A day after being honored for public service by the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors, the Daily Herald was awarded the Illinois Press Association's highest prize for community service at the group's annual convention Friday.
The IPA gave its first-place Community Service Award for large-circulation newspapers to the Daily Herald in recognition of a yearlong campaign led by staff writers Marie Wilson and Jessica Cilella to address "Heroin in the Suburbs."
The initiative, which judges described as "riveting," explored the epidemic through the eyes of addicts, recovering addicts, their families and those who work to combat the problem.
"This was a clear (award) winner, powerful stories with important information," the judges said. "It's a huge undertaking, and it was handled very well from all sides."
The recognition was one of four first-place awards the Daily Herald received in the annual journalism contest. The newspaper received 11 awards in all.
Political Editor Mike Riopell earned a first-place award in serial news reporting for his project last fall, "We Were Almost Home," the dramatic story of the day now-U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth's helicopter was shot down in Iraq and of the soldiers who saved her life.
Judges said they "loved the narrative style. This is simply good. Thank you for the great read."
Assistant Managing Editor Jake Griffin earned a first-place Best Coverage of Taxation Award for his Suburban Tax Watchdog column.
"Would that every newspaper put their resources toward columnists like this one, to examine these important issues and hold public officials accountable," judges said.
Staff writers Madhu Krishnamurthy, Tim Broderick, Russell Lissau, Melissa Silverberg, Marie Wilson and the rest of the Daily Herald staff won a first-place Best School Board Coverage for the newspaper's examination of Illinois School Report Cards.
The judge's said the reporting "offers impressive depth of coverage across several subtopics and brings welcome clarity and utility. ... The online resources are fantastic, but even without, the Daily Herald team hits the sweet spots of good writing, depth and clarity of coverage, enterprise, and policy and community connections."
The newspaper also won a second-place Best Website Award for the "unique layout, easy-to-navigate ... refreshing" strengths of dailyherald.com.
In addition, third-place awards went to Mark Black for sports photography, Don Friske for headline writing, Brian Shamie for single page design and Jim Slusher and the Editorial Board for best editorial pages.
Honorable mentions went to Marni Pyke for investigative and enterprise reporting and to former Food Editor Deb Pankey and the staff for lifestyle sections.
Editor John Lampinen accepted the awards at the annual IPA awards banquet at the Marriott Hotel & Convention Center in downstate Normal.
"We are, of course, thrilled with this recognition of the work of our talented staff," Lampinen said. "We commit ourselves every day to serving the community. That is our fundamental mission. And I'm especially pleased that, in the end, all of these awards honor that work and that commitment."