Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism
By Journalists. For Journalists.
I work at a local radio station but some of my best stories this year also aired nationally on NPR. How do I handle this when deciding whether to submit my work in the “Large” or “Small” divisions of the Audio Reporting category?
The awards were created in 2004 by the Association of Health Care Journalists to recognize the best health reporting in print, broadcast and online media. The winning entries also may be used by AHCJ in educational efforts – to help improve the caliber of health care journalism.
Anyone who has written about health, including public health, consumer health, medical research, health policy or the business of health care.
Association members pay a discounted entry fee, but non-AHCJ members may still enter. Members of the AHCJ board, employees and contest committee members are not eligible to enter the contest. Contest screeners and judges may enter because they never review entries in their own categories.
Pieces that were edited by contest screeners and judges may be entered in categories other than the ones they judge. Pieces that were edited by members of the AHCJ board or contest committee also may be entered, because board and committee members are not involved in judging. The board or committee member may not be involved in selecting works to be entered or in preparing the entry, and they may not share in any prizes.
Entries originally published in languages other than English are allowed. See rules.
All work published or aired between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021.
Work that was edited or produced by an AHCJ board or contest committee member may be entered in the contest, but the board or committee member may not be involved in selecting works to be entered or in preparing the entry, and they may not share in any prizes.
We offer an early-bird discount for entries submitted by 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 15, 2021. The rate for these entries is $30 for members and $55 for nonmembers for all professional categories. The early-bird rates for the student category are $15 for members and $25 for nonmembers.
Regular entries must be submitted via our online entry process by Jan. 26, 2022, 5 p.m. ET, or earlier. These entries will cost $50 for members and $75 for nonmembers for the professional categories. The rates for the student category are $25 for members and $35 for nonmembers.
Payment may be made online by credit card or called in to the AHCJ office. Checks should be made payable to the Association of Health Care Journalists. Join the Association and receive the member rate.
If you are unable to use the online entry process, call the AHCJ office for guidance. Staff can usually assist you over the phone.
(See more details below)
Beat Reporting (all sizes)
This category showcases beat coverage during the year produced by the beat reporter, who files regularly and often on deadline. Entrants may submit up to five stories, carrying a single byline, to provide a representative sample of your work. Only two of those five may be from a designated series. In the questionnaire, the entrant should explain the beat. Entrants may also submit the same stories in other categories.
Audio Reporting (large division and small division)
This category recognizes outstanding audio reporting on a health news event, topic or issue.
Health Policy (large and small division)
Stories that explore access to health care, medical quality and costs, as well as decisions about health care made by government, employers and other stakeholders.
Public Health (large and small division)
Stories that deal with health – often of a large population – rather than specific medical research or a specific individual.
Trade (all sizes)
Articles from publications catering exclusively or primarily to specific groups, such as healthcare professionals, advocacy groups or organizations. Trade stories can also be entered in other categories, following rules on circulation size in those categories divided by size — but there can be no duplicate submissions of the same story in the Trade category and any other category, except as part of a portfolio submission for the Beat Reporting category.
Business (all sizes)
Stories that explore where money and medicine intersect.
Investigative (large division and small division)
Stories that shed light on things the public should know, but government, private industry or others would rather remain secret.
Consumer/Feature (large division and small division)
Stories that delve into difficult issues regarding illnesses, diseases, procedures or tests, as well as stories with a strong news-you-can- use focus.
This category is for health-related stories produced by students in undergraduate or graduate programs and published in student-led or professional outlets. Stories done for an internship or freelance assignment will be accepted.
In general, no. An article or series can be entered in only one category. The exception: stories entered in the beat category can be entered in other categories.. Also, if two organizations collaborate on a story or project, they should also coordinate their entry so that only one version of that entry is received.
Categories applying to "all sizes" will seek the best work in that topic category regardless of outlet size.
Categories denoting "large division and small division" will judge work in that topic category against work from similar-sized outlets. Under a new rule, “small” outlets are defined as falling below the following circulation limits and as not being regional or national outlets that specialize in coverage of health care or science. Stories published in outlets that are above the circulation limits OR are regional or national outlets that specialize in coverage of health or science should be entered in the “large” divisions. The size divisions:
• Newspapers above 100,000 circulation and their affiliated websites.
• Network or syndicated TV and radio.
• Local TV and radio in top 50 markets, for all categories except Audio Reporting. For Audio Reporting category, “Small” applies to work edited and distributed by local radio stations, in a regional radio network, or by independent freelancers.
• National and regional online outlets, including blogs.
• Magazines above 500,000 circulation.
• Trade newsletters above 35,000 circulation.
• National or regional wire services.
• Any collaboration between large and small outlets.
