You Can Help Kickstart an EJ Career

December 15, 2015

SEJ News

SEJ’s new member-driven award program will help guide students into careers covering environmental issues.

SEJ members can encourage promising environmental reporting careers and raise awareness of the organization with a new award program for students.

The SEJ Emerging Environmental Journalist Award recognizes students with outstanding potential in environmental journalism. And the program offers members the chance to directly advance SEJ’s mission with university and college officials.

Here’s how it works:

SEJ members can pay for a one-year $25 student membership* for a college or university to use to recognize promise in environmental journalism. You could do this at your alma mater or at a school in your city or anywhere. You can offer to be part of the selection process or stay out of it completely.

The institution sets the criteria and the selection process. SEJ provides a congratulatory letter from the SEJ president. Students gain an entry on their resumé.

And you give a kickstart to a budding environmental journalist’s career. A key part of the program is the SEJ member’s direct involvement with the school to set up the recognition.

SEJ must be notified of winners and receive the payment before May 1 of each year. That provides time to recognize students at end-of-year awards ceremonies.

The other SEJ requirement is that the membership goes to students who are at least a year from graduation. That early recognition keeps them from losing the benefits of membership if, after graduation, they take a job that immediately disqualifies them from our organization.

And that early career boost might just give them the push they need to stay in the field and become active members after graduation.

The program was announced at SEJ’s 2015 annual conference in Norman, Okla., in October.

* Eligibility criteria apply. Students must not be engaged in paid public relations work concerning environmental issues, or paid lobbying concerning envirornmental issues to be eligible for SEJ membership.

Ready? Just follow these simple instructions:

To help kick-start a third-year journalism student's career:

1. Reach out to your contact at the college of your choice. When your contact has agreed, email University Form: Journalism Student Recognition to be completed by your contact at your university. The form includes instructions, and asks for student information, a brief description of the student's qualifications and a selfie of the student.

Be sure to get this information to your university contact in time for the deadline to be met. March is good; April is pushing it.

2. When your contact has selected a student, you'll be notified by SEJ staff. At that time, write out a $25 check and include on the memo line: Journalism Student Recognition: [STUDENT NAME]. Make your check payable to SEJ and mail to:

Society of Environmental Journalists
1629 K Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006

Students will receive a one-year membership in SEJ and an entry on their résumé. 

Thanks for supporting up-and-coming journalists!

FAQs on the new program

Q: So all I have to do is write a $25 check and let SEJ find an interested institution?

A: No. This is your opportunity to carry the SEJ flag. While SEJ will invest staff time to provide the awards, it can’t create a new program seeking relationships with random institutions. SEJ needs you to build and expand upon your relationships with the college(s) of your choice.

Q: Does this work only at schools with environmental journalism courses?

A: It works anywhere students have an opportunity to produce environmental journalism worthy of recognition. That may come in a public affairs, science or other reporting class. It could be produced during an internship or as a freelancer.

Q: That’s not a lot of money. Can I contribute more?

A: Sure. Some members have suggested also paying for annual conference registrations at about $150. But remember that registration isn’t the only cost of a conference. Even if you cover the registration, some students will not be able to attend because of travel and hotel costs.

Q: Can I buy more than one?

A: Absolutely. You could provide one to several institutions. Or you provide several to one institution.

Q: How often do I have to contribute?

A: That’s up to you. But rather than buying multiple memberships one year, you might consider buying one membership each year for multiple years. Of course you could do both.

Q: So SEJ decides who gets the award?

A: No. You make sure that the faculty at the institution knows that the decision is their task. They decide the criteria and the winner. It is very much a locally driven recognition.

Q: What more does a donor have to do?

A: Once the institution picks a winner, contact SEJ with the name of the recipient and other information as requested, and provide the check. Get it done well before an institution may have an end-of-year recognition event. SEJ will mail the institution a congratulatory letter from the SEJ president to give to the student.

Q: What more can I do?

A: Bring in a new donor to support the program in a big way!

Q: Won’t the best stories be written by students at the end of their college careers? Shouldn’t they be recognized instead of someone a year from graduating?

A: The idea is to give students a full year of support while they still qualify for a student membership. Depending on the jobs they take, new graduates may be disqualified for memberships.

The Nuts and Bolts

  1. Reach out to your contact at the college of your choice.
  2. Supply your contact with a description of the program and instructions:
  3. Follow up with your contact in March. As soon as a student is chosen, send your check to SEJ with the student’s name.

Questions? Contact David Poulson, the academic representative on the SEJ board, at, or Chris Bruggers:

* From the quarterly newsletter SEJournal, Winter 2015/2016. Each new issue of SEJournal is available to members and subscribers only; find subscription information here or learn how to join SEJ. Past issues are archived for the public here.

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