Our 9th Storytelling contest

About our contests

News Decoder holds a twice-yearly storytelling contest once every academic semester. The winning students receive cash prizes, which are paid for by a generous anonymous donor in memory of Arch Roberts Jr. Top entries are also published on News Decoder’s site.

Get involved

News Decoder’s 9th Storytelling Contest is currently underway. 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 submit contest entries.

What should I submit?

The sky is the limit. We accept content in all forms — articles, podcasts, photo reports, audio recordings and documentaries — and styles. Your submission can be a reported story, a personal reflection essay or an artistic creation, such as a poem or rap recording.

Regardless of the form, we strongly encourage you to follow the Pitch, Report, Draft and Revise process outlined on our Get Published page, as this will greatly increase your chances of producing a winning entry. This process begins by submitting a story pitch to our editorial team (ideally, well in advance of the contest deadline). An editor will respond promptly to your pitch with personalized feedback, which you should follow when preparing your piece.

After the contest deadline has passed, a jury of three independent experts will evaluate all contest entries and choose the winning submissions. The jury will judge work based on its originality, authority and global relevance. The jury will distribute up to $800 in cash prizes to the winning students.

The jury will evaluate all pieces submitted by the deadline. However, we encourage you to submit your piece as early as possible, as this will provide an opportunity to receive feedback from News Decoder’s editors and further improve your piece before the deadline. The jury will judge the most recent draft or published version of a student’s entry.

When to submit?

The deadline for submitting your work for the 9th Storytelling Contest is April 21, 2021 at 5:59 pm U.S. Eastern / 11:59 pm CET.

When to submit?

Please send your entry to contest@news-decoder.com.

Meet the jury


  • Can I work with other students on my entry? Yes! Feel free to work with a friend or two on your piece. For a single submission, there can be up to three authors.
  • 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 I submit 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. Please 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

Alistair Lyon author news decoder-150x150
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