FAQs: The 2023 Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards

The CCNow Journalism Awards honor excellent reporting on all dimensions of the climate story globally. Below, find answers to frequently asked questions.

What are you looking for?

Exceptional climate storytelling 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, women, children, 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 that include pieces produced by several journalists. If the original work is not in English, please provide English-language translations in addition to the original work as an attachment.

All eligible work must have been published or broadcast in 2022. Stories must be about climate change, not just the environment.

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

While all climate stories are environmental stories, not all environmental stories are climate stories. Stories that primarily focus on environmental issues such as toxic pollution or endangered species are typically not considered climate stories, even if they briefly mention climate change. However, if an environmental story significantly considers climate impact, such as the effect of deforestation on climate change, then it is eligible for submission.

What are the categories for entry submissions?

Entries will be considered in the following categories and subcategories:

  • Writing — Short- and Long-form work; Newsletters; and Commentary
  • Audio — Short- and Long-form work; and Radio or Podcast Series
  • Video — Short- and Long-form work; and Documentary
  • Multimedia
  • Photography
  • Social Media
  • Engagement Journalism
  • Emerging Journalist
  • Student Journalist

In addition to awarding honors for work in these categories, the judges will be looking across all media categories to recognize work for additional honors — “Climate Justice Story of the Year”, “Solutions Story of the Year”, and “Investigative Report of the Year”. If you would like your submission to be entered for one of these honors, there will be an opportunity to flag your submission for consideration and provide supporting documentation.

Category and subcategory descriptions

  • Short- and Long-form work (Writing, Audio, and Video): Stories that cover breaking news or step back from the headlines to observe a broader trend. Short and long-form entries will be considered separately. (Provide one story for long-form work and up to two for short-form. Short-form written works are considered stories less than 2,000 words; long-form written works are stories above 2,000 words. Short-form audio and video works are considered stories less than 5 minutes long; long-form audio and video works are stories more than 5 minutes long.)
  • 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 up to two stories.)
  • Newsletters (Writing): Content produced primarily for distribution via newsletter, including Substack. Eligible newsletters must include original content — a bulleted news digest alone is not enough — and must be published at least once monthly. (Provide up to two 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 two representative episodes; it is not necessary that they be consecutive.)
  • Documentary: Stand-alone specials that examine, in particular depth, a key aspect of the climate story (Provide one story per entry.)
  • Multimedia Project: This category is for journalism in which at least three 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. 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.
  • Photography: Submitted photography must represent either the work of one photographer or of multiple photographers contributing to one story package. The work may represent general coverage or photography for a single-issue focus or series. All images must have been published in some form. If the work is not adequately represented through a web link, layout displays may be submitted as a PDF or a zip file of high-resolution imagery. Be sure it’s clear where each photo appeared. (Submit up to 5 photos, with brief captions and photo credits, for each entry.)
  • Social Media: Social media platforms, with their unique capabilities and constraints, are exciting tools that journalists can leverage in surprising and inventive ways to reach their audiences. This category will honor particularly creative and impactful uses of these platforms to tell a story, educate audiences, or exercise thought leadership in the climate journalism field. We’re looking for a wide range of content: anything and everything from a video explainer series on TikTok to a choose-your-own-adventure Twitter thread. Eligible content must be “social-first,” meaning it was created primarily for distribution on social media; the content might reflect an outlet’s reported work in other media, but we need to see more than a simple repackaging of already-published print or broadcast stories. (Provide a link or multiple links for up to two social media campaigns; if a campaign is a series, provide up to five examples. If your work is not well represented through web links, submit PDFs and/or zip files.)
  • Engagement Journalism: Engagement journalism is all about involving the public in the work we do and serving the public’s needs. At a time when trust in journalism is low and disinformation is thriving, engagement journalism goes the extra mile to produce actionable information that will resonate with communities and get that information into the hands of the people who need it most. Examples of engagement journalism include but are not limited to: holding community meetings and subsequently reporting on issues raised by attendees; reporting on hyperlocal issues and delivering your findings to the community via flyers, pamphlets, and/or text messaging services; training communities in basic reporting skills and empowering them to contribute to stories about the issues that concern them; bringing community members with you on reporting trips, so they can learn first-hand about issues and how journalists work; and hosting forums to share and explain your reporting on various issues of public concern. We want to see evidence of engagement journalism principles: listening, empathy, collaboration, and trust. (Provide up to five links and/or attachments to help judges grasp the scope and impact of your project.)
  • Emerging Journalist: A special award going to one early-career journalist focused on climate reporting (with five or fewer years of professional experience) whose body of work shows exceptional promise. Entries may be submitted by individual journalists or by editors, producers, or others on their behalf. (Provide links to 5 major stories, such as articles, broadcast segments, or major media appearances. Work from 2021 and 2022 will be considered, though at least three of the five pieces submitted must be from 2022. If links are not available, please upload files.)
  • Student Journalist: A special award going to one student journalist at the university or graduate school level whose climate work shows exceptional promise. Entries may be submitted by individual journalists or by professors and others on their behalf. (Three stories that were published in either a student/campus publication or wider-distribution outlets must be submitted. Work from 2021 and 2022 will be considered, though at least two of the pieces must be from 2022. All qualifying work must have been published while the entrant was a student. If links are not available, please upload files.)

