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CSPA Medalist Critiques

What Is a Medalist Critique?
To help student print or online media improve their publications, the Association offers its Medalist Critiques. Each year, student newspapers, magazines, websites, and yearbooks are invited to submit their publications to the Association's experienced adviser-judges.

The Critique uses a written set of standards developed by the Association detailing best practices for student media. The judge reviews the print or online publication for evaluation against these standards and scores the publication. Based on the outcome of that scoring, a publication may be honored with a Gold, Silver, or Bronze designation of excellence. As part of the judging process, the judge also details constructive suggestions for building on current strengths and how to address areas that need improvement.

The point of the Medalist Critiques is to offer specific instruction on how to improve student work. Staff are free to accept or discard the specific suggestion of the adviser-judge since the Association is a voluntary membership program, not an accrediting body. 

Membership Requirement
CSPA membership is required for eligibility to to receive a Medalist Critique or to enter CSPA Crown Award or Gold Circle Award competitions. Each publication must hold a unique membership to enter. To learn more about membership and awards, please visit CSPA Membership and Awards Programs. Medalist Critiques are available to members as part of the Regular Membership.

A note about websites: to be critiqued/evaluated as an online publication and/or site, your website must include material adding web-only features. Sites offering only PDFs of the existing print publications do not qualify for online news site critique consideration.

A new membership is required every year for critiques or contest entries. When enrolling, please use the same email address that was provided for your publication membership. A new confirmation will be provided for you to use during this or any membership year. 

Critique Appeal Process
Gold Medalists are given for total scores from 800 to 1,000 points; Silver Medalists, from 600 through 799 points; and Bronze Medalists, 599 points and below. In addition to Medalist ratings, All-Columbian Honors are given within a scorebook section when the sectional total reaches 95% or more of the possible points.

Please read your Critique thoroughly to understand all that the adviser-judge has tried to explain.

The Association recruits experienced adviser-judges from across the United States. Each adviser-judge works independently, following common instructions, using the Critiques provided by the CSPA. As a general rule, to prevent conflicts of interest, we do not assign publications to adviser-judges in the same state. Upon return from the adviser-judge, each Critique is checked by the CSPA staff for completion and accuracy.

Should you spot an error in your Critique, please bring it to our attention within thirty days after we have sent it to you. Just write out, clearly but simply stated, your objections or questions. For fastest results, please include a copy of the publication with your appeal. There is no extra fee for an appeal.

We process appeals in the order they are received and as quickly as adviser-judges are available. Results will be emailed to you.

Crown Awards will be judged separately and reported on in mid-December. Critique results have no bearing on judging for Crown Awards.

Send anything related to critiques and appeals to this special email address: cspa-critiques [[at]] columbia [[dot]] edu.

Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions as we continue improving the Critique process.

Deadlines to submit:
Spring publications/media: June 16, 2023
Fall yearbooks: October 16, 2023

History of CSPA Critiques
The CSPA offered annual prizes for the best student newspapers and magazines in 1925 as part of its first activities. Yearbooks were added in 1935 and online media in 2005. By 1930, these early top prizes had given way to broad placings (First, Second Third and Fourth Place). Each publication that entered the annual competition was sorted into one of these placings by the judges, based on its achievement according to the Critique standards. Thus every publication received one of the placings with written suggestions for improvement. Beginning in 1932, the very best of First Places were chosen in a second round of judging as Medalists and limited to the top ten percent of annual entries.

With the creation of Crown Awards as CSPA's new highest recognition in 1982, the Medalist distinction changed in significance. In 1995 Gold Medalist, Silver Medalist and Bronze Medalist placings replaced the earlier designations of First, Second and Third Place.