Public Relations

when the message is the medium

National Student Essay Competition: Grades Six through University

We are now asking students from around the country to join us in addressing why a free press matters in our democracy.

The competition aims not only to cultivate an informed and enlightened public but also to encourage an understanding of the First Amendment that strengthens freedom of the press and rebuilds trust. We believe there is no more important time than now to focus conversation and critical reflection on understanding the crucial relationships among the First Amendment, a free press, and the foundations of democracy.

The McCarthey Family Foundation is funding the competition in collaboration with the Boston Globe as media sponsor. The Boston Globe Foundation will provide prize awards to the winning essayists and Westminster College in Salt Lake City will award a full tuition scholarship at the national awards ceremony to be held at the 15th Annual McCarthey Family Foundation Lecture Series: In Praise of Independent Journalism in the fall of 2020.

Students in grades six through eight, in grades nine through twelve, and those at universities and colleges across the country are invited to submit essays examining the state of freedom of the press in the United States today in light of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Winning essayists in each category will receive $5,000 in prize money. Westminster College, a private liberal arts college with professional programs in an environment dedicated to civic engagement, will award a four-year scholarship, currently valued at $38,000 a year, to the winning essayist with the highest ranking by the competition jury among the three categories. Call-for-entries and scholarships details will be announced in February 2020. View the competition timeline.

the medium

The competition is designed to (1) engage an often overlooked, yet technologically adept and thoughtful community - one that is vital to the future of a robust democracy; (2) leverage these fresh, unexpected and disarming voices - uniquely capable of capturing the attention of voters of all persuasions - to play a significant role in our national discourse; (3) expand that current conversation by encouraging discussion at home and in school; (4) cultivate informed future citizens/voters; (5) create awareness of the need for technologies that combat mis/disinformation and of the need for long-term strategies that strengthen freedom of the press and rebuild trust; (6) increase recognition of when and how press freedom is threatened and the dangers journalists face around the world.