COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) _ A winner of a prestigious journalism contest was disqualified because she wasn't a staff member of the newspaper that published the article.

Nora Gallagher had won $1,000 in the consumer affairs reporting category in the 1987 J.C. Penney-University of Missouri Newspaper Awards, announced last month. The winning entry, ''How To Have An Absolutely Perfect Wedding,'' was submitted by The Independent of Santa Barbara, Calif., to which she regularly contributes.

Contest rules require that stories be written by staff members of U.S. newspapers or wire services.

George Pica, director of the Penney-Missouri program at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, said Ms. Gallagher called his attention to her status as a free-lance writer.

Judges gave the award to ''Broken Bonds,'' a story on municipal bonds written by Mike McCall and John Williams of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.