Help Us Find Northern Illinois’ Next Great Young Journalist

BY JOHN ETHEREDGE, Kendall County Record Newspapers, Shaw Media Suburban Group

This winter marks an anniversary for the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.

It was 20 years ago this month that a group of NINA board members gathered at the office of the Kendall County Record in downtown Yorkville and set the criteria and prepared the first application form for our High School Journalist of the Year scholarship program.

cropped-nina-logo1.pngOver the course of two decades, NINA has awarded more than $27,000 in scholarships from its own coffers and with matching contributions from its member newspapers to talented high school seniors to help them continue their journalism education at the college level.

As scholarship coordinator, it has been a most gratifying experience to be part of a program that has helped so many aspiring young journalists pay for their college educations.

But so much has changed in the world of journalism over the past 20 years.

Back in the late 1990s, online journalism was truly in its infancy and most papers were focused — as they always had been — on building readership for what we now call our “print platforms.” Flash forward to today and the print platform is just one way newspapers use to reach their readers. In addition to writing for print, our reporters gather news and post items on a wide-range of online platforms, from conventional websites to Facebook, Twitter and more.

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Grace McDermott (left) and Allison Cho, both of Walter Payton Preparatory High School in Chicago, took first and second place respectively in the 2017 NINA High School Student Journalist of the Year competition.

While the boom in online journalism has transformed how journalists work, the fundamentals of good journalism still apply. In hiring journalism graduates, newspapers and media companies continue to look for young writers with excellent writing skills, a natural curiosity and ability to recognize and then to concisely tell the stories of their communities.

As a NINA scholarship judge, I can tell you these were the key characteristics that we looked for back in 1998 when we judged the first collection of scholarship applications, and it will be again this spring when we gather in DeKalb to judge this year’s applications.

If you are a high school senior interested in continuing your journalism education at the college level this fall, I would like to invite you to consider submitting a scholarship application for this year’s competition.

This year’s first-place winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship along with a commemorative plaque and a title that will stand out on any resume or college application. The second-place winner will be awarded a $500 scholarship, a commemorative plaque, and a recognition that can be included on resumes and job applications.

The announcement of this year’s scholarship winners will also be distributed via news release to all NINA member publications and will appear on the NINA website, Facebook page and in the NINA newsletter.

All entries must be postmarked no later than Friday, March 23. Applicants are asked to send entries to The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, c/o John Etheredge, Record Newspapers, 109 W. Veterans Parkway, Yorkville, IL 60560.

As always, I invite your questions and comments about the scholarship program at or at 630-385-4409.

Etheredge mugshotJohn Etheredge  is editor of Shaw Media’s Record Newspaper group, which includes the Oswego Ledger, Kendall County Record, Sandwich Record and Plano Record.

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