The selection process involves four stages: nominations, written applications, interviews, and final judging.
It is designed to balance critical local input with unbiased external decision-making. Local interests contribute first by identifying potentially suitable candidates (effectively serving as initial judges) and then provide essential firsthand information for the assessment process.
A broad network of local nominators in each country is responsible for producing the initial pool of candidates.
Each news media house may nominate one candidate a year. To extend the search as widely as possible, other organisations and unaffiliated individuals – including journalists associations, training institutions, civic groups, and former editors – are also invited to nominate candidates. Members of the David Astor Award Winners' Network may nominate as well.
In their submissions, nominators are asked to explain why they believe their candidate fits the stated criteria and provide other relevant information that should be taken into account in our assessment.
Each nominated candidate is asked to submit a written application, including two personal statements: one is autobiographical; the other is about their professional interests and ambitions. They must also supply three recent examples of their published work.
After reviewing the applications, some preliminary screening is done and any candidates that clearly appear to be unsuitable are dropped from further consideration.
Each of the remaining candidates is personally interviewed in country. In addition, second-opinion interviews are conducted with their nominators, employers and other local observers to gain further insights about the candidates. Then, through a process of individual and comparative assessments, weighing a range of factors, the field is eventually narrowed down to the three ‘most preferred’ finalists in each country.
Independent three-member selection panels are appointed to choose the winners. Since 2013, a past David Astor award winner has served on the panels but they do not judge candidates in their own country. Two serve each year on separate panels.
The panel members receive detailed reports on each of the finalists to review in advance. They then convene in each country, conduct 50-minute interviews one-on-one with the candidates, and decide on the winners by consensus.
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