Honor your students’ hard work with an entry into a local, state or national journalism competition

Betty Q. Hixson

Alma Matters is a Poynter newsletter designed to provide ideas, news and insight to those in the journalism education community. Subscribe here to get Alma Matters delivered to you.

When I was an adviser, at some point early in the new year, I’d lock myself in my office and painstakingly puzzle together all the pieces for the many contests I liked to enter.

It’s one of the greatest labors of love that we undertake for our journalism students. Most of them probably have no idea just how hard we puzzle over which paper to enter in what contest, what examples we think best represent the publication as a whole, and which students we’re hoping get recognized with an award-winning piece of journalism.

Winning an award can help burgeoning journalists feel like their work has value, and it shows them the power they can use for good throughout their careers. Awards look good on a resume, and they are a validating force for good in a world that feels like it needs more affirmation.

Of course, when one of my students doesn’t win an award, I always tell them that awards are complete crap, that they mean nothing and that judging is totally subjective. I definitely believe there are two sides to the contest coin. I just happen to love to flip it to see where it lands.

If you’re a new adviser, or if you’re a professor who nailed it with great assignment results, here are some national contests it helps to get familiar with.

Accredited journalism programs should keep up with the Hearst Journalism Awards Program and enter them often to take advantage of cash payouts.

Many of the nation’s affinity groups’ contests include student categories:

Many other groups and organizations offer student prize categories, so keep an eye out for entry information that might fit well with your news organization or student work. Some examples include:

Look for contests managed by your state press and broadcast associations’ contests, as well as any state scholastic collegiate journalism contests.

My pro tip is to click through all the contest links that land in your inbox or Twitter feed, briefly read the categories and then compile them into a Google doc throughout the year. That way, you’ll be prepared and the deadlines won’t pile up all at once.

Good luck and congratulations in advance on your wins! Just remember that contests don’t really matter. 🙂

I was just putting the finishing touches on my newsletter last week when news broke about the president of Texas A&M muddying the future of that school’s excellent paper, the Battalion. I’m encouraged by this new report that calmer heads may be prevailing.  University leadership has backed down from its (frankly) odd bid to run the paper differently. The Batt is a nationally respected campus institution. Its student and professional leadership deserves — at the bare minimum — to be highly involved with any efforts to reimagine its future.

I want to share with you what to expect as we continue to put together our 2022 Teachapalooza program. So far our event includes:

  • What audiences really want: Our encounter panel will let you sit in on a real-life focus group, then discuss what we’ve heard and how it can impact our teaching.
  • Five ways to prove to your students and five ways to prove to yourself that journalism is vital
  • Fact-checking and the midterms: The latest fact-checking techniques and thought leadership on fact-checking in real life and in real time
  • News/academic partnerships: What you should consider before you sign up for the next big collaborative project
  • How fear impacts your students and your teaching — and how to overcome it
  • Breakout sessions for student media advisers
  • Writing lessons from America’s writing coach
  • How to use the First Amendment more effectively in the classroom
  • First steps and magical transitions to help infuse diversity, equity and inclusion across all your teaching
  • How to teach freelancing — how to pitch and the finances of a career as a freelancer
  • Joie Chen, formerly of CBS, CNN and Al-Jazeera, on helping students navigate stress and trauma as burgeoning journalists

This year’s event will be in person June 10-12  in St. Petersburg, Florida, and streamed live at the same time for those who cannot make the trip. For now, in-peron enrollment is limited to 50 people to accommodate COVID-19 protocol. Tuition is $199 for in-person or virtual.

Read more and register here.

There are still a few spots available for one of our MediaWise Campus Correspondents to Zoom into your classroom at the time of your choosing this semester for an engaging presentation on how to spot misinformation online. Professors, sign up for this free one-hour session here (please, only one training per professor).

This fact check from PolitiFact countered some accusations I saw frequently in my own news feeds: “Did the NFL ask Eminem not to kneel? What we know about Super Bowl halftime show claims.” Did your students hear the same rumors? Did they stop to check them out?

This week, we featured “Why do college football players die during practice? How students investigated the ‘great human toll in sports,’” which highlighted a semesters-long investigation at the University of Maryland.

Subscribe to The Lead, Poynter’s weekly newsletter for student journalists, and encourage your students to do the same.

In this week’s Professor’s Press Pass, we present a hypothetical case study developed in partnership with the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University that asks students if “speech” like displays in public state universities should be considered private or government speech.

This case study is free and open to the public without a subscription.

Honor your students’ hard work with an entry into a local, state or national journalism competition

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