By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

In an effort to increase the knowledge and understanding of what importance independent media holds to everyday life, The Sigma Delta Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Journalism Education Association (JEA) are hosting their 20th annual essay contest and giving aspiring high-school journalists a chance to shine.

“Impactful journalism can be produced at any age and experience level,” said SPJ National President Lynn Walsh. “The next generation of journalists is already working hard to take on important issues, and that is exactly what our society needs to succeed.”

According to Walsh, her organization is pleased by the number of high-school students exhibiting early interest in the field.

For the 2018 contest, the SPJ and JEA are encouraging entrants to consider “Why do we – as consumers of media – need to obtain news from multiple feeds and not just one or two outlets?” Students in grades 9-12 of public, private and home schools throughout the United States are invited to enter. An entry fee of $5 will be imposed on all essays.

Each individual entering the contest is permitted to submit only one essay. Winners of previous SPJ Essay Scholarships are not eligible to compete. Due to the large number of entries expected, only national winners will be notified of contest results.

All essays should consist of at least 300 words, but no more than 500. Bibliographies, footnotes and titles are not included in the final word count. Entries may be typed or legibly handwritten, and double-spacing is a requirement. The essay should be an original composition of the writer with evidence of very little guidance from others.

All entries should be postmarked on or before Friday, Feb. 23.

A panel of qualified journalism educators will carry out judging of all essays submitted. The scoring categories are as follows:

• Adherence to contest rules – 5 points

• Neatness – 5 points

• Grammar, punctuation and spelling – 20 points

• Vocabulary and style – 30 points

• Material organization – 40 points

The first-prize winner will receive a scholarship in the amount of $1,000, while second-place and third-place winners will receive scholarships of $500 and $300, respectively. All scholarships are funded by the SPJ’s Sigma Delta Foundation.

For more information, including a complete list of rules, visit www.spj.org/a-hs.asp.

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.