In 2018, a committee of multiple Hirsch Award winners met by email to discuss the awards program and make recommendations to the NASJA Board of Directors. The revamping was discussed and debated by the membership during the NASJA annual meeting at Squaw Valley. The NASJA Board of Directors discussed and voted on the recommendations of the Hirsch Revamping Committee.
The structure of the contest includes the following:
- The number of annual award categories has been reduced from five to two. Those categories are Words and Images. The Book award will continue every third year.
- The Hirsch competition with be open to everyone, not just NASJA press members.
- The contest will be free to enter for NASJA members. An entry fee of $35 for non NASJA members will be charged and will include one year’s membership in NASJA for those who have never been members. Former NASJA members will be able to enter for the $35 fee, but membership will not be included.
- Hirsch winners get their NASJA dues comped for the following season.
- Submitted work must have been published, social media is considered a valid publishing outlet.
- Contest categories require a minimum of three people entering.
- There will no longer be Honorable Mention recognition for the awards.
Why the Hirsch Awards were revamped:
- With just two categories there will be more competition and being one of just two winners (three in years the Book category is judged) will be more prestigious than being one of five winners.
- The Hirsch Awards have changed over the years to reflect changes in the ways our members communicate. It is possible that as needs change, NASJA can adapt the awards to future conditions.
- Several categories were merged so that words could be judged against words, whether in paper or digital form. Radio and podcasts will be judged in the Words category since they too are words . . . spoken words.
- Video and photography will be judged together in the Images category.
- Although books are filled with words and photos, the revamping committee and board agreed that books warrant their own category
- The revamping committee and board acknowledge that columns are different from news stories which are different from blogs, reviews, etc. And videos are different from photos. In a perfect world none of these items would be judged against each other. In a category like photography, sports action images cannot reasonably be judged against landscape type photos. The Hirsch Awards program would never be able to support enough categories to make things fair.
- Hirsch Awards judging has always been subjective unlike in sports where time or goals scored determine the winner. Therefore the contest results have never been the definitive arbitrator of who is “best in craft.” While some may believe a reduction in categories is a step in the wrong direction, a vast majority of the committee, board and membership participating in the discussion at the annual meeting believe these changes are the best course of action for NASJA and the Hirsch Award program.