Deadline: Feb. 16, 2018

MIPA’s Student Journalist Staff annually recognizes Michigan’s top student journalists. This is our all-state student journalist team. Members of the Student Journalist Staff are graduating students who excel at their student media outlets. They are selected based on portfolios of their work.

  • Student Journalist Staff members will be recognized at the MIPA Spring Awards  in April. Photos of the staff will be printed in the event program and notices will be sent to the student’s local media.
  • From among the members of the Student Journalist Staff, MIPA will honor a student as All-MIPA in each the following areas — news writing & reporting, news design, yearbook, video, photojournalism and multiplatform. All-MIPA honorees are the best of the best in their area of primary focus. In addition, one member of the Student Journalist Staff will be selected as Michigan’s representative in the Journalism Education Association’s national Journalist of the Year competition. Each All-MIPA winner will receive a $300 scholarship. These funds will be paid directly to the honoree’s college scholarship/financial aid office. It is up to honorees to contact the MIPA office after they have enrolled with information on where to send scholarships. Honorees must seek these funds within one year or the award money is forfeited.
  • Candidates for the Student Journalist Staff must be seniors. Each member school may nominate one candidate in each of area of primary interest: news writing & reporting, news design, yearbook, video, photojournalism and multiplatform. Candidates must indicate their area of primary interest.
  • Selection is based on portfolios of students’ work. See entry guidelines and the scoring rubrics for details.

General Guidelines

There are two parts to the application, which should be submitted at the same time using the form at

  1. The application form, which includes contact information, academic transcript, letters of recommendation and resume.
  2. An online porfolio of the student’s work, which judges will access via URL. Details below.

Portfolio Requirements

  • Submit one portfolio to be considered for the MIPA Student Journalist Staff, All-MIPA and JEA Journalist of the Year-Michigan Representative.
  • The portfolio should exist in a digital format, and be publicly accessible at a URL. Paper copies of portfolios will not be accepted. Portfolios can be submitted as a website (preferred) or as a PDF booklet hosted online.
  • Applicants will select one primary area of interest — news writing & reporting, news design, yearbook, video, photojournalism or multiplatform. Portfolio materials will focus on that primary area. Materials from secondary interests are encouraged, but Student Journalist Staff judges will focus scoring on the student’s primary area.
  • MIPA recommends students include six to 12 samples of published work in their primary area of interest.
  • Work examples can be from throughout the student’s journalism career and showcase the student’s progress over time as a journalist.
  • Select from the following 11 categories to organize your portfolio materials: Design, Editing, Entrepreneurship, Law and Ethics, Leadership and Team Building, Multimedia Broadcast, News Gathering, News Literacy, Photojournalism, Web, Writing. The goal is not to try to find something to fill all 11 categories. Only use the categories in which you have appropropriate portfolio materials, and discard any categories that are not appropriate for your portfolio.
  • All work examples included in the portfolio must be labeled with the applicable category, evidence of usage/publication of example, awards/contests entered and an explanation/reasoning for each example.
    • Explanation/reasoning includes the applicant’s explanation about the specific assignment. Include any difficulties encountered with the assignment and special circumstances affecting it. Explanation should be 25–50 words in length, easy to read and explain why this entry is important and was chosen for the portfolio.
  • Any single audio, video or multimedia work example should not exceed 15 minutes in length. You may include a segment of a longer work. Please note that, due to judging time constraints, judges may only view the first five minutes of any single work sample.
  • The applicant’s personality should be evident in the entry. The student should choose a design concept for the portfolio.

