IHSPA names next Journalist of the Year


Lydia Bridges Kuennen

Isabelle Robles produces a live broadcast during a basketball game. She is the new Journalist of the Year.

Isabelle Robles has snagged the top spot for the 2017 IHSPA Journalist of the Year. Robles, a student from Iowa City West High, was awarded the honor due to newsroom leadership and a vast expanse of journalistic skills.

Isabelle Robles stands at the podium at the Free Spirit conference. (Sarajane Whittaker)

According to the judges comments, she was selected “because of her newsroom leadership; firm grasp on what is needed to do journalism; ability to prepare and then give a news presentation, whether it be for a story written for her newspaper or a cablecast of a school basketball game; and overall depth when it comes to reaching an audience with meaningful news.”

The judges commended Isabelle on her overall presence in person and through a news story.

The remaining comments are below:

“Her willingness to hop in a car immediately upon learning about breaking news related to her school that was happening elsewhere in town is one example of how much she understands the demands of news gathering and reporting. She already has won opportunities to explore journalism deeper because of her scholarship and skills. She is well written and well spoken because she is well prepared. She brings the entire package to her newspaper — she even helped sell an ad to support the business side.”

You can view Isabelle’s portfolio here.

Winning the Iowa Journalist of the Year award allows the student to enter into the national JEA contest.


Judges also included information on the runner up, Cheyann Neades, a student from Des Moines North High School. Judges said Cheyann was also a strong candidate for Journalist of the Year because of her demonstrated leadership capabilities and design skills.

According to judges comments, her design work was the best included in the contest entries.

Isabelle Robles, the newly named Journalist of the Year, speaks at the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference in D.C.

The rest of the judges’ remarks are below:

“She demonstrated good news gathering skills and has an impressive resume. Her entry has a lot of good photos, which are displayed in slide shows that keep readers’ attention. Particularly appealing is her reporting on people who otherwise might seem hidden from general society — students who cannot afford prom attire, for example. Also appealing was the use of social media when former President Obama visited North High. This entry came so close to being the best but some opportunities were missed. Multiple online entries featured slide show photos of events where music and action took place. Video and audio in those presentations would have enhanced the reports greatly. If they exist, they weren’t in the entry. Overall, though, there is much to like about this entry. It reveals a lot of good work and promise for more.”

You can view Cheyann’s portfolio here.


The Journalist of the Year competition is sponsored by the Iowa High School Press Association with support from the Iowa Newspaper Foundation.

Rules and details about the contest can be found here.