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N.C. Journalist of the Year

Each year the Student Journalist of the Year is selected from among the graduating seniors in scholastic journalism programs across the state. Entrants are evaluated by journalism professionals and faculty.

The winner receives the $3,000 Rachel Rivers-Coffey Scholarship from the N.C. Press Foundation and is eligible to submit a portfolio to compete for scholarships in the national Journalism Education Association High School Journalist of the Year contest.

Three alternates in the North Carolina contest will each receive $1,000 scholarships from the N.C. Press Foundation.

High school seniors who have been involved with journalism for at least two years and have at least a 3.0 unweighted GPA are eligible to apply. Applicants must submit a portfolio as well as an entry form, transcript, self-evaluation of one’s “journalistic life” and letters of recommendation.

Students can submit their portfolio in one of three ways:

  • PDF format – Students may submit their portfolio materials as a PDF, or PDFs, emailed to with the subject line “NC JOY.” You may use the templates on the right for this option.
  • Notebook – Students may compile their application materials into a notebook (typically a binder), with samples of their work printed out and included in the notebook.
  • Online portfolio – Students may use a free web hosting service, such as weebly or WordPress, to compile their application materials. The online portfolio should include samples of the student’s work, as well as the entry material (application, essay, and personal photo). Letters of recommendation and transcripts may be mailed to the NCSMA office.

Submissions must include work from at least 5 of the following categories:

  • Reporting and Writing
  • Editing, Leadership and Team Building
  • Design
  • Broadcast Journalism
  • Photojournalism
  • Web and Social Media
  • Law, Ethics and News Literacy
  • Marketing and Audience Engagement
  • Commitment to Diversity (Note: Work in this area can also be embedded in other categories in lieu of creating a dedicated category in the portfolio)

Email a PDF version or your complete portfolio or a link to your online portfolio to or mail your materials to the NCSMA office. All materials must be received by Feb. 15. Questions? Contact the NCSMA office at or 1-888-562-6276.

For forms, visit the Journalist of the Year page of our site.

Leadership Opportunity

Student candidates will run for six NCSMA offices during the summer Institute. These students should be rising juniors or seniors who are active on their school’s journalism/media staffs and are interested in the improvement of scholastic media throughout the state. They must be able to attend both the 2022 and 2023 summer Institutes. To apply, please email or mail this form and at least one paragraph stating your journalism experience and/or proposals for improvements to future Institutes. A slate of officers will be announced during the Institute’s opening session.

Officers’ Duties

NCSMA’s president presides at the opening and closing sessions of the Institute, works closely with the director during the year, and serves on the Institute Planning Committee. He or she must attend two policy-making sessions during the year. The student president will lead all student activities. Vice presidents serve on the Institute Planning Committee and work with the director and the president to carry out Institute activities. They must attend the two policy-making sessions during the year. Officers will conduct the elections for the next year. In the event the president is unable to perform his or her duties, the vice presidents will divide those duties among themselves. The president will contribute columns for the NCSMA Scoop and give an Institute activities report. Running for an NCSMA office is a serious decision. Please consider whether you will be able to fulfill all requirements during the year before deciding to run.

Institute Campaign Rules

All candidates must complete this form and email or mail it to the director, to be received by June 1. Candidates must write at least one paragraph stating their journalism experiences and/or their proposals for improvements to future Institutes. Only one person from each school may run for an NCSMA office. There will be no nominations taken from the floor at the Institute. If a runoff election is needed, candidates may be asked to address Institute participants in a five-minute speech addressing goals for NCSMA.