Application Materials

The application is completed online at Please gather the following materials before filling out the application (protect your privacy, do not include the following materials in your online portfolio):

  1. Information about the student, parents/guardians and local media.
  2. Official high school transcript or a counselor’s statement including journalism classes taken, grades and current GPA. Student should be a high school senior. Scan the transcript and upload it as a PDF.
  3. A formal head shot of the candidate AND an action photo of the candidate involved in some aspect of student media. Make sure each digital file has the candidate’s name on it. For instance: smith.jpg. This must be a high-resolution photo — not a Facebook photo. Resolution should be at least 200. The action shot should have an extended caption written for that photo. If there is more than one person in the photo, please use location of candidate (left, right, etc.) for identification.
  4. Three (3) letters of recommendation from those who know the candidate well and understand the impact of the journalistic experience on the student’s life (no letter should exceed two pages in length). Scan the letters and upload them as PDFs.
  5. A personal resume of activities and achievements in scholastic journalism and other activities.
  6. An self-analytical essay written by the candidate. The essay must be typed and should include how working in journalism has impacted his/her life, future goals and aspirations, etc. Include college plans. Students should write with passion and make an impact on the judges because this essay functions as the applicant’s one-on-one interview. Essay should not exceed two pages in length.

Deadline to Apply

Submit your portfolio by Feb. 16, 2018. No late entries will be accepted. Candidates will be notified via email by April 1 about whether they were selected.

Judging Rubric

Submitting a Portfolio

No more than one portfolio per school may be submitted in each of the following areas: news writing & reportingnews designyearbookvideophotojournalism or multiplatform.

  1. Submit a portfolio via MIPA’s contest submission system.
  2. Portfolios that cannot be accessed publicly by the judges will be disqualified.
  3. Entries must be submitted by the contest deadline. Late entries will not be accepted.
  4. Log into the contest system. You should log in with your adviser’s account.
      You will be prompted to create a free account in the submission system (accounts carry over from year to year) before uploading your first contest entry.
      Log in to access your account.
  5. Fill out the application form as directed.


Please note: Portfolios may have been updated since last year’s competition.


A team of at least two judges will evaluate the portfolios in each of the areas of interest. Judges may not work in any area of interest in which they have a student entered.

Are you an adviser interested in judging Student Journalist Staff porfolios? Contact [email protected] at least one week prior to the contest deadline to be assigned to a judging committee. Please include in your email the names of any students submitting portfolios into this year’s contest and to which area of interest they are applying. Judges work remotely and must complete their work in the two weeks following the contest deadline. Thank you!


Have a question about how to put together your portfolio? Take a look at our frequently asked questions list here. If you don’t find an answer to your question, contact us at [email protected].

What should I use to build my digital portfolio?

You can use any platform to showcase your work, as long as it’s available at its own URL.

That means you can put your portfolio together as a multi-page PDF document – essentially as an electronic copy of a traditional paper portfolio – or as a website. There are many free and low-cost platforms that will allow you complete either of those options.

Do not use file sharing sites that would require a judge to download the portfolio (i.e. Google Drive, Dropbox). The portfolio should live online to be accessed with the URL address shared on the online application.

I want to build a website. What platform should I use?

There are a lot of options to build an organized, professional-looking portfolio website. Here are a few to consider:

  • Blog Platforms
    • WordPress: A WordPress website gives you a lot of flexibility to make a custom portfolio that matches your personality and meets your technical needs. The Journalism Education Association has createda guide for building a portfolio using WordPress for its Journalist of the Year competition. JEA’s portfolio requirements are very similar to MIPA’s Student Journalist Staff competition. A site is free.
    • Blogger & Tumblr: Other blog site tools, like Blogger or even Tumblr, also could work, although they don’t give you as much flexibility as WordPress.
  • Website Building Tools: There are a variety of tools to let you easily build free websites. Here are a few you might consider.
  • Portfolio Sites for Journalists: These sites have free and paid packages and are used by many professional journalists to create online portfolios. Each site is slightly different and offers different options. Depending on your work samples (writing vs. photography vs. video), each has strengths and weaknesses. Before you spend any time building a site using any of these platforms, make sure it will work to present all of your materials.

For a good overview of these options, read this PBS MediaShift article on building a journalism portfolio.

I'm creating a PDF portfolio. How do I get a URL for it?

If you’re creating a portfolio from a PDF document, you’ll need to post it somewhere on the Internet so that it has a URL. Here are two free options:

Creating a PDF portfolio may be a good option for students who have a lot of writing and design work to showcase, but it will not allow you to easily showcase multimedia or video work.

