Jeff Nelson, managing editor of the Lincoln Courier, has been named Journalist of the Year by the Eastern Illinois University Journalism Department.
Nelson was recognized for his "outstanding contribution to the field of journalism" over the course of his 36-year career at the State Journal-Register in Springfield and the Lincoln newspaper, both formerly owned by Copley Press Inc., but now owned by GateHouse Media Inc.
"Jeff has had an outstanding career and is deserving of the honor," Journalism Department Chair James Tidwell said.
Nelson has been managing editor of the Lincoln Courier since 1993. Under his leadership, the newspaper has won the Illinois Press Association sweepstakes trophy for best daily under 10,000-circulation in 11 of the last 14 years.
Nelson says he loves his job. "I will tell anyone who will listen that I've got the best job in the world."
Before becoming managing editor at Lincoln, Nelson served as assistant city editor, feature editor, Saturday Magazine editor, feature writer, photographer and columnist at the State Journal-Register.
A 1971 graduate of Eastern with a B.A. in English and a minor in journalism, Nelson served as editor-in-chief of the then-Eastern News, the student newspaper. He was editor when the paper went from being a weekly publication to a three-times-a-week publication. Since 1973 it has been a five-day-a-week daily.
Nelson was named Journalist of the Year at the 48th annual Journalism and Student Media Awards Banquet held on Eastern's campus.
Daniel Thornburgh, founder and first chairman of the journalism department, said Nelson richly deserved the honor.
"I remember with fondness your achievements as a working journalist on the (Eastern) News," he said. "Your longtime and outstanding career with the Copley Newspapers brings recognition to your alma mater."
Nelson is the sixth journalist to be named a Journalist of the Year and be included in the Journalist of the Year Hall of Fame. Past Journalists of the Year include Bill Hamel, retired Mattoon Journal Gazette/Times-Courier publisher; the late Chicago journalist Les Brownlee; John Foreman, Champaign News-Gazette CEO, publisher and editor; David Shaul, former WCIA -TV (Champaign) news director; and Cam Simpson, Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent.