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State Contest modified for COVID-19

Our board and staff have been closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and discussing how KSPA can provide support for student journalism while keeping you and your students safe. At critical times like these, I am so grateful to have a board of directors made up of such thoughtful advisers to provide guidance.

Our goals in the changes detailed below are the following:

  • SAFETY: We not only want to keep students and teachers safe, but protect your local communities from the spread of the virus.
  • FLEXIBILITY: We want to provide ways for students to interact with KSPA and compete in contests even in the event that schools close and students lose access to school-based technologies.
  • CLARITY: We hope that the plans outlined below will be durable enough that we are not forced to make subsequent changes. We want you and your students to be able to make a stable KSPA plan.


Our board of directors has provided some innovative ideas for modifying the State Contest, allowing students to safely compete from a distance and continue our strong annual tradition.

The University of Kansas is our host institution for the KSPA State Contest. This week, the university will be on extended spring break and will convert all in-person classes to online classes next week. The office of the Provost also communicated that “all KU students are strongly discouraged from returning to campus.” Additionally,the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance that gatherings of more than 50 people be postponed for the next eight weeks.

In this atmosphere, hosting an in-person contest that gathers more than 500 students from around the state is unsafe. We project that schools will be unlikely to approve travel, especially if they have closed school or just recently resumed by the start of May. It is unlikely that KU will approve an event like this on campus.

However, we have a plan to continue with the State Contest.


During February, our digital submission contests awarded students in ten categories. For the State Contest we will advance those same entries to the statewide competition. So, as an example, if your student submitted a student life photo and earned honorable mention during the Regional Contest, we will advance that same file to the State Contest for judging by a new judge creating new feedback. Because judges do not have access to names and schools during the review process, they won’t know what place each entry received during Regionals. As a result, any advancing entry is eligible to win a state championship in its category.

In previous years, we have offered Multimedia Storytelling and Online Photo Gallery as State Contest categories. We are continuing that tradition.


This year, we will pilot a new state-only category: Social Media Coverage. In anticipation that student media will have lots of news to report during the next few weeks, we encourage students to remain active on their student media’s social accounts. Each member school can submit links to three different social media accounts, showcasing their coverage. More details for this will be published Friday, March 20 with other state information.


Because we cannot compete in person, KSPA will organize a way for students to compete remotely in all of the categories that would normally be in-person. Students will be given a 24-hour window to compete in response to prompts that will be posted online at the beginning of that window. Students will submit their responses online and our judges will choose the winners.

We have yet to determine the best timing for this contest: please provide your vote here. Deadline: Wednesday, March 17 at 5 p.m.

We also hope to design a system that allows for individual feedback for each entry, but we cannot promise that.

We will continue to offer the Film Review category this year in the same manner as described above for all other previous on-site categories.


Entries in the state contest will be scored with the following point values in all categories above:

1st place: 6 points

2nd place: 5 points

3rd place: 4 points

4th place: 3 points

5th place: 2 points

6th place: 1 points

This replaces our previous scoring system and honorable mention awards. KSPA will continue to provide medals to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place along with certificates for any student who places. All categories above will contribute to the State Sweepstakes scoring.


We have lots of other details to communicate to you. Please watch for our State Contest page to be published on Friday, March 20. You will find registration information, along with instructions on our new contest category.


  • Our monthly contests remain open for schools hoping to contribute.
  • We are postponing our Change for a Change fundraising campaign in response to COVID-19.
  • We are continuing with our judging of the annual KSPA awards, along with the critique process for All-Kansas publications.

Thanks for your help in continuing to keep scholastic journalism vibrant, even during this challenging time. We hope that you, your families and your local communities remain strong and healthy.


Eric Thomas
KSPA Executive Director

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