• Regional or national outlets specializing in the coverage of health or science.
• Newspapers below 100,000 and their affiliated websites.
• Local TV and radio in below-top-50 markets, for all categories except Audio Reporting. For Audio Reporting category, “Small” applies to work edited and distributed by local radio stations, in a regional radio network, or by independent freelancers.
• Locally focused online outlets, including blogs.
• Magazines below 500,000 circulation.
• Trade newsletters below 35,000 circulation.
Applicants employed by large category outlets need to enter in the large category even if the entered work appears in a smaller outlet affiliated with the employer.
Story examples listed under these categories are not meant to be exclusive. They are meant to give an idea of the types of stories that could fit within the categories.
Audio Reporting: This category recognizes outstanding audio reporting on a health news event, topic or issue. Radio and/or podcast pieces are eligible. Judges will consider the creative and skillful use of audio storytelling techniques, as used in a story (or stories) to explain complex health topics, uncover or illuminate health problems and ideas, generate new insights or outcomes, or harness the power of writing and sound to engage listeners on issues of public significance. Applicants are invited to submit 1-5 audio pieces, assembled in one audio file, not to exceed 30 minutes in length. If the entry includes 2 or more pieces, they must address the same topic or news story.
Beat reporting: This category showcases beat coverage during the year produced by the beat reporter, who files regularly and often on deadline. Entrants may submit up to five stories, carrying a single byline, to provide a representative sample of your work. Only two of those five may be from a designated series. In the questionnaire, the entrant should explain the beat. Entrants may also submit the same stories in other categories.
Health policy: This category explores how policy decisions affect consumers, taxpayers, and businesses, often with a focus on government, which is a major source of funds for the health system through Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other programs. Government agencies, such as the FDA, also oversee much of this sector. Stories can encompass a wide range of topics including how Medicare and Medicaid are operating, state or local efforts to boost coverage of the uninsured, the implementation of the federal health care law, what employers are doing to control rising health costs and controversies over regulation of the health sector, such as efforts to oversee insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies or device makers. Stories might also include examinations of medical care quality, underuse and overuse.
Public Health: This category is for stories that examine efforts to protect, promote or analyze health in specific populations – from whole countries down to neighborhoods. Such stories may examine specific treatments, but not generally as the primary focus of the article. Topics might include whether communities have access to healthy foods, or have an excessive burden of pollution, smoking rates or other health problems – exploring the causes and potential solutions. Stories about the impact of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and asthma, could also fall under this category, as could stories about preparing for flu or bioterrorism. If the story is mainly about treatments or tests, it should be entered in a different category. If it’s about a community and a variety of generally non-medical interventions, it’s more likely to be a public health story.
Trade: This category is not for publications or websites aimed at general interest audiences. Compared with articles written for the general public, the entries in this category may include more numbers and statistics, and more complicated technical and scientific terms. Previous contestants in this category have included Health Affairs, Modern Healthcare, EpilepsyUSA, ABA Child Law Practice, Oncology Times, Trustee Magazine, Hospitals & Health Networks, Physicians Practice and TheHeart.org.
Business: This category could include coverage of hospitals, medical groups, insurers, health technology, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical device makers and the rising cost of medical care. Stories could also include ways that employers – one of the main purchasers of health care in this country – are attempting to slow the growth of their spending. Submissions in this category are likely to have a follow-the-money element and focus on the industry or the economics of delivering health care. What is the cost of the new treatment, test, drug or procedure, not only to individual patients, but to society?
Investigative: This category may include single stories or a designated series on the same topic. There is a wide variety of areas that could be submitted in this category, including investigations of problems at local hospitals or nursing homes, under-the-table agreements, troubles with medical devices or drugs, disparities in how medical care is provided to different communities, trafficking in counterfeit drugs, lax oversight of licensed medical professionals and other problems.
Consumer / Feature: This category is for submissions aimed at explaining complicated health care topics to a general audience. Stories could include those that delve into difficult issues involved with health care, such as how far to go with end-of-life care, the cost/benefit tradeoffs of new treatments or drugs or heart rending first-person stories about facing life with Alzheimer’s or other medical conditions. The category also covers stories that assist consumers in navigating the health care system, from selecting a Medicare plan to appealing an insurance company denial.
Student Reporting: This category is for health-related stories produced by students in undergraduate or graduate programs and published in student-led or professional outlets. Stories done for an internship or freelance assignment will be accepted.
Yes. Trade stories can be entered in the Trade category or other categories, but you must choose one category for any given story — the only exception is for Beat Reporting. But note that if you enter a trade story in one of the size-divided categories, your entry must reflect the size of your publication. Trade publications are considered large if their circulation or readership is over 35,000, and small if it is below that number.
