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Robert M Cole Awards

Every year, the Illinois Press Association solicits entries from local newspapers to participate in a statewide journalism competition. Entries are judged in three dozen subject categories. One of the categories – Best School Board Coverage – is sponsored and presented by the Illinois Association of School Boards.

The Robert M. Cole Award for best school board coverage, named for the first full-time executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards, recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasize the community’s connection with its local public school district.

Judges evaluate entries for contribution to public understanding of local school governance and support for effective dialogue that helps the community and school board define major public policy issues. Judging criteria also includes enterprise, depth of reporting, and clarity of writing.

This contest is not directed at school public relations campaigns or school district newsletters; rather, it is intended for general circulation newspapers that cover local school districts.

Winners are announced at the annual IPA “Best of the Press” event in June.

Questions about the Robert M. Cole Awards can be directed to the IASB communications staff at 217/528-9688.

May 3, 2019

Sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards and conducted by the Illinois Press Association, the Robert M. Cole Award recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasize the community’s connection with its local public school district.

The recipients were announced at the Illinois Press Association's annual convention on May 3 in Springfield. The five first-place winners, in divisions based on circulation, include the following newspapers and journalists.

Ann Gill of the Coal City Courant won first place in Division A for extensive and well-written coverage of the work of the Coal City CUSD 1 Board of Education, including school safety issues and the announcement of a new intervention program. Division A was a competitive field that includes for non-daily newspapers with under 3,000 circulation.

Dan Burke of the Galena Gazette won the top Cole Award prize in Division B/C for larger non-daily newspapers. The work included enterprise reporting of a settlement by the school district and coverage of the East Dubuque Unit SD 119 school improvement plan.

Kimberly Fornek of The Doings of Hinsdale took first place in Division C/D for the depth and breadth of reporting on a referendum proposal that followed the board of education’s decision to make deep cuts.

Noelle McGee of the Champaign News-Gazette received first place in Division E, including mid-sized daily newspapers, for reporting on a variety of timely issues, including a deep dive into the Champaign CUSD 4 teacher contract and the substitute teacher shortage.

Eric Peterson of The Daily Herald won the Division F first-place award for extensive and well-rounded coverage of Township HSD 211 contract negotiations as a strike date approached, notably the “Surreal: 90 hours to a deal” piece.

The 2019 Cole Award runners-up included Janice Hunt of the Oakland Independent, Hillary Dickerson of the Galena Gazette, Owen Lasswell of the Taylorville Breeze-Courier, Lyndsay Jones of the Champaign News-Gazette, and Lauren Fitzpatrick of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Named in memory of the first full-time executive director of IASB, the Robert M. Cole Award recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues and emphasizes newspapers’ contribution to public understanding of local school governance and support for effective dialogue that helps the community and school board define major public policy issues.

The Illinois Press Association is one of the largest state press organizations in the country. IPA provides professional education, government access, and newspaper advertising promotion to members. They also provide assistance for Newspapers in Education and literacy programs.

Newspapers, writers receive Cole Awards for school governance coverage

June 8, 2018

 

The Robert M. Cole Awards, sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards and recognizing outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasize the community’s connection with its local public school district, were presented June 8 at the Illinois Press Association’s “Best of the Press” presentations.

In Division A, covering the non-daily newspapers with under 3,000 circulation, the top prize went to the staff of the Coal City Courant for coverage of Coal City School District Unit 1. The in-depth look at the school district’s finances explained the issue to readers and brought the numbers alive with excellent writing and illustrations.

Division A’s second place was awarded to Will Brumleve of the Ford County Record in Paxton. Third place went to Tom Robb and Dion Martorano of the Niles Journal. An honorable mention was awarded to Fred Kroner of the Mahomet Citizen.

In Division B, including larger non-daily newspapers, first place was awarded to Hillary Dickerson of The Galena Gazette for coverage of the Galena school board for a well-researched, written, and presented piece explaining the district’s referendum efforts, and the reaction to the referendum’s failure on election day.

Second place in Division B went to Megan Braa and Curt Libbra from The News Leader in Highland. Third place was also to the Galena Gazette, for Dan Burke’s coverage of the East Dubuque School Board. Honorable Mention went to Mary (Galer) Herschelman of The Journal-News in Hillsboro.

Two awards were presented in each of the next two categories. In Division C, the largest-circulation non-daily newspapers, first place went to Martha Quetsch of the St. Charles-based Kane County Chronicle for thorough, balanced reporting of several key issues before the St. Charles School District 303 Board of Education. Second place in Division C went to Chris Walker, also of the Kane County Chronicle, for coverage of the Kaneland School District 302 school board.