How should I organize my work samples?

We recommend that you organize your portfolio materials using the following 11 categories: Design, Editing, Entrepreneurship, Law and Ethics, Leadership and Team Building, Multimedia Broadcast, News Gathering, News Literacy, Photojournalism, Web, Writing.

These categories are the 11 core areas of the Journalism Education Association’s Curriculum Initiative.

It’s OK if you don’t have materials for all 11 categories. The goal is not to try to find something to fill every category. Only use the categories in which you have appropropriate portfolio materials, and discard any categories that are not appropriate for your porfolio.

What if I don't have work samples for all 11 categories listed in the requirements?

It’s OK if you don’t have materials for all 11 categories. The goal is not to try to find something to fill every category. Only use the categories in which you have appropriate portfolio materials, and discard any categories that are not appropriate for your portfolio.

Can I make my portfolio an EPUB or iBook?

No, not for this competition.

Your portfolio must exist on the Internet at its own URL. EPUBs, iBooks and other digital book formats may require specific readers/software or only be viewable on a single platform. We need to be able to access your portfolio from a regular Web browser.

How do I apply for All-MIPA?

The judges will select students for the All-MIPA designation based on their Student Journalist Staff portfolios. You don’t need to take any additional steps.

How do I apply for JEA Student Journalist of the Year-Michigan Representative?

The judges will select a student to be Michigan’s representative for the JEA Student Journalist of the Year contest based on Student Journalist Staff portfolios. You don’t need to take any additional steps.

If you are selected for this honor, you will be contacted by Michigan’s JEA state chair, who will work with you to prepare your portfolio for the national competition.

What should NOT be included in my online portfolio?

Protect your privacy! Do not include your transcript, letters of recommendation or contact information in your online portfolio. You will submit these materials on the application form in MIPA’s contest submission system.

Is this contest for seniors only?

Yes. Applicants must be graduating seniors.

Do I have to major in journalism or a related field in college?

No. This contest evaluates the work you have done throughout your scholastic journalism career.

What should I include on my resume? Is there a particular format I should use?

Your resume should focus on your activities and achievements in scholastic journalism. This could include the positions you have held on your student media outlet, awards and recognition you have received, journalism-related workshops and trainings you have attended and more. You may also choose to include jobs and volunteer activities that showcase your leadership and/or community involvement.

Choose quality over quantity when selecting what information to put on your resume. Make sure your resume is neat and organized. In the professional world, most journalist’s resumes are only one page.

Can my portfolio include work that I have done outside of school?


Do all of the materials in my portfolio need to have been published?

Not necessarily. In most cases, judges will view published work more favorably than work that has not been published.

But, maybe you have a great essay about something journalism-related, or materials you put together to promote student press rights to your school board, or a great presentation that you did to the local Rotary. You can still include those kinds of materials, but make sure it’s clear in the required explanation/reasoning for each piece why it’s included in your portfolio.

What should be included in the explanation/reasoning for each portfolio item?

The explanation/reasoning includes the applicant’s explanation about the specific assignment. What makes it a great example of your work? Did you encounter any difficulties in completing it? How is this item special?

Explanation should be brief (25-50 words in length is recommended), easy to read and should explain why this entry is important and was chosen for the portfolio.

Who should I have write a letter of recommendation?

Candidates should ask those who know them best and can speak to the significance of their journalism experience.

This might include professional journalist mentors, your adviser, other teachers or administrators, your peers and others. But be sure they can speak intelligently and with authority to your work as a student journalist – not merely to how great you are personally or as a student.

Can I put my letters of recommendation in my online portfolio?

We recommend against that.

The people who wrote you letters of recommendation probably didn’t intend for the world to see them. You’ll be able to submit these letters via the online application form.

Can I include my transcript or grades in my online portfolio?

We recommend against that.

No matter how great your grades are, your transcript should be kept private. You’ll be able to submit this information via the online application form.