The Margaret Chase Smith Library has announced the topic of its 22nd annual essay contest – the appropriate role of the media in American society. The ideal of a free press is so central to democracy that its protection is enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Yet its practice is often contested. This was true during the McCarthy, Vietnam and Watergate eras in Smith’s time. In the present time, questions about the ethics and influence of the media have resurfaced through concerns about “fake” news.

The contest is open to Maine high school seniors. Essays must be typed and double-spaced. Contestants should provide complete contact information so they can receive notification of final results. For publication purposes, essays should be no longer than 2,000 words. As always, quality of evidence, argumentation and writing is more important than quantity of pages. The best essays support personal opinions with historical context and cited facts.

Entries are due by March 30 and decisions will be announced May 4. Prizes are $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place, $250 for third place, and $50 for five honorable mentions. For more information, visit the library’s website at or contact John Taylor at 474-7133.