April 12, 2006

La Salle reporter wins feature writing contest

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A series of articles walking readers through the lives and final days of heroin addicts in central Illinois took the top prize in the annual Polly Robinson Feature Writing Contest at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Kevin Caufield, a reporter at the News-Tribune in La Salle, used interviews with families and friends of the deceased to piece together compelling portraits of the victims' lives and tragic ends. The newspaper published the series of articles, titled "Requiem for Heroin's Victims," Aug. 15-20 after 13 people died of heroin overdoses in two counties it serves.

Caufield wins $150 for his effort.

The annual contest, administered by the SIUC School of Journalism, is in memory of Polly Robinson, an SIUC alumnus and staff writer for Tazewell Publications who died at an early age in 1972. Her parents, the late Warren and Doris Robinson, established the contest.

"Shared Destiny," the story of the relationship between a liver recipient and his donor, took second place. Paul Swiech, a writer for The Pantagraph in Bloomington, will receive $75 for the story, which ran July 18 in the paper's Health section. Swiech won third place in last year's contest.

"Strong arm," a profile of an eight-year-old Alton girl born without part of her left arm, won third place. Writer Jill Moon of The Telegraph in Alton wins $50. The paper published her story May 22 in its Sunday A.M. section.

The judges awarded an honorable mention nod to "100 and still going," a peek at the life of a 100-year-old woman. Writer Kate Arthur works for the Pantagraph, which published the story April 8 in its Focus section. Arthur won first place in last year's contest. She will receive a certificate.

Serving others is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.