Outstanding Young Journalists to be Honored

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Two newspaper journalists – from the Sedalia Democrat and the Clinton County Leader, Plattsburg — have been selected to receive the 2015 William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist awards from the Missouri Press Association.

Jim Robertson, president of MPA, announced Nicole Cooke of Sedalia and Brett Adkison of Lathrop, will receive their awards on Sept. 12, in Columbia during the MPA’s annual awards luncheon.

"This is the seventh year for these awards," said Robertson, managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. "And, this is the third year the awards are named in honor of our colleague, the late William E. James. The Missouri Press Association congratulates Nicole and Brett for their excellent news reporting and editing skills in their communities."

Nicole Cooke has worked for the Sedalia daily newspaper since August 2013. Her responsibilities have included reporting on city government and school board, compiling accident reports and police reports, covering events and breaking news, making photographs, managing the newspaper’s Twitter account and Facebook page, copyediting, page design, and serving as interim editor. She has degrees in public relations and journalism from the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg. She has won awards for news and photos from the Associated Press Managing Editors, the Kansas City Press Club, the Missouri State Teachers Association and the Missouri Press Association.

Cooke never turned down a story assignment, said former editor Dennis Rich. "Her assistance and reporting was invaluable in November of 2013, when Pettis County saw a massive natural gas pipeline explosion during the overnight hours on Thanksgiving Day." Without hesitation, Cooke left her family holiday and joined Rich in the newsroom, coordinating reporting and live updates from the office while he reported from the scene.

Her nominators said, "Cooke is a pleasure to work with, handles stress well, accepts responsibilities well outside her job description and delivers outstanding results each time. She is a natural leader and exactly the kind of young journalist we need to keep our industry viable."

Plattsburg publisher Stephen Tinnen said he hired away Brett Adkison from a nearby weekly newspaper because he "admired his exceptional writing skills and keen eye for taking the right photo to fit his subject. For talented people, delivering this quality is expected on one or maybe even two stories, but this type of quality happened story after story with Adkison’s byline."

Adkison attended Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, then was hired as a reporter and editor for the Lathrop Rural Reporter, beginning in 2006. He’s worked at the Clinton County Leader since 2008 as assistant editor. Adkison is involved in all aspects of the editorial process, including planning and page design of the newspaper, editing photos and stories, taking photos, reporting on local and area county, city and school government, managing and maintaining the Leader’s Facebook, Twitter and website. He has won numerous awards from the Missouri Press Association, and for the past two years the Leader has won the distinguished Gold Medal Award for Class 1 weekly newspapers.

"Since he joined our staff, our circulation has increased in a time where subscriber numbers are dwindling," Tinnen said. "There is no doubt in my mind that Brett is the right person to honor the memory of Bill James as an outstanding young journalist because Brett is one."
Winners of the William E. James/Outstanding Young Journalist Award have demonstrated excellence in the field of journalism and maintained the quality, ethics and standards of The Journalist’s Creed, written by Walter Williams, founding dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Editors or publishers submitted nominations for the awards, and the nominees must have been younger than 30 years old on Jan. 1, 2015.

The aim of the award is to reinforce the importance of a journalist’s role by recognizing and nurturing talent to further promote quality journalism.

William E. "Bill" James, the namesake for this award, served as publisher of the Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal from November 2007 until his death in November 2013. He was publisher of the Cass County Democrat Missourian in Harrisonville from 1985 to 2000.

During a career of 40 years, James served in a variety of leadership positions for the newspapers of Missouri, and he was a trusted mentor to many MPA members. He was president of the Missouri Press Association (1998), president of the Northwest Missouri Press Association (1990), president of the Missouri Advertising Managers’ Association (1986), and president of the Democratic Editors of Missouri (1981). He served as a director of the National Newspaper Association (1999-2001). He was inducted into the MPA Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2001. His widow, Dorothy, lives in Olathe, Kansas.

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