CHAMPAIGN — Former Executive Editor John Beck has been named winner of The News-Gazette's 2013 Publisher's Award.
Beck, who retired in November after 38 years at the newspaper, was given the award, which recognizes someone whose career has made a lasting difference to the company, at The News-Gazette's annual employee appreciation dinner.
In presenting the award, Editor and Publisher John Foreman said Beck "came to work every day with the same simple mission in mind ... to make the paper just a little bit better than it had been the day before.
"He did this quietly — with no bombast, no flash, no self-aggrandizement and often no acknowledgement," Foreman said.
Foreman said Beck deserves "a lot of the credit" for improvements in the paper in recent decades, noting that The News-Gazette has been recognized more than once as the top newspaper in the state.
"Apart from what he did here, he took leadership roles in state and regional journalism organizations, and he developed the habit of annually doing very impressive volunteer work on a missionary trip to Mexico to help the poor," Foreman said.
He called Beck a superb journalist and editor and "an extraordinarily fine human being" respected by managers, peers and staff.
Also honored at the Jan. 11 dinner were four Employees of the Year:
— Online editor Mike Howie, who previously served as copy editor, reporter, magazine editor and city editor.
"To every one of those roles, he brought talent, he brought passion and he produced results," Foreman said. "But never were the results more impressive than those he brought to our digital product.
"He ate, slept, practiced and preached the importance of News-Gazette.com on a 24/7/365 schedule," Foreman said.
Foreman said one of Howie's colleagues praised "his technical ability, his collaborative leadership, his institutional knowledge, his news judgment, his patience and his journalism skills."
— Steve Kelly, host of "Sports Talk" on WDWS-AM and a sales consultant for The News-Gazette Inc.'s three radio stations, WDWS, WHMS-FM and WKIO-FM.
"He does two jobs for us — and both of them well," Foreman said, adding that Mike Haile, general manager of the radio stations, praised Kelly's "phenomenal organizational skills."
Foreman added: "Year in and year out, working just part time in sales, (Kelly) is consistently among our top three radio salespeople."
According to Haile, Kelly "is always looking for new revenue opportunities for our sports products, and he is a great mentor for the up-and-coming sports guys."
— Advertising designer Lyncoln Delporte, who repeatedly has been chosen the best newspaper advertising designer in Illinois.
"Everyone — absolutely everyone — knows how very, very talented this guy is," Foreman said.
A nominator said of Delporte: "Because he's been around here for 11 years, people take what he does to be normal. It's not. It's not just his speed (which is phenomenal), but what he brings to his work.
"It's not just talent. It's his attitude. It offends him, personally, when he sees bad design. He doesn't just want the work to get done, he wants it to be beautiful."
Beyond being an exceptional ad designer, Delporte is also a great editorial artist and marketing collaborator, Foreman said.
— Nora Maberry-Daniels, editor of The Leader, one of The News-Gazette Inc.'s weekly newspapers, which serves St. Joseph, Ogden, Homer and surrounding towns.
"She is a one-person editorial staff in a place filled with news," Foreman said.
As her nominator put it, "she covers meetings, writes features, handles office chores, covers sports, takes photos and has a unique eye for newspaper design."
Maberry-Daniels is also active in the community, often taking leadership roles, Foreman said.
A nominator said that "when we were trying to decide to hire a sports editor for The Leader and another paper, she suggested taking on the task herself, noting she felt she could do as good or better than anyone we could hire. She has proven this to be true."
Foreman presented the "Esprit de Corp." award to The News-Gazette's digital services team of Tyler Jackson, Dick Detzner, Jason Frye, Cassandra Schowengerdt and Delporte.
That team, representing three different departments:
— Designed, developed and managed websites for 15 new clients.
— Provided digital consulting services for another 20 clients.
— Laid the groundwork for ongoing subscriber email marketing.
— Secured a marketing engagement with a local business that includes web design, digital marketing, print design and direct mail services.
— Drove technical and marketing implementation of the company's mobile Web strategy and metered access model.
Also at the dinner, Foreman recognized nearly 30 employees who had key roles in covering the Gifford tornado and its aftermath and 14 employees who volunteered in relief efforts.