NCDJ Opens Entries for 2021 Contest Recognizing Excellence in Disability Reporting 

Kristin Gilger
Director, NCDJ

The National Center on Disability and Journalism (NCDJ), headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in the United States, is now accepting entries for the 2021 Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability,  the only journalism contest devoted exclusively to disability coverage.

The Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability is administered each year by the NCDJ, which is part of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. It is supported by a gift from Katherine Schneider, a retired clinical psychologist who also supports the Schneider Family Book Award, honouring the best children’s book each year that captures the disability experience for children and adolescents. That award is administered by the American Library Association.

Katherine, who has been blind since birth, said she hopes the award will help journalists improve their coverage of disability issues, moving beyond “inspirational” stories that don’t accurately represent the lives of people with disabilities. “That kind of stuff is remarkable, but that’s not life as most of us live it,” she said.

Winners will receive a total of $8,000 in cash awards in large media and small media categories. First-place winners in each category will be awarded $2,500 and be invited to give a public lecture for the Cronkite School in fall 2021. Second-place winners will receive $1,000 and third-place winners $500.

Journalists working in digital, print and broadcast media are eligible to enter. Entries are accepted from outside the U.S., although the work submitted must be in English. Entries must have been published or aired between July 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021. The deadline to enter is August 7, 2021. There is no entry fee.

Large Media Market: Radio—top 20 radio market size (according to Nielsen ratings); Television—network or syndicated TV and Top 20 markets; Print—150,000 circulation or greater (largest single day, including digital replica); and wire services; and magazines, weeklies, and online-only media with a primary focus on a regional or national audience.

Small Media Market: Radio—below top 20 radio market size (according to Nielsen ratings); Television—below Top 20 markets; Print—150,999 circulation (largest single day, including digital replica); and magazines, weeklies, and online-only media with a primary focus on a state, city, metro area or county.

Applicants will fill out the entry form and upload it via:

• Broadcast entries are limited to 10 minutes or less.
• Print and online entries are limited to a single story or story package (a main story with sidebars of shorter length or a series of no more than four related stories).

The judges will consider how the submissions:
• Explore and illuminate key legal or judicial issues regarding the treatment of people with disabilities;
• Explore and illuminate government policies and practices regarding disabilities;
• Explore and illuminate practices of private companies and organizations regarding disabilities;
• Go beyond the ordinary in conveying the challenges experienced by people living with disabilities and strategies for meeting these challenges;
• Offer balanced accounts of key points of controversy in the field and provide useful information to the general public.

Special consideration will be given to entries that are accessible to those with disabilities — for example, broadcast pieces that are available in transcript form and text stories that are accessible to screen readers.

Entries will be judged by professional journalists and experts on disability issues.
Past judges included “PBS NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff; Tony Coelho, former six-term U.S. congressman from California and the primary sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act; Wendy Lu, news editor and reporter at HuffPost, who covers the intersection of disability, politics and culture; and Daniel Burke, CNN religion editor.

The top 2020 award in the large media category went to the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois for “The Quiet Rooms,” an in-depth investigation of the practice of isolating school children, many of whom have disabilities.

The project was reported and written by Jennifer Smith Richards of the Chicago Tribune and Jodi S. Cohen and LakeidraChavis of ProPublica Illinois. First place in the small media market category was awarded to “Ignored: South Dakota is Failing Deaf Children,” an investigative series by Shelly Conlon of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The project explored the systematic decisions that lawmakers, educators and state officials have made at every level, leading to a dire lack of access to resources, accommodations and Deaf teachers.

For all the past winners, visit

The NCDJ, which has been housed at the Cronkite School since 2008, offers resources and materials for journalists covering disability issues and topics, including a widely used disability language stylebook.