The Daily Herald was recognized as News Innovator of the Year at the 2013 Illinois Associated Press Media Editors News and Photo Contest in Springfield.
In addition, the first place award for public service went to Daily Herald Tax Watchdog Editor Jake Griffin, whose weekly Suburban Tax Watchdog column investigates governments' use and misuse of taxpayers' dollars.
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The Daily Herald's Sean Stangland also was recognized for Page 1 design, and the Daily Herald was named Associated Press Member of the Year for contributions to the Illinois AP news report. The Sauk Valley Newspapers based in Sterling also won Member of the Year. Daily Herald Photographer Rick West also received a third-place award for sports action photography.
The awards were presented Thursday at the Illinois Press Association/Illinois Associated Press Media Editors annual meeting in Springfield. Daily Herald Deputy Managing Editor/Content Diane Dungey was on hand to accept the awards and give a presentation on innovation.
The innovator award recognized a series of stories, digital features and community events that build engagement with the Daily Herald's audience through popular events such as the Prep Sports Excellence Banquet, the Cook of the Week Challenge, The Fittest Loser and Suburban Chicago's Got Talent.
Judges called the paper's work "a masterful job of connecting with its audience in print, online and in the community" and praised related stories for "bright writing, excellent photography and design."
"Internally, the newspaper's various departments pulled together a remarkable series of community events," the judges wrote. "The result is a strategy that provided excellent lifestyle content while highlighting the newspaper's connections with its readers and the ongoing importance of the Daily Herald in the lives of its audience."
For public service, the judge praised Griffin and the Suburban Tax Watchdog column as "phenomenal in its dedication to exposing all sorts of tax-money excess, from little-earned pension money to the cost of judges' robes."
"It's tough to make these topics interesting, but this series manages just that. Well done," the judges continued.
The award for Page 1 design recognized Stangland's design for "Again," the Daily Herald's front page on the day after President Barack Obama's re-election.
"The page might look simple, but really it took some thought and planning," the judges said, calling the design "(a) nice way of summarizing election results. Instead of running a mass of gray with head shots and one dominant photo, this presentation goes a long way toward saying who won in the election."
The general excellence recognition was a second-place award honoring the overall quality of the newspaper.
Daily Herald Photographer Rick West's award-winning photo showed Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro "Crossing the Plate."
"It is gratifying to see the staff's dedication recognized by the judges," said Daily Herald Senior Vice President/Editor John Lampinen. "Our objective each day is to serve our readers and the community and these honors are a reflection of that."