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Honoring Excellence in California Public Education Media Coverage

Named after the founder of CTA and the state’s fourth superintendent of public instruction, the John Swett Awards for Media Excellence are CTA’s highest honor for media professionals for outstanding coverage of education.

John Swett founded CTA in 1863 and elevated the teaching profession as he served as California’s fourth superintendent of public instruction. For the first time, public schools became free for all to attend during his four year term. He raised the bar, and this contest bears his name because all entries must show the kind of commitment to professionalism he gave during his life of advocacy for all educators and students.



Background & Goals

The John Swett Awards  honors CTA’s 15 decades of advocacy for our schools, students and teachers. Newspaper, radio and television editors, reporters, producers, directors and bloggers are all encouraged to enter. 

The awards celebrate outstanding coverage of community and campaign issues that touched California’s schools, community colleges and state universities during the year. Thanks to CTA members interacting with the media, vital school issues make it from the classroom to the newsroom, allowing the public and its elected representatives to make informed decisions about quality education and its future. This unique competition requires local chapters of CTA to nominate works by media professionals for the contest.

Judging is done by media peers — CTA removes itself entirely from the judging process. More details are included in this brochure. 

Winners are awarded plaques at a special Los Angeles reception in their honor. A statewide CTA news release and advertisement listing the winners in the Columbia Journalism Review give further credit where it’s definitely due. Meritorious nominees whose work was not judged the most outstanding in their categories receive Certificates of Merit.

The Nomination Process

Nominations may be made by any CTA chapter president (local affiliate) or Service Center Council chairperson. Media representatives cannot nominate themselves or their colleagues. They are, however, encouraged to make inquiries about the possibility of nominations — either by contacting local CTA chapters or Christina Barbieri at 650-552-5316 or email at

Local CTA chapters are urged to monitor the media in their areas, to collect samples of good journalism or make note of unusually good or thorough coverage, and to recommend that their local presidents complete and forward nomination forms. 

All entries and exhibits will be obtained from nominees by the local nominating CTA chapter and forwarded to the CTA Communications Department with the nomination form online.

The Judging of Nominees

Entries are judged by panels of independent media professionals outside of CTA. Past John Swett Awards judges have included publishers, editors and reporters from newspapers, journals, magazines and wire services, as well as people in every aspect of radio and television broadcasting. CTA removes itself entirely from the judging process, an impartiality that has added to the growing prestige of the competition within the print and broadcast communities. Judges base their decisions on their own professional expertise and experience. Their decisions are final.

Publications: Online or Print

(Nominees compete in one of the following classifications)

  • Metropolitan Daily (more than 100,000 circulation)
  • Community Daily (less than 100,000 circulation)
  • Weekly or Semi-weekly
  • Journals, Magazines and other Publications

(Contributions by Individuals) 

  • For continuous coverage of schools/education issues
  • For a series on a single subject or theme
  • For a feature story
  • For a news story
  • For a column or blog

(Contributions by Publications)

  • For continuous coverage of educational news that increases public understanding of school achievements, problems and programs
  • For editorial(s) interpreting school achievements, issues, and needs to the public
  • For a series on a single subject or theme

Exhibits shall consist of selected clippings, pages or supplements. A complete presentation must be prepared for each category. The same clippings cannot be submitted in more than one category.

We encourage newspapers to be selective in the materials to be submitted. Excellence of interpretive reporting of school programs, educational issues, and student and faculty achievements are given greatest consideration.

Electronic Media

(Nominees compete as individuals or stations in one of the following categories)

  • News story
  • Feature
  • Talk show/News program
  • Editorials
  • Locally produced program or series interpreting school programs or educational issues. (A series is defined as a regularly scheduled program that airs daily/weekly or monthly and covers one or more topics.)
  • Continuous coverage of educational issues and events

Exhibits shall consist of selected DVDs, or files, accompanied by a script or summary of the entry. If the nomination is in the category of continuous coverage, the presentation must include a written summary and samples of the programs highlighting the station’s continuous coverage.

Exhibits shall consist of selected audio recordings, accompanied by a script or summary of the entry.

If the nomination is in the category of continuous coverage, the presentation must include sample audio and a written summary of the entry, or entries, highlighting the station’s continuous coverage.

Submit all work as aired, or posted online. The same entries cannot be submitted in more than one category.


April 2, 2021