2019 contest to recognize those who turn public notices into stories
By Kate Richardson, IPA director of communication
Annual budgets, expenditures, bid notices; … they are the crumbs that will lead to your next big story.
“For a newspaper that’s paying attention, our legal notices are an endless source of stories. They are often the first warning of a development project” said Dan Haley, president of the Suburban Cook County Publishers and publisher of Wednesday Journal Publications.
Wednesday Journal Publications, based on Oak Park, includes the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, the Forest Park Review, the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark of Oak Park and River Forest, and the Austin Weekly News (Chicago). Haley said in these communities, “there is an increasing concern about taxation.”
“Those [stories] are engendering an increasingly strong response from our towns, where people are very concerned about property tax levels,” Haley said. “[Public notice] is a critical way that we hold governments accountable – to have them put their information out in a widely public fashion. It is a discipline to make sure that they are accurately reporting in a timely way.”
In May of next year at the Illinois Press Association’s annual convention, the Cook County Suburban Publishers will honor those who have mastered this discipline by sponsoring the new Public Notice Journalism Award in IPA’s annual Excellence in News contest.
The Public Notice Journalism Award recognizes excellence in journalism that draws reader attention to public notices, and rewards reporters and editors who incorporate public notice and public notice issues into their reporting and writing.
“The award is to bring recognition to the people who talk about public notice and keep public notice public,” said Susan Walker, assistant secretary of the Cook County Suburban Publishers and general manager of the Hyde Park Herald (Chicago).
All entries must have been published within the calendar year Jan. 1, 2018 – Dec. 31, 2018. Entries must consist of a news story or series (not an editorial or opinion piece) initially prompted by a public notice that drew attention to the subject, or in which a public notice or the omission of a public notice figured heavily in the reporting. Stories should reference or provide a link to the notice; or if the story is based on a public notice requirement that was not met or was deficient, it must describe the deficiency.
Newspapers will compete in two divisions, daily and non-daily. First-place winners will receive a special plaque and a $250 cash prize.
One division’s winning entry will qualify as an entry in the national public notice journalism contest sponsored by the Public Notice Resource Center (PNRC). The winner of the national PNRC contest will receive a $500 prize.
For more information on the contest and public notice class, click here.
The Cook County Suburban Publishers is an organization of newspaper publishers, working with Cook County officials to ensure legal notices are placed in correlation with the notice’s township.