In Division D for small-circulation dailies, first place went to Owen Lasswell of the Taylorville Breeze-Courier for good local coverage relating local governance to the school district, and connecting that coverage to statewide issues. Sharon Woods Harris of the Pekin Daily Times took second in Division D for coverage of Pekin High School’s board work to combine separate booster clubs into one.

For Division F, including the state’s largest daily newspapers, first place was awarded to Nicole Lafond of The News-Gazette in Champaign for depth of reporting, and clarity of writing which included a well-done superintendent profile and an excellent piece on combatting bullying.

Second place in Division F went to Pam Adams of the Peoria Journal Star and third place to Jason Nevel from The State Journal-Register in Springfield. Honorable mention went to another News-Gazette writer, Debra Pressey.

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. Presentations in 2018 were published in 2017; this contest had 21 entries in five categories and marked the 37th year of Cole Award presentations.

2017 Cole Awards recognize school governance coverage

June 9, 2017

 

SPRINGFIELD - Five newspapers were honored in the 37th annual Robert M. Cole Award competition, including The Daily Herald for its coverage of the Palatine District 15 teacher contract negotiations. The awards, which recognize outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasize the community's connection with its local public school district, were presented during the Illinois Press Association's "Best of the Press" luncheon on June 9 in Springfield.

The Daily Herald won first place in the large newspaper category for comprehensive and explanatory coverage of contract negotiations, supported by editorial opinion pieces. Second place among large newspapers went to Phil Luciano of the Peoria Journal Star.

In the mid-sized daily category, Deborah Gertz Husar of the Quincy Herald-Whig took first place for her enterprising coverage of school boards, school governance, and policy issues at Quincy SD 172. Her writing brought the work of the board and district to its community, award judges stated. Second place went to Nicole Lafond of the Champaign News-Gazette.

In the small daily newspaper category, Owen Lasswell of the Taylorville-based Breeze-Courier won first place for coverage of the state’s school finance reform puzzle as it related to the Taylorville school district. Second place went to Sharon Woods Harris of the Pekin Daily Times.

In the large weekly category, Hillary Dickerson of the Galena Gazette took first place for her coverage of the Galena school district’s facilities challenges and accompanying referendum. Her work included input from both community residents and school board members. Second place was awarded to Katie Devereaux, also of the Galena Gazette.

The first-place award for small weekly newspapers went to Will Brumleve of the Ford County Record for enterprising coverage of school boards, school governance, and policy issues, especially for reporting on community dialogue with the district. Second place went to Ann Gill of the Coal City Courant.

The Robert M. Cole Award for best school board coverage, named for the first full-time executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards, recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasize the community’s connection with its local public school district. Judges evaluate entries for contribution to public understanding of local school governance and support for effective dialogue that helps the community and school board define major public policy issues. Judging criteria also includes enterprise, depth of reporting, and clarity of writing.

The 2017 contest included 21 entries. The Cole Award is part of the Illinois Press Association’s annual contest. The IPA was founded in 1865 as an organization for Illinois publishers and represents more than 450 daily and weekly newspapers in the state.

Newspapers Honored for School Governance Coverage

June 14, 2016

 

Three Illinois newspapers and their reporters earned top honors for coverage of school governance issues at the 2016 Illinois Press Association's "Best of the Press" presentations on June 8. Each received the Robert M. Cole Award, sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards, which recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasize the community's connection with its local public school district.

Will Brumleve of the Paxton Record took first place in the small newspaper category for his coverage of several important issues surrounding the fate of an older school facility in in east central Illinois, and the board's work with its community while facing a possible referendum. Second place in this category went to Ann Gill of the Coal City Courant. Third went to Justin A. Cobb of the Scott County Times.

In the mid-sized newspaper category, the Galena Gazette earned the top prize for Hilary Dickerson's complete coverage of the Galena Board of Education's options for facilities improvement and reducing overcrowding. Other award winners in this category were Ivor Studentkov of the Niles Bugle and team coverage from the Prairie Press.

Among the larger Illinois newspapers, the first place Cole Award went to Allison Goodrich of the Northwest Herald for her extensive, informative, and clear coverage leading up to and during the McHenry teachers strike. Runners-up in this category were Emily K. Coleman of the Northwest Herald and Jason Nevel of the Springfield State Journal-Register.

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 2016 contest had 24 entries in three categories and marked the 36th year of Cole Award presentations.

Sixteen newspapers earn Cole Awards for school board coverage

June 22, 2015

 

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.

IASB Gives Awards for School Board News Coverage

June 16, 2014

 

Sixteen newspapers received awards in the annual Robert M. Cole Awards competition for 2014, including first-place winners in five divisions, based on size of newspaper circulation.

The Cole Awards are sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards and conducted by the Illinois Press Association. There were 19 entries in this, the 34th year for the Cole Awards program.

