2021 SCJ National Contest Update

Greetings and happy 2021!  We are hoping that with the new year comes some hope that life begins to take on some semblance of normalcy.

That said, we’re starting 2021 off with guidance on this year’s SCJ national contest.

We have moved to a new hosting platform through Better BNC, and we’re really excited about what this online system offers us for conference management.  The folks at Better BNC are busy working to build our SCJ platform, and it should be ready soon for you to start submissions.  You will receive specific directions for entering very soon.  Currently, we are still operating under the assumption that the deadline for entries will be January 31, 2021; however, if that changes, we will let you know as soon as we do.  Regardless, the timeframe for work considered remains the same.  All work must have been published or broadcast in the 2020 calendar year.

In the meantime, we are recommending that you review the categories for contest and start to organize your entries. As has been the case, most of the entries will require active links and/or .pdfs, so start gathering those now.  If you have a full list of entries well ahead, it will be far easier to submit when the portal is open.

Please remember that with only a few exceptions each school is allowed only three entries per category and only fully inducted members of SCJ may participate.

We appreciate your enthusiasm and patience, and are excited to see what schools have produced during this most challenging year for journalists across the globe.

SCJ 2020 Biennium Postponed

Greetings to all of our fabulous SCJ chapters!

It’s our hope that all of you are safe, healthy, and keeping busy during this exceedingly strange time in history.  In many ways, there has never been a better time to be a journalist, because there are so many important stories demanding to be told.

Under normal circumstances, we would be writing all of you to announce some of the exciting programming and plans we’ve made to welcome you all to the SCJ Biennium in October.  As most of you know, that meeting welcomes chapter members and advisers one day early to the ACP/CMA conference (this year originally scheduled for Atlanta, GA), for a full day of discussion, planning, voting, and networking.  Because the meeting happens only every other year, we really look forward to it.

But as we all know, these are anything but normal circumstances.  As the pandemic continues to shake-up travel and even mundane, day-to-day routines, we’ve had to think long and hard about our own plans.

The SCJ Executive Council has decided that your safety and health are of prime importance; thus, we have chosen to postpone our biennium until Fall 2021.  It is our hope that by putting off the meeting for a year, we will have discovered and widely distributed a vaccine that should ensure our safety to again meet face-to-face.

In the meantime, please be looking for an announcement for a Special Coverage category added to our annual contest that will allow you to showcase your best reporting on the historic issues of this year: COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement.  We know there has been some fantastic student journalism happening focused on and localizing these issues, and we look forward to seeing, hearing and reading what you are doing.

As ever, we will continue to serve you in as timely a fashion as we can from the Executive Office in Iowa, and we appreciate your patience as we have had to adjust protocols here.  We wish you a fantastic and productive start to your new academic year.

Andrea Frantz, Ph.D., is professor of digital media at Buena Vista University, Iowa. Frantz is Executive Director of the Society for Collegiate Journalists and a passionate advocate of the First Amendment.



Lindsey Wotanis, Ph.D., is an associate professor of communication arts at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa. Wotanis is President of the Society for Collegiate Journalists and adviser to The Wood WordMarywood’s student-run online news outlet.



Eastern Illinois, Slippery Rock and Marywood induct new members

We’re just a month into 2019 and already three of our chapters have inducted new members. We’re happy to celebrate them and welcome our newest members into the Society!

Eastern Illinois University inducts 19 new members

New inductees at Eastern Illinois University. Photo credit: Brian Poulter

Nineteen journalists from News Watch, The Daily Eastern News, the Warbler yearbook and HitMix 88.9 FM were inducted into the Eastern Illinois University chapter of the Society for Collegiate Journalists Wednesday, Jan. 16.

Speakers included their advisers, Lola Burnham, Kelly Goodwin, Brian Poulter and Sally Renaud, all of whom are also SCJ members. The ceremony was conducted by SCJ chapter President Jaynell Perera, with members Analicia Haynes, Vince Lovergine, Tom O’Connor and Carole Hodorowicz assisting.

The new inductees, including three who will be inducted in two weeks, were: Phillip Collins, Nathan Cortez, Kayla Davis, Danielle Dellorto, Katelyn Eddington, Carmen Emanuel, Blake Faith, Doniquea Luter, Callie Luttman, Dara McGee, Karena Ozier, Andrew Paisley, Shameia Perkins, Logan Raschke, Kate Rehwinkel, Emma Roark, Lydia Shaw, Hannah Shillo, Jakira Smith, Bailey Taylor and Austin VanPelt and Valentina Vargas.