What are the special honors available to entrants?

The judges will be looking across all media categories to recognize work for additional honors. Within the application, there will be an opportunity to flag your submission for consideration and provide supporting documentation.

  • Solutions Story of the Year: This special award will recognize work that helps the public learn more about solutions to the climate crisis. As judges consider entries across all categories, they will look for reporting that tells the whole story and elevates solutions. Excellent examples of climate solutions reporting will address the following questions: What is the proposed solution? What evidence exists that the solution is working, or will work? What insights about the solution can be reported that could be helpful? What are the limitations of the solution?
  • Climate Justice Story of the Year: This special award will recognize work that highlights the outsized burden of climate change on marginalized groups, including Indigenous people, communities of color, women, children, and the poor — and also the role these groups sometimes  play in addressing the climate crisis.
  • Investigative Report of the Year: This special award will recognize an in-depth report that reveals important, previously unknown facts and/or holds power to account. Judges will look across all categories of submissions to consider stories  that use a variety of investigative tools such as public record reviews, data crunching, and extensive historical research to break new ground or offer a comprehensive take on an underreported story.

Why are you asking about outlet size? And how do I determine how to respond? 

In the writing, audio, video and multimedia categories you will be directed to enter your submission as representing work for either a large or small media outlet. Our intention is to judge work against its peers, and we are mindful that some journalists are working in environments that have greater resources while others have fewer resources to support their work. We want the judges to have an opportunity to recognize and honor excellent work produced in both of these contexts. Given the international nature of these awards and the vast differences in market sizes and in newsroom sizes across media formats, we ask you to help us in the spirit of achieving our goal.

Using this guidance, please indicate that your outlet size is large if it meets any of the following conditions:

  • You are a major media outlet in your country, and the staff is greater than 20.
  • In the US, you are in a top-50 media market or your publication has a circulation of over 150,000, and the outlet’s staff is greater than 30.

All other entries, including those from freelancers, should be submitted as a “small” media outlet.

If you believe there are circumstances that should put your work in a different category despite the general guidance, you’ll be asked to provide an explanation.

What file format should I use to submit attachments?

In all categories a link is preferred. When a link is not available, 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 two 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 15, 2023 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, as will content from large and small outlets.  If judges determine an entry was submitted in the wrong category, the entry will be moved to a different, appropriate category for consideration. 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 and honors bestowed on winning work in early summer. Ongoing promotion and exposure will lift up these exemplary stories throughout the fall.

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.

CCNow was co-founded in 2019 by Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, in association with the Guardian. Its 500-plus partners include three of the world’s biggest news agencies — Reuters, Bloomberg, and Agence France Presse — as well as ABC News, Al Jazeera, CBS News, Deutsche Welle, NBC and MSNBC News, Noticias Telemundo, PBS NewsHour, and Univision; most of the biggest public radio stations in the US; many flagship newspapers and TV networks in the Americas, Asia, and Europe; and dozens of leading magazines and journals, including The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Mother Jones, Nature, Rolling Stone, and Scientific American.

Have a question we haven’t answered here?

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