First-place award winners were: Belleville News-Democrat, large daily division; Effingham Daily News, mid-size daily division; The Doings, Hinsdale, large weekly division; Kendall County Record, Yorkville, mid-size weekly division; and Coal City Courant, small weekly division.

Here is a list of reporters, subjects and judges’ comments for each of the first place awards:

  • Jamie Forsythe, Belleville News-Democrat , on technology in education: “This series of articles does a good job of telling the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the decision to expand technology in the classroom.
  • Bill Grimes , Effingham Daily News , on school cuts: “What elevates this coverage about one district’s financial plight is the effort to explain what could happen, and why, and the interaction between the community and school board throughout the process.”
  • Kimberly Fornek, Chuck Fieldman , The Doings, Hinsdale, on general school board coverage: “The best.”
  • Kathy Farren , Kendall County Record , Yorkville, on a number of different board issues: “Good coverage…[and] comments from board members earns this entry top spot.”
  • Ann Gill , Coal City Courant, on general school board coverage: “Ann Gill has a way of explaining complex school issues that boards face so that they can be understood by community members.”

Named in memory of the first full-time executive director of IASB, the Robert M. Cole Award recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasizes the community's connection with its local public school district. Entries are judged on their contribution to public understanding of local school governance and their support for effective dialogue that helps the community and school board define major public policy issues.

The other winners and their awards included:

  • Large dailies: The State Journal-Register, Springfield, second place; The Pantagraph, Bloomington, third place; Belleville News-Democrat, honorable mention
  • Mid-size dailies: Sauk Valley Media, Sterling, second place; The Herald-Whig, Quincy, third place; LaSalle News Tribune, honorable mention
  • Large weeklies: Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, second place
  • Mid-size weeklies: The Ledger-Sentinel, Oswego, second place; Mason County Democrat, Havana, third place;
  • Small weeklies: Paxton Record, second place; Woodford County Journal, Eureka, third place; Forest Park Review, honorable mention

Winners were announced Friday, June 13, at the annual convention of the Illinois Press Association in Springfield. Gary Adkins, IASB director/communications, handed out the awards.

IASB GIVES AWARDS FOR SCHOOL BOARD NEWS COVERAGE

June 17, 2013

 

Sixteen newspapers received awards in the annual Robert M. Cole Awards competition for 2013, including the Chicago Tribune, which earned first place in the large daily newspaper category.

The Cole Awards are sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards and conducted by the Illinois Press Association. There were 26 entries in this, the 33rd year for the Cole Awards program.

Other first-place Cole Award winners were: Woodford County Journal, Eureka, small weekly division; The Galena Gazette, mid-size weekly division; and The Daily Journal , Kankakee, mid-size daily division.

Here is a list of reporters, subjects and judges’ comments for each of the first place awards:

  • Cheryl Wolfe , Woodford County Journal, on Life-Safety Work and District Consolidation: “In-depth look at public’s input on important district decision. Reports on continuing attempt to exert public control on a school board policy decision.”
  • Hillary Dickerson, Jane Holland , The Galena Gazette , on School Redevelopment Plans: “Wow; this series of articles captures the scope of a major project and its impact. The use of graphics, maps, photos, web polls, interviews, sidebars, etc., really pull it all together. Thorough, fair and objective reporting, presented in a package that guarantees readership and response.”
  • Staff , TheDaily Journal, Kankakee, on Leaving Behind NCLB: “Great series on significant curriculum and class changes that affect student, teacher and community alike. Great use of data, photography and graphics to supplement the content.”
  • David Jackson, Gary Marx and Alex Richards , Chicago Tribune , on Truancy Epidemic: “This series has to hit home for thousands of students and parents; even those without students have to be moved by the coverage and what impact this issue has on the community at large.”

Named in memory of the first full-time executive director of IASB, the Robert M. Cole Award recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasizes the community's connection with its local public school district. Entries are judged on:

  • their contribution to public understanding of local school governance; and
  • their support for effective dialogue that helps the community and school board define major public policy issues

The other winners and their awards included:

  • Small weeklies: The Pinckneyville Press, second place; The Free Press Advocate, Wilmington, third place; Village Voices, Stockton, honorable mention
  • Mid-size weeklies: The Ledger-Sentinel, Oswego, second place; The Bugle, Bolingbrook, third place; Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat, honorable mention
  • Mid-size dailies: Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, second place; The Herald-Whig, Quincy, third place; The Northwest Herald, Crystal Lake, honorable mention
  • Large dailies: Belleville News-Democrat, second place; The Journal Star, Peoria, third place; The Pantagraph, Bloomington, honorable mention

Winners were announced Friday, June 14, at the annual convention of the Illinois Press Association in Springfield. James Russell, IASB associate executive director/communications, handed out the awards.