Slippery Rock University inducts 12 new members

Newly inducted members at Slippery Rock University. Photo credit: Dr. Brittany Fleming

Twelve journalists from The Rocket staff were inducted into Slippery Rock University’s SCJ chatper on Monday, January 21. The induction ceremony was conducted by SCJ delegates Eric Davies and Adam Zook, and The Rocket’s adviser Dr. Brittany Fleming.

New members included: Sarah Allen, Lauren Ault, Megan Bush, Steve Cukovich, Heather Donat, Tom Fabian, Hope Hoehler, Jack Hope, Paris Malone, Oscar Matous, and Hannah Shumsky.

Marywood University inducts 11 new members

Newly inducted members at Marywood University. Photo credit: Dr. Lindsey Wotanis

Eleven journalists from The Wood Word and TV-Marywood News were inducted into the Marywood University chapter on Friday, January 25. Chapter President Hannah Weaver and chapter Vice President Nicolo Manzo conducted the ceremony, which included a keynote address from Times Leader reporter, Marywood alum and SCJ member Patrick Kernan (’16).

Newly inducted members included: Autumn Bohner, Ashlynn Gallagher, Justin Kucharski, Brendan Murphy, Jenny Nguyen, Stephanie O’Malley, Megan Reynolds, Briana Ryan, Emily Scholl, Tatiana Tell, and Katie Warnokowski.

Don’t forget! Please send along photos of your awards ceremonies so we can share your good news with the rest of our SCJ family. Email pictures and information to scjnationaloffice@gmail.com.

What All the President’s Men teaches us about the importance of a free student press

I vividly remember the first time I saw All the President’s Men, the 1976 classic film about Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and their relentless pursuit of the truth.  That truth, as we know, was the beginning of the end of Richard Nixon’s presidency, and led to the Pulitzer for Public Service for the Post.

Why didn’t I actually see the movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford until its 10th anniversary?  At the time, I chalked it up to youthful preoccupation with rom-coms and movies like Ghostbusters that didn’t require too much brain power.

But the thing is, I thought I knew the story.  My dad was a journalist, and I was intimate with the sights, sounds and smells of a newsroom.  I lived through the Watergate hearings.  My parents watched seemingly every moment of them on our only television set in the house, along with every newscast related to it.  I was nine years old, and much to my dismay, there was a decided dearth of Star Trek re-runs in my living room in 1973 during those hearings.  I watched Richard Nixon’s resignation live in 1974.  I’d heard my parents speak in what seemed like reverent tones about Woodward, Bernstein, Bradlee and Jaworski.  So, nothing I’d heard about All the President’s Men sounded especially sexy to me.  It all seemed like I’d lived it, so…I was just a lot more inclined to pay money for The Empire Strikes Back or Raiders of the Lost Ark.

But finally, in 1986, I gathered with some friends and went to an anniversary screening of the Oscar-winning drama.

I was riveted. The light sabers the heroes wielded looked like telephones and reporters’ notebooks.  The reporters’ hunt for the truth was as time consuming and frustrating as it was tense.  And the question of who controlled that truth seemed as important as Indiana Jones’s quest for the Ark of the Covenant.

Dustin Hoffman (left) and Robert Redford (right) played Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward in the 1976 film “All the President’s Men,” which told the story of the Watergate scandal.

A few years later, I found myself advising a student newspaper. In 1990, we still did manual paste-up, complete with a waxer and oversized design tables.  My student staff members were paid in pizza and assurances that this was great pre-professional training for the hours they spent creating a weekly newspaper. There were no scholarships or paychecks. Production nights often lasted until 3 or 4 AM for most of us, and because we published mid-week, all of us had class in the morning.  My student journalists did the work because it mattered to them and to the community they served.