Scholarships and Awards

  • N.C. High School Journalist of the Year Scholarship
    • Visit the Journalist of the Year Scholarship page to learn more.
  • NCSMI Workshop Scholarships
    • NCSMA offers 12 Institute scholarships.
  • Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference
    • The Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference focuses on the role the First Amendment has in democracy and aims to inspire high school students to pursue journalism careers. The program will select 51 high school students who plan on pursuing a career in journalism to participate in an all-expense-paid journalism training conference at the Newseum. Those who successfully complete the five-day workshop will be awarded $1,000 scholarships. High school juniors are welcome to apply.
  • Asian American Journalists Association
    • The Asian American Journalists Association provides support, information, and scholarships to Asian Americans pursuing journalism. AAJA offers scholarships for high school and college students. AAJA also hosts an annual J Camp where high school students gain hands-on journalism skills in a six-day intensive camp. Students must be an AAJA member to qualify for scholarships.
  • James Alan Cox Foundation for Student Photojournalists
    • Named after television photojournalist James Alan Cox, the James Alan Cox Foundation invites high school students to apply and tell a story through photography. Winners will receive a digital camera.
  • JEA Diversity Award
    • Honors a scholastic journalism teacher, student media adviser or scholastic journalism group that demonstrates a commitment to cultural awareness and encourages a multicultural approach.
  • JEA First Amendment Press Freedom Award
    • Awarded to a school whose student media actively supports and honors the First Amendment.
  • JEA Student Journalist Impact Award
    • Recognizes a secondary school student (or team of students) who has made a significant difference in their life, the lives of others, their school, or their community through the study and practice of journalism.
  • National Association of Black Journalists
    • The National Association of Black Journalists is an organization that provides internships, resources, job listings and scholarships for Black journalists. High school students can apply to win annual scholarships. Students must be a(n) NABJ member to qualify for scholarships.
  • National Association of Hispanic Journalists
    • The National Association of Hispanic Journalists provides professional advancement, resources and scholarships for Hispanics in the journalism industry. NAHJ offers Next Gen scholarship opportunities for high school students of Hispanic descent throughout the year. Students must be a(n) NAHJ member to qualify for scholarships.
  • NSPA Scholarships
    • The National Scholastic Press Association provides links to contests and scholarships for high school journalists. The Wikoff Scholarship for Editorial Leadership is a $1,000 scholarship; applicants must submit three published editorials. The Courage in Student Journalism is given to a journalist who has shown determination, despite difficulty, in exercising their First  Amendment press rights.
  • Online Journalism Awards
    • Sponsored/funded by SmartNews, Journalism 360, the Knight Foundation, the Agora Journalism Center, and McKinsey Publishing the OJA honors multimedia and digital journalism relating to immersive storytelling, public service and climate change reporting. There are 45 awards, including five with a total of $40,000 in prize money.
  • Quill and Scroll Scholarship
    • The Quill and Scroll offers one scholarship to all Quill & Scroll high school senior journalists who plan to study journalism in college. The scholarship can be used at any university that offers a major in journalism.
  • Richard G. Zimmerman Journalism Scholarship
    • This scholarship offers $5,000 to one high school senior each year. The scholarship is a national competition funded by The National Press Club.
  • Scholarship for Journalism Diversity
    • The National Press Club awards one scholarship of $5,000 which can be renewed for up to three years at $5,000 per year to a high school student aspiring to be a journalist who would bring diversity into the field of journalism.
  • Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
    • Scholastic’s coveted Art & Writing Awards include categories in journalism, poetry and other forms of creative writing. High school students can submit individual writing or a full portfolio for consideration. Top high school senior medalists are eligible to receive scholarships through partnerships with different colleges and universities.
  • SIPA Awards and Contests
    • The Southern Interscholastic Press Association is based out of the University of South Carolina and holds an annual conference for high school journalists. They offer four different scholarships for high school journalists.
  • Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
    • The Family Travel Forum Teen Travel Writing Scholarship honors outstanding travel blogs written by high school students. Cash scholarships awarded to the top three entries and 20 travel prizes given to honorable mentions.
  • Courage in Student Journalism Award 
    • The SPLC, NSPA and Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University sponsor two awards recognizing high school journalists and a school administrator or adviser. Awards are presented to individuals who support the First Amendment and have shown determination and resilience for their press rights.


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