2022 Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards FAQs

Here’s everything you need to know to apply. 

The 2022 Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards, now in their second year, will honor excellent reporting on all dimensions of the climate story. Below, find answers to frequently asked questions.

What are you looking for?

The CCNow Journalism Awards will honor exemplary reporting and commentary that sets a standard for journalists everywhere. Exceptional climate storytelling might, for example, be marked by any of the following qualities:

  • Communicates the many facets of the climate emergency, with stories that include, for example, business and economic impacts, public health consequences, domestic and global political issues, as well as the effect of climate change on Earth’s ecosystems.
  • Examines solutions emerging from politics, science, technology, manufacturing, agriculture, and other sectors, as well as policy solutions or solutions stemming from community initiatives and activism.
  • Emphasizes the disproportionate impacts of climate change on communities of color, Indigenous peoples, the poor, and other marginalized people.
  • Makes climate change accessible and digestible for audiences, with stories rooted in science but not bogged down by it.
  • Demonstrates the human dimensions of the climate story, for example by highlighting the intersection of climate change with social issues like immigration, justice, and poverty.
  • Holds power to account and calls out disinformation and unethical behavior.
  • Breaks climate news out of the rut of partisan framing and demonstrates how the climate emergency is a collective problem that transcends politics and virtually all social fault lines.

What are the basic eligibility requirements?

Submissions are accepted from journalists everywhere, representing news outlets big and small and from those working as freelancers. Outlets may also submit entries for categories accepting multiple pieces, with work from multiple journalists (i.e., both an individual journalist and an outlet may submit in the Daily Coverage, Short Feature, Photography, and other appropriate categories).

All eligible work must have been published or broadcast in 2021. Stories must be about climate change, not just the environment. (See the following item for more on this.)

If the original work is not in English, please provide English-language translations in addition to the original work as an attachment.

Further specific requirements are noted in the entry forms.

What’s the difference between a climate story and an environmental story?

The short answer is that all climate stories are environmental stories but not all environmental stories are climate stories. When a river in Cleveland got so polluted that it burst into flames in 1969 (giving rise to the first Earth Day), that was an environmental story but not a climate story because the fire had no climate cause or consequence. The same is true with the massive swirls of plastic now polluting the oceans. However, oil companies’ plans to expand plastic production is a climate story, because producing plastic emits climate pollution

What are the categories for entry submissions?

Entries will be considered in the following categories and subcategories:

  • Writing — including subcategories Daily Coverage, Feature Writing (short and long-form), Investigative Journalism, Newsletters, and Commentary
  • Audio — including subcategories Daily Coverage, Features (short and long-form), and Radio or Podcast Series
  • Video — including subcategories Daily Coverage and Features (short and long-form)
  • Multimedia
  • Photography
  • Social Media & Engagement
  • Industry Innovation
  • Emerging Journalist
  • Student Journalist

Descriptions of each category and subcategory are below.

Daily Coverage (Writing, Audio, and Video): Stories and segments based on breaking news or unfolding events. Or, stories published or broadcast as part of routine coverage. (Provide up to three stories in your entry.)

Feature (Writing, Audio, and Video): Stories that step back from the headlines to observe a broader trend. Short and long-form entries will be considered separately. (Provide one story for long features and up to three for short features.)

Investigative Journalism (Writing): In-depth stories that uncover secret actions or information that violate the public good or stories that apply a “deep dive” comprehensive approach to an underreported story. Stories may employ tools such as public records reviews, data crunching, extensive historical research, and interviews. (Provide one story or investigative package.)

Commentary (Writing): In many publications, these pieces would be marked “opinion” or “analysis.” Some reporting may be included, but the main point is to convey the author’s own perspective. (Provide one story.)

Newsletters (Writing): Content produced primarily for distribution via newsletter, including Substacks. Eligible newsletters must include original content — a bulleted news digest alone is not enough — and must be published at least once monthly. (Provide three newsletters.)

Radio or Podcast Series: Radio shows or podcast series dedicated to the climate crisis or that feature climate change in a significant way (a political series, for example, that heavily foregrounds climate would qualify). Formats might include but are not limited to: Narrative documentary, news magazine, and talk show. (Provide three representative episodes; it is not necessary that they be consecutive.)

Multimedia Project: Any work in which at least two mediums are essential to how the story is told, including but not limited to: writing, photography, audio, video, data visualization, and video gaming. In qualifying works, if any medium were to be removed it would fundamentally alter the intent and impact of the story. These works might creatively stretch the bounds of traditional journalistic forms. If the whole of a multimedia project cannot be represented via a single web link, please include up to four additional links or attachments for documentation. (Note: Works that our judges view as not rising to the level of “multimedia,” because one medium is more central than others, will be moved for consideration in a different category.)