Unlike Woodward and Bernstein, my students never brought down an executive branch administration.  But they investigated racist policies and practices in downtown businesses.  They tracked down stolen newspapers and relentlessly pursued those who sought to silence their work.  They asked hard questions about the motivations that led to cutting down trees that were at the heart of a biologist’s research. They questioned every tuition increase.  They debated the ethics of printing names of their peers who were both the victims and perpetrators of crimes.  They sought out local, state, and national sources on vital community issues like gun violence, mental health, immigration, higher education debt, national security, voting, and  LGBTQ equality issues to name just a few.  They told poignant human stories about students and faculty who overcame enormous odds.  Some beat cancer (and some tragically didn’t).  Others worked full-time, raised children and still managed to walk across the stage in May with a degree.  My student journalists have offered audiences insight into what it is to pursue college with a physical challenge like blindness.  They explored what students with autism face in the classroom and outside.  Photojournalism students have risked their physical safety for just the right angle or level of intimacy to communicate the visual story.  Sports broadcasters have dedicated countless hours of research and prep just to expertly call play-by-play and color for a double-header.

As I write this column, I have a student working tirelessly in the computer lab next to my office, meticulously weaving the many sources he’s gathered into a complex long-form audio story on an athlete’s journey to recover from a major knee injury. It’s his first major journalism project, and his excitement and terror are palpable.

All of the above merely scratches the surface of the service my student journalists have rendered their communities.  Their work, like that of those long-heralded Post journalists, is driven by a passion to learn the truth and share it with others.  It’s driven by curiosity and also a sense of duty—if they don’t do it, who will?  Like Woodward and Bernstein, my students have faced down enormous pressure from people in power who didn’t want information shared publicly.  They have lost friends and won the praise of strangers for their tenacity.

The Force is indeed strong in these young journalists.  And that’s why a free student press is so important for our communities.  The truths student journalists uncover and share are every bit as important to our democratic ideals as those Woodward learned from Deep Throat.  We have a responsibility to uphold student press freedom however we can: advocating for access, arming student journalists with the right tools to do the work, listening when they need an ear, and educating the broader community on the role of the press.

Perhaps the best coaching advice to young journalists on Student Press Freedom Day is found in editor Ben Bradlee’s challenge to “Woodstein” as things in the investigation are heating up toward the end of the movie. “You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up…15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, First Amendment to the Constitutionfreedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country.”

Who needs a light saber?

Andrea Frantz, Ph.D., is professor of digital media at Buena Vista University, Iowa. Frantz is Executive Director of the Society for Collegiate Journalists and a passionate advocate of the First Amendment.

Recognizing our guardians of truth

If popular American culture tells us anything, heroes more often than not wear disguises and have super powers that protect us all from easily identifiable bad guys and mad scientists. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and even the hapless Guardians of the Galaxy, are all endowed with money, strength, god-like qualities, starships and other tools that generally guarantee that if the nemesis isn’t completely squashed, it’s at least compromised, giving hope for that next blockbuster sequel. Even Merriam-Webster’s definition begins with the idea that heroes are “mythological.”

But we’re journalists; let’s focus on reality. 

In fact, heroes are all around us, but they don’t wear capes. More often than not, they do go armed, but not with starships, invisible planes or laser guns. The battlement for the heroes to whom I refer here usually consists of cameras, field recorders, laptops, and…most important, tenacity and courage.

Clearly, I’m referring to the guardians of truth on our campuses—student journalists.

“These are some of the cases that have made headlines.  Many don’t.  I worry about those we don’t hear from, those who are trying to pursue truth, but are for myriad reasons bullied to silence.”

This has been a banner year for attempts to censor student journalists across the nation. Efforts to shut down high school presses can be found in censorship, prior review, and threats to the advisor at Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas, and prior restraint at Plainfield High School in Indiana. But challenges don’t stop at the secondary school levels, as is evident at the University of North Alabama’s censorship-through- firing at the Flor-Ala  student newspaper, or hundreds of stolen newspapers at Colgate University. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg and reveal consistent efforts to silence pesky student journalists seeking the truth. In fact, these are some of the cases that have made headlines. Many don’t. I worry about those we don’t hear from, those who are trying to pursue truth, but are for myriad reasons bullied to silence.

Time Magazine announced its annual Person-of-the-Year pick this week, choosing journalists who serve as the “guardians” of truth in the face of historic efforts to quell it by despotic world leaders. Karl Vick’s cover story highlights journalist Jamal Kashoggi’s murder apparently by the order of the Saudi crown, two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar for “illegally” reporting on the murder of ten Muslim men, and the remaining staff of reporters and editors at Capital Gazette, who resolutely “put out the damned paper” following the slaughter of their co-workers. These are just a few of the powerful narratives Time offers of journalists who have stood up, even at grave risk to their own lives or freedom, to deliver the truth to their communities.