Joint collaborations between trade and other types of publications cannot be entered in the trade category.
Go to healthjournalism.org/awards. Once we have announced the call for entries, you will be able to click on a link that says “Enter contest.” Follow the instructions to set up an account, fill out your entry form and questionnaire and upload your submission. The site also gives you an option of paying the entry fee online.
Applicants with entries originally published in languages other than English must also upload an accurate translation, along with a letter from the news outlet certifying the translation's accuracy and the name and contact information of the translator.
You will need to fill out the online entry form (click here for a sample entry form) and answer the questionnaire. Here are the questions on the questionnaire:
List date(s) this work was published or aired, and through which media outlet.
Provide the title of your story or series and the names of the journalists involved. (Although the entry form limits you to listing the three main reporters, you may mention others who helped here.)
Provide a brief synopsis of the story or stories, including any significant findings.
Explain types of documents, data or Internet resources used. Were FOI or public records act requests required? How did this affect the work?
Explain types of human sources used.
Results (if any).
Follow-up (if any). Have you run a correction or clarification on the report or has anyone come forward to challenge its accuracy? If so, please explain.
Advice to other journalists planning a similar story or project.
All print materials should be submitted in PDF format. This includes any cover letter, broadcast transcripts or translations.
Audio entries should be submitted in .MP3, .WMA or .WAV format.
Video entries should be submitted in .FLV, .MOV, .MP4 or .WMV formats.
Online entries, in addition to providing up to four Web addresses, must include at least one file (either PDF or audio/video file) showing the main story of the entry in its entirety.
PDF (Portable Document Format) files are required to submit several contest entry types. If your entry is not already a PDF, there are several ways to copy your work to that format:
If you have the full version of Adobe Acrobat (not simply the Reader), then you have the software to save your work as PDF.
If you work for a news organization, those managing the website or the company’s IT department likely have software, such as Adobe Acrobat, to copy the entry into PDF.
If you or a colleague owns a scanner, it likely has the ability to save the scanned documents as PDF.
If you are freelancer or otherwise do not have access to scanner or Adobe Acrobat, local copying centers such as FedEx Office or a UPS Store have the ability to scan documents and save them as PDF at nominal costs.
Public or college libraries often have scanners and the appropriate software to save your work as PDF.
Other sites - www.web2pdfconvert.com, for example – allow you to convert Web pages into PDF.
If you have tried these sources and are still having difficulty, contact AHCJ offices, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday, at 573-884-5606.
While the online entry form encourages the use of web links, AHCJ wants to archive your work so that even if links do not work in the future, journalists can still learn from your entry.
I write for a newspaper chain and my stories ran in a number of our papers. Which category do I enter?
If you work primarily for a single paper and your chain picked up the story after it ran in your paper, you would enter the size category reflecting the size of the paper where you work. If the story was specifically written to be used by the entire group of papers, you would enter the category reflecting the paper with the largest circulation. (If, for example, your story ran in three papers with circulations of around 50,000, but also in the Sunday section of your biggest paper, with a circulation of 175,000, the entire entry would fall into the large-size division.)
A maximum of three individuals may be named, one of whom must be the lead writer. If there are more than three significant contributors to the work, the entry should be submitted in the name of the news organization. The beat reporting category is an individual award.
AHCJ pays only one prize for each winning entry.
Generally, only one story per entry is allowed. However, a maximum of four pieces – such as a main bar and up to three side bars on the same topic on the same day – may be submitted in each entry. For a clearly related or designated series, up to five articles may be submitted. A series no longer requires a logo. However, it must be clear to the judges that the stories are on the same topic, institution or person. (EXAMPLE: A series could be one that examines hospital cost growth, but not a wide-ranging set of stories under an umbrella term like “hospitals.”)
In the Beat Reporting category, up to five stories may be submitted, although only two stories from a series are allowed as part of the submission. In this category, judges will look for entries that include stories on a wide range of topics.
In the Audio Reporting category, as few as one, or as many as five stories, may be submitted, assembled in one audio file not to exceed 30 minutes in total length. The submission may consist of a single podcast episode or long radio story, or a package of related stories and/or podcast episodes, all focusing on the same topic, theme or news story. The entry may include pieces of varying lengths and formats (spots, features, longer narratives or discussions) to demonstrate coverage of a single issue over time, or to showcase the diversity of audio formats and techniques used in covering the one subject. Submissions may be from an individual reporter or audio team (not to exceed three names). Different audio stories are still welcome in other contest categories, but the stories submitted for Audio Reporting may not be entered in other categories — except if submitting as part of a portfolio in the Beat Reporting category.
If you are uncertain about where your entry falls on this rule, email your question to: firstname.lastname@example.org
No, but each entry requires its own entry fee and entry form.
