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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.

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