

Support for Poynter and our entities upholds the integrity of the free press and the U.S. First Amendment and builds public confidence in journalism and media — an essential for health democracies. Learn more at poynter.org.


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