May 03, 2007

Kate Arthur wins feature writing contest

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE -- The story of what began as a simple letter between two little girls and blossomed into a 47-year friendship took the top prize in the annual Polly Robinson Feature Writing Contest at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Kate Arthur, a feature writer at The Pantagraph in Bloomington, told readers how pen pal friendships could remain intact over many decades. She related the story of a 10-year-old black girl in a Sunday school on the Atlantic island of Bermuda looking over a list of potential pen pals when she came across the name of a 10-year-old girl living in Nashville, Ill., who is white. The two have remained friends and have met.

Arthur's story appeared in the Aug. 22, 2006, newspaper. She wins $150 for her effort. This is the third time in seven years Arthur has won the award; she won in 2001 and 2005, and earned honorable mentions in 2004 and also last year.

The annual contest, administered by the SIUC School of Journalism, is in memory of Polly Robinson, an SIUC 1978 alumnus and award-winning staff writer for Tazewell Publications in Morton who died at an early age in November 1979. Her parents, the late Warren and Doris Robinson, established the contest.

The award means a lot, said Arthur, who earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from SIUC in 1979, and was on the University campus at the same time as Robinson.

There were 35 entries this year from Illinois newspapers with circulations of 100,000 or less.

A three-part series, "The Life and Death of Nathan Uzella," the story of a Putnam County's man lifetime of lung problems that culminated in a rare cancer, took second place. Reporter Kevin Caufield of the News-Tribune in La Salle wins $75 for the series, which ran Jan. 22-24. Caufield won first place in last year's contest.

"Casting Crowns," a series on the Christian music industry by business editor Scott Perry of the Herald & Review in Decatur, won third place. The paper published his series of stories on May 21, 2006.

The judges awarded an honorable mention to "Living at the Schoolhouse," written by reporter Bob Holliday of The Pantagraph in Bloomington. The story, published Nov. 19, 2006, looks at how public schools and religion are prompting more parents to home school their children. He will receive a certificate.

The School of Journalism is part of SIUC's College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.