Sixteen Illinois newspapers received awards for school board news coverage at the 2015 Illinois Press Association’s “Best of the Press” presentations on June 12.
The Robert M. Cole Award, sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards, recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasize the community’s connection with its local public school district.
Madhu Krishnamurthy and the staff of the Daily Herald Group in Arlington Heights won the Cole Award for the large daily newspaper category, for a series of stories on the updated Illinois School Report Card. Other awards in this category were second place to Jamie Forsythe of the Belleville News-Democrat, third place to the staff of the Chicago Sun-Times for a series of “Watchdog” pieces, and honorable mention to Chris Lusvardi of the Decatur Herald & Review.
In the mid-sized daily category, the Cole Award top prize went to Jason Nevel of the State Journal-Register, for his coverage of Springfield School District 186. Other honorees were the Robinson Daily News team of Graham Mildrum, Tom Compton, and Randy Harrison, in second place; Julie Wurth of the News-Gazette in Champaign in third place; and honorable mention to Noelle McGee, also of the News-Gazette.
In the larger weekly newspaper category, Hillary Dickerson of the Galena Gazette took the top prize for her school board coverage. Natalie Stevens of the OswegoLedger-Sentinel earned second place, Bob Skolnik of the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark won third, and Zita Henneberry of the Bureau County Republican in Princeton took honorable mention.
Janice Hunt of the Oakland Independent took first place among the smaller weekly papers with her work reporting a school district’s decision to cut programs. Second place went to Ann Gill of the Coal City Courant. Will Brumleve of the Paxton Record won third place, and honorable mention went to Jeff Egbert of the Pickneyville Press.
The Cole Award is named for Robert M. Cole, the first executive director of IASB. The award requirements emphasize contribution to public understanding of local school governance and support for effective dialogue that helps the community and the school board define major public policy issues. The 2015 contest had 28 entries in four categories and marked the 35th year of Cole Award presentations.