In keeping with those amazing guardians highlighted by Vick’s powerful essay, it is important to recognize those student journalists who are standing up and putting out the news, even when doing so is costly. They know that by doing so, they offer their campuses access to what’s relevant and vital to their day-to-day experience. Without an unfettered press, community members run the risk of purposefully limited versions of reality designed and molded by those who seek to benefit from less light shed on the subject. They are indeed heroes—the real kind.

“The fight is hard and seemingly all around us right now, so as a national honor society for student media leaders, we have a responsibility to share our stories, listen to each other, offer support.”

But it is equally important that we champion a free press for all students, even those who aren’t making headlines by metaphorically holding their ground against the rolling the tanks. The fight is hard and seemingly all around us right now, so as a national honor society for student media leaders, we have a responsibility to share our stories, listen to each other, offer support. That is, of course, how Marvel built its universe, by bringing the likes of Iron Man, Wolverine, and Spiderman together, recognizing there is strength in numbers and shared purpose.

We have initiatives aimed at building just such a coalition of strength among the nation’s student press corps. The Society for Collegiate Journalists’ mission says, in part, “SCJ focuses on pre-professional development at the collegiate level. SCJ aims to advance ethical, innovative collegiate journalism nationally and to create a strong network of advocates for First Amendment education.”  To that end, SCJ encourages chapters to plan and host an event on campus designed to raise awareness and educate about the First Amendment and journalism, and even offers a small grant to help support that effort.

It’s my hope that in 2019 all of our chapters share stories of the heroes in your newsrooms, students who are on the front lines championing truth and also working to educate others about the importance of journalism. If you send us your stories of #JournalismHeroes, we’ll share them on the website and tweet them out.

Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to truth. I can hardly wait to see what our chapters do in 2019.

Andrea Frantz, Ph.D., is professor of digital media at Buena Vista University, Iowa. Frantz is Executive Director of the Society for Collegiate Journalists and a passionate advocate of the First Amendment.

RMU chapter inducts 18 new members, hosts 1A event

The Robert Morris University chapter inducted 18 new members yesterday, October 2, at its annual SCJ induction ceremony. COMM department chair Dr. Anthony Moretti offered remarks at the ceremony attended by students, faculty, family, and friends.

Sixteen of the 18 new inductees, plus SCJ chapter adviser Carrie Moniot, stand behind the chapter’s four officers, seated L-R: Secretary Malyk Johnson, VP Morgan Torchia, Treasurer Tori Flick and President Sam Anthony.

Earlier in the day, the chapter also hosted its first-ever First Amendment event, titled “Is the First Amendment Under Fire in Pittsburgh?”

Guest speakers included former Pittsburgh Post Gazette political cartoonist Rob Rogers (via Skype); free speech activist Joan Bauer; former Pittsburgh City Paper Editor Charlie Deitch; and Napier University (Edinburgh) literature professor Alistair McCleery.

Kudos to our RMU chapter on its induction ceremony and 1A event. And a hearty welcome to the 18 newly inducted members of our SCJ family!

Don’t forget! Please send along photos of your awards ceremonies so we can share your good news with the rest of our SCJ family. Email pictures and information to scjnationaloffice@gmail.com.

Journalists: Champions, not enemies, of the people

The National Council of the Society for Collegiate Journalists, led by President Andrea Frantz, Ph.D., is glad to join the Boston Globe and the hundreds of other news organizations issuing a reminder today about the value of a free press in America.

How did we go from widely recognizing journalist Walter Cronkite as “the most trusted man in America” in 1967, to vilifying the entire field of journalism as “the enemy of the people” in 2017?

To fully answer that question would require a deep, book-length dive into cultural, political, economic, and technological change in the United States over those 50 years.

But the short answer to the question is that we didn’t.  President Donald Trump did.

So perhaps the better question, at least for this editorial, is not how did we get here, but why?

Journalists have long served as essential to the checks and balances necessary for American democracy.  Where would we be without those who tirelessly ask questions of process and policy, and who all-too frequently put themselves in harm’s way in order for Americans to see and hear historic moments that inevitably impact our daily lives?  Put another way, without journalists, could we trust elected officials to provide us with the unvarnished truth behind their motivations and votes?

James Madison knew the answer to that last question was an unequivocal, ‘no,’ which is why, when he penned the First Amendment, the press became the only profession named in the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers all recognized that without a free press, democracy would fail.