Photography: Submitted photography may represent the collective work of a publication or the work of a single photographer. The work may represent general coverage or photography for a single-issue focus or series.(Submit up to 10 photos, with brief captions, as well as credit lines if the photos are by multiple photographers.)

Social Media & Engagement: Work created specifically for social media or that uses social media in prominent and creative ways to highlight an outlet’s reporting. Content might include, for example, Instagram posts/stories/videos, TikToks, Twitter threads, and Google Web Stories. If submitted work utilizes the capabilities of social media to emphasize reporting in another medium, it should be clear how the use of social media has transformed that coverage, not merely shared it. This category will recognize projects that prioritize innovation in storytelling and engagement with audiences. (Provide a link or multiple links for up to three social media campaigns. If the work is not well represented through web links, screenshots or video files can be submitted as a PDF or a zip file.)

Industry Innovation: This category will honor extraordinary journalistic efforts to draw public attention to the climate story. Qualifying initiatives will challenge convention and demonstrate industry leadership. Examples might include but are not limited to: The creation of a climate desk or special coverage team, a newsroom reorganization to reorient journalists’ efforts towards climate change, changes in resource allocation or advertising strategies, a special issue focused on climate change, and a public event or exhibit to connect audiences with the outlet’s climate reporting. We’re looking for striking, game-changing ideas that respond to the magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis. (Submit up to 400 words describing one initiative and its impact; include up to ten links or attachments, if relevant, and other forms of documentation, such as photos from an event.)

Emerging Journalist: A special award going to one early-career journalist (five or fewer years of professional experience) whose body of work shows exceptional promise. (Provide links to 5-10 major works, such as articles, broadcast segments, or major media appearances. Work from 2020 and 2021 will be considered, though at least half of all pieces submitted must be from 2021.)

Student Journalist: A special award going to one student journalist at the university or graduate school level whose climate work shows exceptional promise. (Provide links to three reported climate stories in any medium. All qualifying work must have been published in 2021 and while the nominee was a student, whether in a student/campus publication or a wider-distribution outlet. If links are not available, please upload files.)

Note: If judges determine an entry was submitted in the wrong category, the entry will be moved to a different, appropriate category for consideration.

What file format should I use to submit attachments?

Please submit standard file types in all categories. For written content, .pdf is preferred. For audio content, .mp3 or .m4a are preferred. For video, .mp4, .wmv, or .mov are preferred. For photography, .jpeg, .png, or .pdf are preferred (proof of publication is necessary for all submitted photographs). If an alternative file type is necessary, the awards team will make every effort to access the file and in some cases may contact entrants to ask them to resubmit.

How many pieces may I submit? 

Every journalist may submit up to three entries. Please do not submit the same entry in more than one category.

Is there an entry fee?

There are no entry fees.

When are entries due?

Completed entries are due on March 8, 2022 at 11:59pm US Eastern Time.

How does the judging work?

Covering Climate Now and the Columbia Journalism Review will convene a jury of distinguished journalists to review the entries. Multiple judges will review each work. In each category, long- and short-form work will be judged separately.

To preserve the integrity of the process, we will not publish the names of the judges until the finalists and winners are announced; jurors will also maintain confidentiality.

When will I find out if I won?

Finalists will be announced in the Spring. Winners will be notified individually this summer and will be publicly celebrated in September.

What is Covering Climate Now?

Organized by journalists for journalists, Covering Climate Now collaborates with journalists and newsrooms to produce more informed and urgent climate stories, to make climate a part of every beat in the newsroom — from politics and weather to business and culture — and to drive a public conversation that creates an engaged public. Mindful of the media’s responsibility to inform the public and hold power to account, we advise newsrooms, share best practices, and provide reporting resources that help journalists ground their coverage in science while producing stories that resonate with audiences.

Co-founded by Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, in association with The Guardian and WNYC, in 2019, CCNow’s 400-plus partners include three of the world’s biggest news agencies — Reuters, Bloomberg, and Agence France Presse — as well as CBS News, NBC and MSNBC News, Noticias Telemundo, PBS NewsHour, Univision, Al Jazeera; most of the biggest public radio stations in the US; many flagship newspapers and TV networks in the Americas, Europe, and Asia; and dozens of leading magazines and journals, including Nature, Scientific American, Rolling Stone, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, and Mother Jones.

Have a question we haven’t answered here?

If you have any questions, please contact us at awards@coveringclimatenow.org.