Ethan Colbert, the editor and reporter of the Bowling Green Times, has been selected to receive this year’s William E. James Outstanding Young Journalist award from the Missouri Press Association.
Colbert was selected to represent the state’s numerous weekly newspapers, while Rebecca Martin of the Jefferson City News-Tribune was selected to represent the state’s daily newspapers.
Missouri Press Association President Carol Stark, the editor of the Joplin Globe, made the announcement Monday morning in an emailed statement to the members of the statewide press association.
“This is the 10th year for these awards,” Stark said. “And, this is the sixth year the awards are named in honor of our colleague, the late William E. James. The Missouri Press Association congratulates Rebecca and Ethan for their excellent news reporting and editing skills in their communities.”
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 MU 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, 2018.
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. He was inducted into the MPA Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2001.
Colbert, who grew up in Frankford and graduated from Bowling Green High School in 2010, returned to his hometown after graduating from the University of Missouri in Columbia with bachelor degrees in journalism and political science.
Colbert has previously worked at the Cedar County Republican-Stockton Journal in Stockton, Mo., the Buffalo Reflex in Buffalo, Mo., the Jefferson City News-Tribune in Jefferson City, Mo., and the Columbia Missourian in Columbia, Mo.
He has also worked at the Washington Missourian as an intern during college.
He was hired and named the editor of the Bowling Green Times on June 1, 2015.
Since coming to the Times, Colbert has received more than 30 different Missouri Press Associations awards, including awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, and editorial writing.
In a letter nominating Colbert for the award, Bowling Green Times publisher Linda Luebrecht said he has exceeded expectations with his news coverage and silenced critics who thought he was too young for the job.
Luebrecht also noted in the nomination that from the very first week on the job, Colbert has helped to give the 144-year-old newspaper a fresh look, ensuring that each publication of the Times has large, bold photographs, creative typography, and notable pull quotes that all help draw in the reader’s interest.
Colbert has also successfully redesigned two of the newspaper’s special sections, Traveler Magazine and People of Pike, relaunching them as new publications that would look at home in much larger cities and have been well received by the readers of the Bowling Green Times.
“However, it is not just Ethan’s commitment to page design that makes him worthy of this award,” Luebrecht said. “Ethan is committed to the entire process of newspapers, from beginning to end. It is not uncommon for him to work until the early hours of the morning pouring over photos from the latest basketball game or community event. Then, after a few hours of sleep, he is right back into the office and ready to work again.”
Colbert works to ensure he is everywhere the news is happening, regularly giving readers instant updates on social media and keeping them informed throughout the week via the newspaper’s website.
Since joining the Bowling Green Times, the newspaper’s Facebook followers have more than doubled going from 2,200 to 4,900 and the newspaper’s Twitter followers have also grown significantly from 400 to more than 870.
In her nomination letter, Luebrecht also noted how Colbert’s reporting is regularly cited by other media outlets because Colbert’s reporting has a reputation of being credible, thorough, and accurate.
“I’ve heard Ethan tell people while they pay 50 cents for the paper, he hopes after reading it that they feel like they got their money’s worth,” Luebrecht said. “They laugh and smile at him, but it is true. Our readers are frequently treated to thought-provoking editorials, heart-warming features, and through reporting on the actions of those in charge of our government.”