By Nancy Knowles
N. V. Jones, Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Voice, and Stephen Tool, Editor-in-Chief, earned top awards in the 2013 Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association Collegiate Newspaper Contest. Jones won third place in the Best News Story category, and Tool won first in Best Columnist.
The Collegiate Newspaper Contest draws entries from ONPA collegiate members and is judged by ONPA newspaper members. The ONPA is comprised of paid-circulation newspapers across the state with the purpose of promoting the value of newspapers in a democratic society.
Jones’s winning entry was “Every Parent’s Child,” which covered the suicide of Jadin Bell, a popular sophomore at La Grande High School who experienced bullying. She was inspired to write the story because her son knew Bell.
According to Jones, the judges wanted an edgier piece, but she played it safe. “I didn’t jump on the blame bandwagon,” she said, “because I wanted to show Jadin’s life before and after and then the community trying to come together.”
Tool’s award went to “Book Banning in the Land of the Free,” penned in response to the 2012 list of banned books, which includes “To Kill a Mockingbird” and ironically, as Tool notes, “Fahrenheit 451”. He commented, “By the criteria the religious right uses to ban books, they should ban the Bible!”
The judging was completed April 15, but the award notifications were not sent until May 17, so Jones and Tool had assumed they didn’t win. Their assumption made the awards even sweeter.
After recovering from the shock, Tool thought of faculty, including Voice advisor Neil Gustafson, “who had my back last year when university officials attempted to silence me over my column content.” The awards now hang on the bulletin board in The Voice office.
Given the current uncertainty of the journalism program at EOU, both Jones and Tool indicated concern regarding “the future integrity of The Voice.”
Collegiate newspapers provide a venue for students to participate in campus dialogue, and journalism courses train them to do so ethically, representing the multiple sides of issues. Engaged, informed, and critical voices ground the success of any institution—small colleges as much as big democracies.