Best in College Newspapers Contest, Explained

What do all these mysterious categories actually mean?

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A quick rundown on what this contest actually is. Since the beginning of the week, I've been accepting nominations for four categories:

  • Story of the Year
  • Nonstory of the Year
  • Newsmaker of the Year
  • Best Alternative Media Outlet
  • After some undisclosed amount of time, I will take all those nominated topics and put them up for vote by the population at large. Whatever/whoever gets the most votes wins. I will admit that the "winners" of the first three categories tend not to care, but this is apparently a really big deal for some of the competitors in the last. This is for you, so please nominate yourself.

    If you're still confused about what counts as what, read below:

    Story of the Year: This is the biggest college story that happened in 2008. Last year's winner was the visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Columbia. This year, I imagine most things involving Barack Obama would fit in this category, as would the epic FAIL that college endowments became. Other important stories include the Northern Illinois shooting that left six dead in February and how the economy is affecting admissions and financial aid.

    Nonstory of the Year: Enough of that serious stuff. What in 2008 was utterly unimportant but still captivated our hearts and minds? The Berkeley tree-sitters won last year and could technically be in the running again since their protest mercifully ended in September. Some other worthless bits of college-related news: how many schools Sarah Palin went to and that strange Yale art project that somehow involved abortions (Real? Fake? Who cares! It's art).

    Newsmaker of the Year: A guy just elected president whose greatest fans sometimes seem to confuse him with Jesus comes to mind, but we'll humor the rest of the contenders with a vote anyway. Other ideas include Tom Friedman (pied-in-the-face at Brown) and Sarah Palin (target of scorn and ridicule, also had her E-mail hacked by a college kid).

    Best Alternative Media Outlet: For the past two years, this has by far been the most popular category. It's unclear what the parameters are, but basically anything that involves campus news and is not the traditional print college newspaper is OK. I'll accept blogs (both newspaper staffed and outsider), podcasts, Tumblrs, robust Twitter feeds, YouTube channels, or whatever. The point is: We're so hip, anything goes.

    This also is the category with the most voting irregularities, so I'm always looking for ideas on how to make this more fair. Also, a note to an unnamed liberal arts school in the Northeast: I'm sorry that a blog coming out of a giant state school (On the Record's University of Michigan blog) beat yours last year. I can't help that its student body is something like a gazillion times larger than yours. Maybe I should break down the votes per capita, but that sounds like a lot of work for me. I'm still open to suggestions, though.

    Any more confusion on what this is all about? Leave comments or E-mail me at papertrail@usnews.com.