The big scribble


Six Judges. Five Assignments. One Winner.



Last month, when schools were shutting down and internships were vanishing, a small group of veteran journalists put out the message to young scribes: Show us what you've got!

The contest was free. No one made a dime. The judges expected a couple of dozen entries. They got 409.

They came from high schools, from colleges, from graduate programs, from Africa, from France, from Israel.

They wrote. The judges read. Now, from 409, they've whittled the list to ten. Meet the The Big Scribble finalists:

--Kaia Hubbard, University of San Diego

--Nick Kelly, University of Missouri

--Joe Levin, University of Texas

--Samantha Port, Pine Crest School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

--Kate Smith, Creighton University

--Hannah Towey, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

--Amin Touri, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

--Leah Vann, Northwestern University

--Atreya Verma, Purdue University

--Zeke Warren-Weigmann, St. Olaf College

They've written profiles, feature stories, obits, and food reviews. Now, the Scribblers have one more assignment. Here it is:

We’re living in a strange moment in which we risk illness every time we interact with other humans. What can we do to show affection? How can we compensate for the loss of so much human contact? Write a column of 800 words or less on this subject, one that might appear on the oped page or in the Style section of The New York Times.
We’re giving you a lot of freedom on this.You can write about yourself (but you don’t have to).You can write about someone who presents a solution or offers an example.You can write about religion, pets, hugs, drugs, TV shows, music, friendship, history, politics… There are no end to the possibilities. But you must connect it to the theme: How do we compensate when our ability to show affection is restricted?
We know this is a difficult one. But we also know you're up to the challenge.
Some free advice:

Read the OpEd page and Style section. Understand the difference between a column and a term paper.

Make it a story, not a sermon.

If you write about yourself, be sure to remember that it should be in the service of a solid and clearly expressed idea. As much as we like you all, we’re not that interested in your personal lives.

Watch the Big Scribble Twitter feed because we’re going to be giving out advice from experts, and they’re going to discuss this assignment specifically.

Deadline for entry has passed. No new entries. Questions? Write:




--A $200 gift certificate to the indie book seller of your choice.

--A letter of recommendation from the judges.

--A guest appearance on Jeff Pearlman’s “Two Writers Slinging Yang” podcast.

--Autographed books

--1-on-1 consultations with:

Tom Junod, magazine writer

Rick Reilly,  columnist and author

Evan Smith, Texas Tribune

Rebecca Lobo, ESPN

Andrea Kremer, Emmy winner

Steve Rushin, author

Bob Bicknell, CBS News

Laurie Abraham, The Atlantic

Max Borenstein, screenwriter

Haniif Abdurraquib, author

Chris Stone, sports editor of the Los Angeles Times.

Iliana Limon Romero, Orlando Sentinel

AJ Baime, WSJ, author

Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star

Dan Forer, producer, writer, director

Kerri Blakinger, The Marshall Project

Chris Jones, magazine writer.

Jon Wertheim, SI, 60Minutes

Jeffrey Marx, author

Seth Wickersham, ESPN

Andrew Dallos, Rachel Maddow Show

Theresa Walker, AP

Kenny Mayne, ESPN

Diego Ribadeneira, NY Times

Jessica Huseman, Pro Publica

Jacob Bogage, Washington Post

Nicole Auerbach, The Athletic

Myron Medcalf, ESPN

Michael Lee, The Athletic

Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News

Chad Finn, Boston Globe

Ted Jackson, photojournalist

Bruce Arthur, Toronto Star

Jonathan Eig

Jeff Pearlman

Candace Buckner

Mirin Fader

Evan Moore

David Maraniss


Special prizes for top high school finishers.

Guest Judges

  • Guest judges include:
  • Wright Thompson (ESPN)
  • Sally Jenkins (Washington Post)
  • Richard Sandomir (NY Times)
  • Shirley Leung (Boston Globe, @leung)
  • Rick Jervis (USA Today)
  • Diego Ribadeneira (NY Times)
  • Carolyn Salazar (
  • Chuck  Creekmur (, @chuckcreekmur)
  • Monica Eng (WBEZ, @monicaeng)
  • Flynn McRoberts (Bloomberg News, @flynnmcroberts)
  • Jeff Ruby (Chicago magazine)
  • Anne Byrn (food writer)
  • Catherine Mayhew (food writer)
  • Christopher John Farley (author, journalist)
  • Jodi Rudoren (The Forward, @rudoren)