Now OPen: The 11th Storytelling contest

About the News Decoder Storytelling Contest

News Decoder holds a storytelling contest two times per year, once every academic semester. Winning students receive cash prizes, provided by a generous anonymous donor in memory of Arch Roberts Jr. Top stories are also published on the News Decoder site.

Get involved

News Decoder’s 11th Storytelling Contest is now underway until April 20, 2022. Read on to learn how you can participate.

Who can submit?

You! We want your story. All students at our partner schools are eligible to enter the contest.

What should I submit?

All media forms — articles, podcasts, photo reports, audio recordings and documentaries — and styles are welcome. Your submission can be a reported story, a personal reflection essay or an artistic creation, such as a poem or musical recording. The sky’s the limit!

To increase your chances of producing a winning piece, regardless of the form, we strongly encourage you to follow News Decoder’s Pitch, Report, Draft and Revise process outlined on the Get Published page. The process begins by submitting a story pitch to our editorial team, ideally several weeks before the contest deadline. An editor will respond promptly to your pitch with personalized feedback to guide you when writing your story.

What does the jury look for in a winning story?

A jury of three independent experts will evaluate all contest entries and choose the winners. Stories will be judged based on originality, authority and global relevance.

What do we mean by originality, authority and global relevance? Originality means your story presents a fresh take on a topic using your own reporting and research, and has not been previously published (we make an exception for school newspapers). Authority means you used primary sources, interviewed topical experts and considered different perspectives. Global relevance means your story has interest beyond your home town and country.

Check out our article, “Writing tips for aspiring authors” for more suggestions or have a look at past contest winners.

Up to $800 in cash prizes will be awarded to the winning students.

When to submit?

The deadline for submitting your work for the 11th Storytelling Contest is Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at 5:59 pm U.S. Eastern / 11:59 pm CET. The jury will evaluate all pieces submitted by the deadline.

Submit your piece as early as possible to take advantage of one-on-one feedback from News Decoder’s editors. This will give you time to revise your piece and incorporate feedback before the deadline. The jury will judge the most recent draft or published version of a student’s entry.

Where to submit?

Submit your story to

Meet the jury

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Copy of 10th Storytelling Contest Judges 3
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  • Can I work with other students on my entry? Yes! A single submission can have up to three authors. Feel free to work with a friend or two on your piece. 
  • I’m writing an article. Is there a word limit? Yes. Your article should not exceed 1,000 words. We recommend targeting 600-800 words.
  • I’m producing a podcast or video. Is there a length constraint? Yes. Podcasts and videos should not exceed 10 minutes.
  • I’m planning to write a personal essay or poem. Do I still need to follow the Pitch, Report, Draft and Revise process? Sort of. While certain stories do not require reporting, we encourage all students to begin by submitting a story pitch to our editors.
  • Can my piece include more than one medium? Yes! We welcome submissions that combine different mediums. For example, consider submitting several photographs with your reported story or an audio recording of your song lyrics. Note that authors must have the rights to all materials they submit, including any images or music.
  • Can I submit something I worked on for a class assignment? Yes! Unpublished schoolwork can be submitted, although you should consider whether it needs to be reworked to meet our drafting standards.
  • Can I submit a story that I have had published elsewhere? In general, we do not accept content that has previously been published for a public audience, but we make exceptions for content that has been published in school newspapers or magazines.
  • Does the jury select multiple winners? Typically, yes. The cash prizes are divided up between any number of students based on the jury’s rankings and recommendations.
  • Will my content be published on News Decoder’s news site? Possibly. News Decoder reserves the right to publish any submissions and winning entries on its website. News Decoder may edit a submission before publication to ensure it meets our editorial standards. Material that is published will carry the author’s name. Don’t worry. We won’t publish your story without first getting in touch with you.
  • I still have a question. Is there someone I can contact? Yes! Feel free to send us an email. We’ll get back to you soon.

For those who didn’t top this list, the contest doesn’t end here. Take a look at the winners and compare their copy to yours. Journalists do this all the time, because we know we can always improve. Maybe one story described its scenes more vividly, or another chose its words more carefully. It could be they just sounded more authoritative. Figure out what your submission lacked and add it to your next story. It’s the best way to learn.

Tom Henegan

Journalist and jury panellist

11th Storytelling Contest Poster

Spread the Word

Click to download the contest flyer and share with your classmates! All students from News Decoder partner schools are eligible to enter.

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Arch Roberts Jr.

In memory of …

The contest is held in honor of the late Arch Roberts Jr., who had a distinguished career in international relations, spending more than 12 years on Capitol Hill with the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and serving later with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The cash prizes are supported by a generous, anonymous donor.
Storytelling Contest
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