But with that stroke of a pen, journalists simultaneously donned a mantel of responsibility that would not always make it popular with the people, and most assuredly not with politicians.  As watchdog, the American press has a duty to ferret out truth, even when truth is ugly.  And when truth is ugly—as it so often has been in our history—elected officials naturally fear for their own job security, and in some cases, legacy.  As evidence of this fraught relationship, we need only look at Thomas Jefferson’s shift from champion of a free press to detractor after his presidential campaign produced less than flattering reports. “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers,” he famously opined.

So, yes.  The love-hate relationship between press and politics is real.  When press does not play the role of public relations promoter—indeed, as it never should—those who want only the rose-colored view of reality will be uncomfortable.  And with discomfort comes occasional anger.  We get it.  And we can take it.

But even President Richard Nixon, whose corrupt administration was ousted by investigative journalism, recognized journalists for their contributions to American democracy.  Of the 29 journalists to receive the nation’s highest honor for civil service, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ten of them were awarded by Nixon.  The award recognizes, “meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”  And one would be hard-pressed to find a stronger statement of the level of public service journalists give to the United States than the Journalists Memorial wall at the Newseum that commemorates over 2,000 journalists who lost their lives reporting the news. Hm.  ‘Enemy of the people,’ you say?

President Trump’s name-calling and Twitter-rants may well have successfully coined the term “fake news,” but the fact is, students don’t seem to be buying his vilification of the media campaign.  According to an article by Adam Harris in The Atlantic earlier this month, students across the nation are indicating a renewed interest in journalism.  Top j-schools such as Columbia, USC Annenberg, and Northwestern, among others, are seeing a hopeful uptick in applications.

Additionally, though administrators have actively sought to censor some, we’re also seeing high school student journalists taking important steps to report on critical (read: uncomfortable) social and political issues. And student journalists aren’t taking the censorship attempts lying down. After students pushed back and public scrutiny escalated, a Texas high school principal reversed his prior review rule for Prosper High School’s newspaper, Eagle Nation Online earlier this month.  In another example, according to a recent Student Press Law Center article, Grace Marion, a 2018 graduate of Neshaminy High School in Pennsylvania, even went so far as to boycott her own graduation ceremony in protest over administrative censorship of school’s newspaper, The Playwickian, while she was editor-in-chief.

There are countless examples of this sort of leadership among those who will be the future of this nation’s press, despite the barrage of insults emanating from the White House. Such perseverance is setting an example for all of us.

Student journalists should double down in their efforts to make a difference in their communities with hard-hitting, ethical, watchdog journalism.  The Society of Collegiate Journalists tips its hat to the pros and soon-to-be-pros for tenacity and important contributions to a stronger democracy. As Walter Cronkite once said, “Journalism is what we need to make democracy work.”  Journalists are, in fact, champions—not enemies—of the people.

Andrea Frantz, Ph.D., is professor of digital media at Buena Vista University, Iowa. Frantz is President of the Society for Collegiate Journalists and a passionate advocate of the First Amendment.

SCJ joins RTDNA in call for members to join campaign defending press freedom

SCJ stands in solidarity with the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) in its call for all news outlets to take an editorial stance against the systematic vilification of the American press.

According to the RTDNA website, the organization’s director, Dan Shelley, said, “We urge our members to join the effort on Thursday, August 16 by dedicating airtime, publishing an online editorial or sharing information via social media platforms that speaks to your viewers and listeners about the role we play in preserving the public’s right and need to know, in a government for and by the people.”

The nation’s student press plays an essential role in educating communities, and especially young readers and viewers, about the role journalists play in American democracy.  SCJ encourages all student press outlets to consider offering social media messages and editorial statements that deepen their respective communities’ understanding of the First Amendment and importance of a free press.

For more on this campaign, please see the RTDNA call.

Tag us in any social media posts or editorial statements your media organizations or chapters make using the hashtags #SCJsupports1A and #PressBack.

The results are in!

We are pleased to release the results for the 2018 Society for Collegiate Journalists’ National Contest.  This year, our judges made 150 awards plus many honorable mentions. Congratulations to all our chapters and SCJ members! Keep up the award-winning work!

PDF: 2018 SCJ National Contest Results

Don’t forget! Please send along photos of your awards ceremonies so we can share your good news with the rest of our SCJ family. Email pictures and information to scjnationaloffice@gmail.com.