Yes. One individual with an outlet can create an online entrant account, then create one or more entries for the work done by one or more staffers.
At this time, the contest does not include a category for health books. We may consider one at a later date.
No. Only specific articles from newsletters may be entered. Newsletter articles should be submitted in the "Trade Publications/Newsletters" category.
Any entrant may include a cover letter that is no longer than 300 words. You may wish to mention the story's context, impact or any reactions that may not be readily apparent. Please do not submit additional stories as back-up material.
A cover letter is required if you are submitting a translated article; the letter must certify the translation's accuracy and the name and contact information of the translator.
As part of its effort to help members produce better stories, AHCJ gathers examples of good health journalism to show members. All entrants must check the box granting AHCJ permission to use the work for educational purposes and must complete the questionnaire.
Anyone who is an undergraduate or graduate student and produces a health-care piece for a student-led outlet or professional outlet.
May students submit work they did as interns or part-time employees for professional outlets in the student category?
Yes, the contest rules have been changed to allow this.
Examples could include coverage of medical research or treatment, mental health or addiction. Pieces could be print, audio or video.
Contest chair Tony Leys, email@example.com.
Each category has its own team of screeners and final judges who are not competing in that category. Judges' comments on winning entries will be read at the awards ceremony and be posted on the Web site. Remarks on non-winning entries will not be made public.
I’m primarily an audio reporter, and have a selection of stories to submit. Should I submit my work to the Beat Reporting category or the Audio Reporting category?
You can enter in either category, or in both categories. But please note that the categories differ significantly in emphasis and what judges are looking for:
Beat Reporting is only for a single reporter and asks for a “representative sample” of work, to showcase breadth and a variety of covered health topics. (In keeping with this, only two of five submissions for Beat Reporting may be from a series.)
In contrast, Audio Reporting is open to a single reporter or a team, and focuses on the use of audio storytelling craft for reporting on one story, health topic or investigation.
An entry could consist of just one powerful radio piece, or podcast episode. Although up to 5 audio pieces or elements may be submitted, it must be clear to the judges that the pieces address the same news topic, health issue, medical institution or person. (EXAMPLE: an audio entry could focus on a hospital scandal, and include a spot (on the breaking news), features (explaining the players, the causes, or the local impact) and a longer narrative feature or podcast episode (telling the story in narrative form, or following up with an investigation). But the entry should not be a wide-ranging set of stories under the umbrella concept of “hospitals” or “COVID.”)
I work at a local radio station but some of my best stories this year also aired nationally on NPR. How do I handle this when deciding whether to submit my work in the “Large” or “Small” divisions of the Audio Reporting category?
The two divisions are meant to account for the differences in reporting resources, time allotted per story, and editorial guidance available to local/regional journalists compared to those employed at national networks or media companies.
The “Small” division aims to recognize excellent audio reporting by reporters employed by local radio stations or a regional radio network, or who work as independent freelancers, or for local or regional outlets that produce podcasts. The entry should exclusively or predominantly feature pieces edited and aired by the local station or regional network.
A submission in the “Small” division may include a maximum of one piece edited and aired by a national network, but only if the entry also includes at least two other locally edited pieces, and remember that all the pieces must address the same story or focused topic. Please identify on your entry form which piece aired nationally.). An entry from a local or regional staffer, or independent freelancer that includes only a piece (or pieces) edited and aired by a national network or company should be submitted in the “Large” category.
The “Large” division aims to recognize excellent audio reporting by those working for national-level broadcast networks (NPR, PRI, APM, BBC) or podcast companies (Gimlet, Radiotopia) or national outlets that produce podcasts (New York Times, Slate, Vox). This category is also for local or regional reporters — or independent freelancers — who want to submit only the piece (or pieces) which were edited and distributed by a national network or company.
First-place winners earn $500 and a framed certificate. They also receive complimentary lodging for two nights and registration for the annual conference. First-place winners will be recognized at the conference and will be encouraged to appear on panels to discuss their winning work. If there is more than one entrant on the award, it is up to these winners to divide any prize. Lodging will only be covered for one individual in each category.
For the early-bird rates, entries must be received by 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 15, 2021. (Professional: $30 members, $55 nonmembers | Students: $15 members, $25 nonmembers)
Regular-rate entries must be received no later than 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 26, 2022. The online submission system will stop taking entries at 5 p.m. ET. Your entry fees must be received by the deadline for your entries to be considered. (Professional: $50 members, $75 nonmembers | Students: $25 members, $35 nonmembers )
We reserve the right to cancel and refund the entry fees for any category that garners fewer than 15 entries.
Contest committee member Carrie Feibel, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, send e-mail to email@example.com.