News organizations are struggling nationwide for many reasons. Whether it’s that subscriptions have dropped, trust is low or corporations are buying them and chopping them down to their bones — no one problem is the cause of current struggles, nor will one solution be the saving grace. One unfortunate result of the challenging environment: newsrooms are finding it harder to stay connected to their audiences and communities. We want to help news organizations find new methods of engaging with their readers and viewers. Research regularly shows that news organizations are critical to the vitality of the communities they serve and critical to all aspects of democracy. So, this year’s challenge is a two parter:

Part one

Research a local news organization and come up with a new way for them to engage with their community. The outlet can be any type — TV, radio, newspaper, non-profit, weekly, online only, monthly, etc. And your engagement idea can be anything! Be creative and think outside the usual avenues for that outlet, brainstorm with them to see what they’d be interested in trying with you.

Create a plan on how you would work with them to implement your idea over a three-month period. You will need to detail the necessary steps, milestones and how you plan to measure success at the end of your three months. Submit this idea below by Oct. 31, 2020.

If you need help finding a news organization to pair with please email Director of Innovation, Kat Duncan Duncank@rjionline.org before Sept. 10 and she will help you reach out to possible partners. 

Our selection committee will pick finalists from the submissions based on the strength of planning, potential for success and creative out of the box thinking. Those ideas will then move to the next phase.

Part two

If selected as a finalist, you will have 3 months to implement your idea with the news outlet before creating a Google presentation detailing the idea, the implementation and results. Your team will present on Zoom in front of a panel of judges and the public on Feb. 26, 2021. 

Prizes

  • First place: $10,000
  • Second place: $2,500
  • Third place: $1,000

Entry rules

Part 1 ideas must be submitted through the form below by Oct. 31, 2020, to be considered. Late ideas will not be considered, no matter how amazing they are.

If your team is chosen as a finalist you will be notified by Nov. 13, 2020, giving you ample time to implement your idea before presenting.

Eligibility requirements

  • A team can be an individual or up to 4 people. 
  • At least one person on each team must be a journalism or communication student. 
  • Presentations must be in English. 
  • The competition is open to all U.S. undergraduate and graduate college students. All team members will need to verify their enrollment status if chosen as a finalist. 
  • If you are here on a student visa, please note that your winnings will probably have to be distributed as a scholarship. We will require you to plan ahead and make the necessary arrangements with your university or college for us to transfer your potential winnings.

Judging criteria and timeline

Projects will be judged on four main criteria:

  • Idea: Did the team look at the history, audience and abilities of the news organization they partnered with to create a new, innovative idea to help them connect with their community? 
  • Implementation: Was the pilot implementation successfully launched? What was learned from the results? What would next steps be for the idea?
  • Engagement: Did the project actually help the news organization engage with people in their community and how well? 
  • Reach: Is this idea something that could be implemented at other news organizations and be successful in aiding them too?

Questions? Director of Innovation, Kat Duncan Duncank@rjionline.org.

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