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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.

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