CHICAGO - The Beloit Daily News is the winner of the prestigious Inland Press Association's award for "Local News Writing and Explanatory Reporting."
The award, presented Tuesday at the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Chicago during Inland's national conference, was for the newspaper's week-long series of articles titled "Classrooms at a Crossroads."
The series, written by Senior Writer Hillary Gavan, was a deep examination of chronic difficulties within the School District of Beloit, and included analysis from years of data on disciplinary practices, to students living in traumatizing conditions to high turnover rates among administrators and teachers. The series also examined a number of creative district initiatives aimed at improving conditions within the classrooms.
Gavan was on hand in Chicago Tuesday to accept the recognition.
"I was honored to be able to represent the Beloit Daily News at the Inland Press Association awards and thankful to those who stepped forward to speak candidly with me about issues impacting education in the community. The first step in any growth or forward movement is awareness gleaned through facts combined with open and respectful communication. The next step will be strategic action by the board and district and beyond. Everyone in the community can play an important role in supporting youth and those who educate them," Gavan said. "We plan to cover the future successes as they develop from those efforts."
Editor Bill Barth said such prominent recognition validates what good journalism can contribute to building better communities.
"Here at the paper we're very proud of Hillary's work on this important series. She's an exceptional journalist who has been a key member of our team for many years, producing quality work every day," Barth said. "A top Inland Press award is a big deal, to be recognized by our peers in one of America's largest news competitions. Even more significant, though, is what this series and the consistent and continuing reporting by the paper on Beloit's schools has contributed to the public good.
"Beloit has made impressive strides in reinventing and improving itself over the last couple of decades," Barth said. "But the school district has not kept up with the pace. It has never been our purpose to rub the district's problems in anyone's face. Rather, we set out to expose facts in order to raise the sense of urgency and encourage community commitment to getting better. There's a lot of evidence - new leadership, the literacy initiative, at-risk student intervention plans and more - to suggest the community is engaging these issues in a bigger way. We're not taking credit for that, by any means, but we are convinced the power of deeply-reported journalism can go far toward energizing citizen stakeholders to create decisive actions."
Inland Press Association is one of America's premier news trade organizations, headquartered in Des Plaines, Illinois. More than 1,000 daily and weekly newspapers are members, from all 50 states as well as Canada and Bermuda. Inland is a longtime force in promoting the interests of the news industry across the country.
The presentation took place during Inland's 133rd annual meeting at the Marriott, attended by newspaper representatives from across the country. Inland Press Association was founded in 1885.
To see the "Classrooms at a Crossroads" series, visit http://www.beloitdailynews.com/classrooms_crossroads.