WNA, SPJ hosting college First Amendment contest

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association has partnered with the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to host a contest that recognizes student journalists who promote knowledge of the First Amendment through news and editorial writing.

The two organizations have created a $250 award to be split between the two winners of the John Patrick Hunter First Amendment Contest – one for news writing and one for editorial writing.

The contest is open to news articles and editorials published by college newspapers between Sept. 1, 2016 and Aug. 31, 2017. Entries will be accepted through the Wisconsin College Media Association Better Newspaper Contest portal at www.betternewspapercontest.com/wcma. The contest deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 18.

Journalists with the Madison chapter of SPJ will judge the Hunter contest entries. Contest winners will be recognized April 13, 2018 during the WNA Convention & Trade Show in Madison, where college newspapers and reporters will be honored for their reporting on campuses and in their communities.

With First Amendment personal freedoms being assaulted and abridged in college communities and elsewhere, the Madison Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists began the contest three years ago in honor of John Patrick Hunter, a former Madison Capital Times reporter.

On July 4, 1951, during the anti-communist crusade by then Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Hunter could get only one person among more than 100 residents in Madison to sign a petition containing language from the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.

In recent years there has been much controversy over free speech rights on campuses, as well as the right to protest on streets and most recently in stadiums. The First Amendment declares there should be freedom of the press, speech, religion and the right to petition the government and the right to assemble.

Mark Pitsch, president of the Madison SPJ chapter, said it’s critical in a representative democracy for college students who will be the future leaders of the country to understand the importance of the First Amendment and for young journalists to understand their rights and the rights of their fellow citizens.

“The WNA is honored to work with the Madison SPJ chapter to highlight the accomplishments of student journalists who are promoting the principals of the First Amendment,” added Beth Bennett, executive director of the WNA.

David Zweifel, editor emeritus of the Capital Times, said he was pleased to support the contest based on Hunter’s tireless efforts to protect First Amendment rights during his career.