Defense Media Awards

The Defense Media Awards program honors excellence among military and civilian broadcasters, graphic artists, journalists, photographers, public affairs practitioners, mass communication specialists and videographers. It also fosters an environment of innovation and growth, leading to more effective communication programs.

This annual awards program was developed by a multi-Service working group of public affairs and visual information representatives during the spring and summer of 2016. It replaces the Thomas Jefferson (TJ) Awards program, Visual Information Awards Program (VIAP), and VI Production Awards (VIPA) program. The working group identified and validated the most essential elements of the three programs and incorporated them into one unified DoD awards program.

The annual awards program is open to military units, military personnel and civilian employees of the DoD and the Military Services. This includes active-duty, Reserve, and National Guard members of the Armed Services, and U.S. Coast Guard members as well as civilian employees with the photographer, journalist, photojournalist, videographer, broadcaster, graphic artist, mass communication specialist, public affairs specialist or equivalent occupation specialty.

Service members must enter through their respective Service’s competition. Civilian employees and unit entries from defense agencies, DoD field activities and the combatant commands enter through a separate contest called the Defense Media Merit Awards, which is administered by the Defense Media Activity. See the media awards rules for more information. In most cases, competitors should contact their respect Service for information on how to enter their Service’s contest.

Defense Media Awards Judging 

Frequently Asked Questions
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Based on an in-depth review by a panel of representatives from the Military Services, legacy DoD-level awards programs were streamlined and merged to reflect today’s dynamic information environment and the professionals who execute our increasingly complex communication missions. The goal of the multi-Service panel was to ensure public affairs and visual information practitioners and their units would be properly recognized for the work they do today and how they are organized today. One major factor driving the change was functional realignment of PA and VI within most of the Services and the merger of PA and VI into new career fields. While it’s true that streamlining and standardizing the new awards program allows the Services and DoD to save money and better manage their resources, the primary reason for the new program is to integrate the Service-level and DoD-level awards into a cohesive multi-tiered program that affords the Services the opportunity to pit the best from each Service against one another in a highly competitive Defense-level contest.

The longstanding practice of directly submitting VIAP entries originated from the legacy VI career fields where there were no Service-level award programs. Now that most Services have established their own VI awards programs, the multi-Service panel determined the ability to enter the DoD-level VIAP directly had become detrimental to the Service competitions and ultimately to the development of service members themselves. In fact, many outstanding photographers, videographers and graphic artists skipped their Service competitions, creating fewer opportunities for members to earn additional recognition, obtain direct feedback and mentoring, and ultimately represent their Service. To help mitigate this significant change, submission guidelines were changed to allow the Services to submit up to three entries in each category except in the “of the year” categories. For those categories, each Service will submit its Service winner in the corresponding category. We believe this is a good starting point for the first year of the new Defense Media Awards, but we will re-evaluate every portion of the awards process during an after-action review currently scheduled for June 2017.

This concern needs to be brought up through your chain of command as DoD is not authorized to tell units how they are to make their selections. We suggest that your local command encourage maximum participation by conducting a unit-level contest with judging done by experts outside the unit to determine which products to enter. DoD can’t mandate the use of this process, but we believe it’s one that unit leadership would welcome as it gives everyone assigned an equal shot and removes the perception of favoritism. Over time, we believe that the most competitive entries at the DoD-level will come from those Services that encourage maximum participation at every level.

Highly skilled nongovernment photographers, videographers, broadcasters, graphic artists, journalists, editors and educators will be invited to judge entries as in the past. We are confident that those selected to serve as judges will serve professionally and use all judging criteria to choose winners in their respective categories.

Yes, that’s our plan! Judging of the graphics, photo and video entries will be live-streamed as in the past. Judging of the print categories will not be live-streamed.

All products must have a military tie, including those created during training efforts, and must have been approved for public release. If your son’s little league game is part of a military-sponsored league such as those available at many overseas commands, the photos may be eligible. However, the tie must be obvious. A better example would be to shoot photos of participants in a military sports league event sponsored by the command. Any products found to not have a strong enough military tie will be disqualified by the judging panel.

Its purpose is two-fold: (1) honor excellence among military and civilian broadcasters, graphic artists, journalists, photographers, public affairs practitioners and videographers, and (2) foster an environment of innovation and growth, ultimately leading to more effective communication programs.

Some Services will be using DVIDS for their contests, and one or two will continue with their current process as it’s too late for them to make the change this year. Regardless, all entries to the Defense Media Awards will need to be entered through DVIDS. This means you should ensure your entries are in DVIDS from the get-go. This way, when you win your Service contest, all your Service will need to do is push the product into the Defense contest.

Acceptance of prizes or gifts of any sort (including free tickets to a venue) valued at more than $20 from non-DoD sources, such as the ones you mentioned, require a review by the general counsel to determine if the service member may accept the prizes or gifts as an exception to the Joint Ethics Regulation. This is because, as you may recall from your annual ethics training, accepting items valued at more than $20 is generally prohibited. In the case of the 2015 MILGRAPH, MILPHOG and MILVID winners, the DoD general counsel found that the winners couldn’t accept the gifts as an exception to policy, so they weren’t presented any. If you or your teammates are offered prizes or gifts, do not accept them and let your let your chain of command know immediately.

The panel members who combined the Thomas Jefferson Awards, VIAP and VIPA faced the very difficult task of combining three awards programs and 70 categories, several of which were duplicated in one form or another. Keeping all the categories was not an option for one simple reason – a competition that large would be unwieldy and might lead to the perception that “everyone gets an award.” The panel wanted to avoid that perception and, therefore, chose only those categories that represented the type of products created regularly by service members in each Service. Each Service representative, in turn, answered this question, “Do we still create this product in our Service?” Some Services no longer create certain products and voted to eliminate those associated categories. In each case, a majority ruled. The goals throughout this process were, first, ensure we were not still awarding products only produced by one or two Services and, second, keep only those product categories regularly created by our communication and public affairs professionals.