Essay Contest

The 2016 Urban Journalism Workshop Essay Contest is open to graduating seniors who have successfully completed all requirements of the UJW program during Spring 2016 and will enroll in an accredited college or university in Fall 2016.

To be considered, applicants must complete the following essay question in 500 words or less by June 15, 2016 6:00pm and provide the following information:

  • Proof of acceptance to college or university (acceptance letter)
  • Final UJW story or script 

There are three prize levels as follows:

Gold Prize: $1500
Silver Prize: $1000
Bronze Prize: $500

Essay Questions (please choose only one to answer)

1. Throughout the current presidential campaign, there has been a great deal of mudslinging and often times down right disrespect among the candidates.  Many voters say they find these antics annoying and coverage of the behavior distracting.  They’d rather learn about the candidates’ views for the country’s future versus their personal lives and negative comments about one another.

While this type of behavior isn’t new in the realm of politics, would it make a difference if the media didn’t publish the stories?  Is the news media to blame for creating a platform for such behavior or is social media the culprit?  If the media only covered stories related to the politics of the race, would it force the candidates to stay away from the sensationalism and focus on their platforms on how they plan to lead the nation?

2. In May, President Obama sent a letter of guidance to public schools across the country to allow transgender access to restrooms.  The administration says the letter comes because, “many parents, schools, and districts have raised questions about this area of civil rights law.”  The guidance is intended to “help navigate what may be a new terrain for some.” While this guidance does not have the force of law, there’s an implicit warning that if schools do not abide by the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law, they could lose federal aid.

Is the transgender identity debate a civil rights issue?  Why or why not?  Compare and contrast to existing civil rights laws.

Essays and supporting documents must be submitted to susanc373@aol.com by Wednesday, June 15, 2016 no later than 6:00pm.  Incomplete applications and those submitted after the prescribed date and time deadline will be ruled ineligible. Winners will be notified at the June 18 closing showcase ceremony.  If winners are not present they will be notified via email.


Scholarship winners will receive their awards in time for the second semester of the 2016-17 school year after providing WABJ with all of the following:

  •  a schedule of his or her first semester’s classes
  • a letter from the registrar as proof of enrollment
  • a copy of the award letter issued by WABJ. 

Applicants You Must:

  • Type essay, double-spaced, on one side of white 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper. (scan printed essay or save as a PDF and send as an attachment)
  • Answer the essay contest question in a well-organized, well-reasoned essay of 500 words (only count the body of the essay).
  • Include standardized citations and a bibliography. These are not included in the word count (500 or less).  The World Wide Web should not be the only source for your essay.  Be aware that you may encounter “republished” or “third generation” information on the Internet that is inaccurate or improperly attributed.  The use of books, magazines, and newspapers are widely encouraged.
  • Address all parts of the essay contest topic.
  • Number the pages of the essay.

Essays will be judged based on the following criteria:

  • Focus: An excellent essay provides specific and thorough responses to all of the questions and/or tasks presented.
  • Organization: An excellent essay has an introduction, a body and a conclusion. The organization includes an excellent thesis and moves the reader through the text.
  • Analysis: In an excellent essay, all of the arguments are strong, well detailed and well supported by convincing and accurate evidence.
  • Conclusions and Recommendations: An excellent essay provides a coherent and comprehensive summary based on the analysis. All of the solutions to the problems presented are specific and well thought out.
  • Style and Mechanics: An excellent essay uses standard writing conventions correctly, e.g. grammar, spelling, and punctuation, with no errors.

An essay may be disqualified if:

  • It is not on the topic
  • Documents are incomplete or contain incorrect information
  • It plagiarizes—that is, uses someone else’s statements or ideas as your own. (attribution must be given if using or quoting another author’s citations/works)

Urban Journalism Workshop Essay Contest Guidelines

An essay is a three-part paper that presents and develops a position in response to the essay contest question.  Although researching the topic to find examples that support your points is crucial to writing your essay, it should be more than a research paper, a narrative description of an event, or a statement of opinion.

Your essay should contain the following:

  • An introduction, which introduces the subject and contains an explanation of your position. The objective is to demonstrate that you understand the essay contest question and have formed a response to it.
  • A body, which develops your argument using research and analysis. The process of analysis may include comparing and contrasting, differentiating among several ideas or events, critiquing a variety of perspectives, interpreting results, or drawing inferences.  For example, in this section you could analyze at least two case studies.  Be sure to identify the sources of your information or ideas.
  • A conclusion, which summarizes the research and analysis presented in the essay and sets forth your conclusions. Drawing on ideas already presented, you should demonstrate that your conclusions support the position you put forward in the opening paragraphs.  Your aim is to convince the reader that your position is reasonable and valid.

Your essay should also include notes and a bibliography:

  • Reference notes (footnotes or endnotes) give the sources of your information or ideas. Footnotes are placed at the bottom of the page where the information appears.  Alternatively, you may gather all the notes at the end of the text as endnotes.
  • A bibliography is a list of the works that you have referred to in your essay or have consulted in order to write it. Typically an entry will have at least the name of the author or editor, title of the work, and date and place of publication.  The bibliography should be arranged alphabetically by the last names of the authors.
  • Encyclopedias are not acceptable as sources.