Student journalists encouraged to enter First Amendment Contest

The Madison Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, along with the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, is sponsoring a college journalism award recognizing efforts to highlight the importance of the First Amendment.

John Patrick Hunter, first amendment
John Patrick Hunter

Winners of the John Patrick Hunter First Amendment Award will be recognized on March 20, 2020, during the annual WNA Convention & Trade Show at The Ingleside Hotel in Pewaukee. Up to $250 in prizes will be awarded.

Awards will be presented in the following categories:

  • Opinion/editorial (advocating for the First Amendment in an opinion column or editorial)
  • News writing (coverage of local issues related to the First Amendment)

Submissions must have been published by college newspapers or broadcast by college television and radio stations between Sept. 1, 2019, and Jan. 20, 2020. Entries can be submitted through the WNAF Collegiate Better Newspaper Contest portal.

The John Patrick Hunter First Amendment Award, established in 2016 by SPJ Madison, honors the former reporter for The Capital Times in Madison. Hunter staunchly defended the First Amendment against McCarthyism during the anti-communist era of Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy.

On July 4, 1951, Hunter circulated a petition at a Madison park that was comprised of sections of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Only one of 112 people canvassed agreed to sign the petition, many of whom said it looked like a Russian document or a radical petition. The incident drew national attention to free speech issues at the height of the Red Scare.

First Amendment rights have been at the forefront of the news in recent years, prompting citizens to take to the streets to protest issues including police shootings, attempts to silence the press and attacks on religious freedoms. Many protests on college campuses have focused on the students’ freedom of expression rights.

“It’s critical in a representative democracy for students to support the protection of the First Amendment,” said Sam Martino, a retired journalism instructor and  Madison SPJ member.

» Enter the contest