The SPJ Florida board recently announced that it is awarding a grant to the newsroom at Seminole Ridge High School. The only other school to receive the grant was the Arthur & Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts in Miami. Both newsrooms will receive $500 and will report back by the end of the school year how it helped them.
“We received double the number of applications in our second year of offering the High School Newsroom Grant, and the scholarship committee had the difficult task of choosing just two schools,” SPJ Florida President Christiana Lilly said.
The Seminole Ridge newsroom is starting from scratch after years of neglect.
“The newspaper program at the school seems to have long become an afterthought. What was once a class is now only a club with only two to three staff members,” adviser Eric Jourgensen wrote in his grant application. “It’s a vicious spiral, as the lack of funds don’t allow for any way to grow the program or site, which then leads to poor visitation of the site, which means no advertising.”
Jourgensen wrote that with the money, he hopes to get the newspaper re-established as a program that the students, school and community can once again be proud of.
The Florida chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists has offered scholarships for college students for years, including the Molly Turner College Scholarship for women in broadcast, and added its High School Newsroom Grant in 2018 to help at-need high school programs. The chapter believes that early exposure and support of journalism leads to a strong foundation in news reporting and the First Amendment.
“AP Mays and Seminole Ridge are just two stories of how high school journalism programs in our state are in a great need,” Lilly said. “Our board wants to help as much as we can, and we hope these grants can help give them a leg up. We look forward to seeing what these students are able to accomplish this semester.”