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PILOT WINS JOURNALISM AWARDS, FORMER GOLD BEACH PUBLISHER INDUCTED INTO NEWSPAPER HALL OF FAME

The Curry Coastal Pilot has won four awards – including a general excellence prize – in the 2008 Better Newspaper Contest of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

The awards, announced over the weekend, include first place for page one design and best sports story, second place for general excellence, and third place for best section front or inside page design.

Also at the annual ONPA Summer Publishers Convention, Bob Van Leer, publisher of the Curry County Reporter in Gold Beach from 1956 to 1997, was inducted into the Oregon Newspaper Hall of Fame.

The Pilot awards were among those given to newspapers in the state that publish two or more issues per week, but not daily.

Two of the Pilot's sister newspapers in Western Communications also won general excellence awards. The Bend Bulletin won first place among large daily newspapers, and the La Grande Observer won third place among small dailies.

Scott Graves, editor of the Pilot, produced the winning front-page design and the third-place inside-page design. The winning sports story was written by former Sports Editor Josh Bronson.

The general excellence award considers the entire content of the newspaper over three randomly selected dates.

"That award is a credit to the entire Pilot crew," said Publisher Charles Kocher.

The ONPA Hall of Fame Award for Van Leer recognized "an outstanding contribution to Oregon newspaper professionalism."

Bob Van Leer and his wife Betty purchased the Curry County Reporter on Dec. 1, 1956, and thus began a long career in community journalism that concluded in July 1997, when the couple retired. The newspaper continued to be owned and operated by the Van Leer family until January 2006. The Van Leers also owned the Coquille Valley Sentinel for one year and were part owners of the Port Orford News, which was operated at the time by their daughter and son-in-law, Jim and Molly Walker, who took over at the Curry County Reporter when Bob and Betty retired.

Bob has been involved in publishing since he and Betty graduated from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism. Early on, Bob became involved in the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, serving on numerous committees and, in 1969, serving as its president. He was awarded the Amos E. Voorhies award in 1992 in recognition of his outstanding service as a journalist.

Bob and Betty Van Leer participated in several international study missions with the National Newspaper Association, beginning with a trip to South Africa in 1985. That inspired in the couple a passion for world travel, and the Van Leers have visited every continent except Antarctica. Articles about and details of their travels from 1986 to 2006 can be found on Bob's Web site at www.bobvanleer.com.

Betty died earlier this year, but she was aware that Bob was going to be nominated for the Hall of Fame.

At the same dinner, Jim Walker passed the president's gavel to Martha Wells, publisher of the Albany Democrat-Herald and the Lebanon Express.

ONPA, founded in 1887, is a professional association of the state's daily and nondaily newspapers.

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