Times editor wins national Osborne Award for Editorial Leadership

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A series of editorials that sparked changes to the Wilson County school board’s public comment policy have netted a national award for The Wilson Times’ editor.

Corey Friedman is one of two winners of the 2019 Burl Osborne Award for Editorial Leadership, the News Leaders Association announced Tuesday. The association, which was formed through a merger of the American Society of News Editors and Associated Press Media Editors, calls its annual awards “among the most prestigious in journalism.”

Friedman received the Osborne Award for newsrooms with 50 or fewer employees, while The Palm Beach Post, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald and WLRN Public Radio won the honor for newsrooms with 51 or more employees for their project “The Invading Sea: Can South Florida be saved?”

“We’re honored to see The Wilson Times recognized for its work on the national stage,” said Keven Zepezauer, Times president and publisher. “Corey puts a lot of effort and care into the editorials he writes, and his work on the school board series resulted in open government reforms in one of our most important community institutions — the elected body that oversees public education for more than 11,000 Wilson County students.”

The award is named for Burl Osborne, who served as editor and later as publisher of The Dallas Morning News. Osborne, who died in August 2012 at age 75, was also a chairman of The Associated Press’ board of directors.

A panel of judges selected News Leaders Association award-winners and finalists online and at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Finalists in the small-newsroom category are the staff of The Capital and Maryland Gazette for editorials following a June 2018 shooting that killed five employees and wounded two others and Jeffery Gerritt, editor of the Palestine (Texas) Herald-Press, for editorials and columns on open government.

The Osborne Award will be presented at the 2019 ASNE-APME News Leadership Conference planned for Sept. 9-10 in New Orleans. The award includes a $1,250 cash prize, which Friedman said he will donate to the Wilson Education Partnership.

“I wrote about the school board’s public comment policy to help bring about positive change in our school system,” Friedman said. “In that spirit, I want the WEP to use these winnings to support the vital work of our classroom teachers in Wilson County.”

The Times’ winning entry consisted of 10 editorials published between April and December 2018. The first, “Schools’ policy stifles speech at board meetings,” resulted in revisions to the Wilson County Board of Education’s public comment rules last May. The board dropped a rule that prevented speakers from addressing personnel issues but added a three-day advance registration requirement for those wishing to speak during monthly meetings. Following subsequent editorials and advocacy by parents and community members, the school board rescinded the speaker signup rule in December.

“This newspaper tackled an important topic — the public’s right to offer their views to elected officials — and it didn’t let go,” contest judges said in a statement. “It offered readers information to get involved and it effected change. A fine example of a news organization looking out for its readers.”

Friedman, 34, has won several state and national awards for editorial writing and is profiled this month in industry magazine Editor & Publisher’s 2019 “25 Under 35” list of newsroom leaders.