2 DH staffers receive national American Legion award for coverage of 'unclaimed' veterans
Decorated Vietnam veteran John James Murphy had no family when he died last year in an Elgin rehab center. But many mourned him because of the work of Daily Herald senior writer Elena Ferrarin and senior multimedia journalist Rick West, who were recognized with a national award by The American Legion.
Ferrarin and West will receive The Fourth Estate Award for outstanding achievement in the field of journalism, The American Legion announced this week. The award will be presented Sept. 2 in Phoenix during The American Legion's national convention.
Ferrarin first reported on the "unclaimed" veteran in January 2020 after she was contacted by Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin, which was holding services for Murphy. The Daily Herald story "went viral, resulting in hundreds of people, including many Legionnaires, attending his funeral," The American Legion said in announcing the award.
On the day of the funeral, Ferrarin and West captured in words, photos and video the moving tributes of those who traveled from near and far to pay their respects to Murphy, 71, who was a jet engine mechanic in the U.S. Air Force from 1966 to 1969 and earned several awards, included the Vietnam Service Medal.
"As if this weren't enough, the Daily Herald repeated its fine reporting by telling the stories of other unclaimed veterans and achieved similar results for their funerals," The American Legion said.
"This Daily Herald series represented the finest traditions of journalism and is a perfect example of why The American Legion honors outstanding members of the Fourth Estate."
Other recipients are ABC Action News (WFTS-TV) I-Team in Tampa in the broadcast category for a series on problems with court-ordered guardianships, and Military.com in the online media category for reporting on a Marine Corps proposal to close its recruit depot at Parris Island, South Carolina, and the subsequent backlash.
"We're honored that our coverage has been recognized nationally by an organization as committed to the public welfare as The American Legion," Editor John Lampinen said. "And we're proud to share in that recognition with ABC News in Tampa, Florida, and Military.com."