N-G named top paper for fifth-straight year; repeats as innovator


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SPRINGFIELD — The News-Gazette extended its run as Illinois' best newspaper in its class while being named News Innovator of the Year for the second consecutive year in a pair of statewide editorial contests.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Illinois Press Association awarded The News-Gazette the Mabel S. Shaw Memorial Trophy as the sweepstakes winner among medium-sized newspapers. It is the longest ongoing first-place streak by any newspaper in the six circulation divisions.

"The most gratifying part of this five-year run: Once again, everyone in our newsroom contributed in a significant way, as the judges pointed out," Editor Jeff D'Alessio said. "We realize the important role we play in this community and strive every day to tell the stories — many suggested by you — that matter."

The Journal Star of Peoria finished second and The Southern Illinoisan of Carbondale third in the division, which also included the daily newspapers in Bloomington, Crystal Lake, Decatur, Joliet, Kankakee, LaSalle, Moline, Ottawa, Quincy, Rockford, Springfield, Sterling and Tinley Park.

The News Innovator of the Year award headlined the annual Illinois Associated Press Media Editors contest. Competing against papers of all circulations, The News-Gazette was recognized for its evolving podcast project involving, among others, Carol Vorel, Mary Schenk, Julie Wurth, Scott Richey, Loren Tate and Ed Bond.

It is the fifth consecutive year The News-Gazette has finished first or second in Innovator of the Year voting.

In the IPA's advertising contest, The News-Gazette was named best in its class behind six first-place finishes by Lisa Lotz. Angela Brown and Eric Bartell also placed first, as did the staff's work on the 2018 Agribusiness special section as well as Central Illinois Business Magazine.

In addition, News-Gazette Media's Jackie Martin was named Advertising Sales Manager of the Year (all circulations).

In total, News-Gazette Media won 51 advertising awards.

"Whenever we attend these conferences, I am struck by our outstanding professionalism, amazing collaborate spirit and our consistent drive to achieve excellent results for our clients," said Lil Levant, News-Gazette Media vice president of business development. "I am very proud of the News-Gazette Media advertising team."

In the editorial contest, News-Gazette Media's Ford County Record repeated as sweepstakes winner in the small, nondaily division.

"Clearly, we've assembled a top-tier team of news, sports and advertising professionals. I couldn't be more proud of each and every one of them," CEO and Publisher John Reed said. "Being so consistently recognized as an industry leader over the last five years, I believe, speaks volumes about our commitment to the communities we serve. I'm thrilled that we were once again honored for being among the best at what we do, and I sincerely hope that our loyal readers and listeners share in that excitement."

In the IPA editorial contest, The News-Gazette won a record 39 awards, including first-place finishes in:

— Business/economic reporting (Anthony Zilis, Tracy Crane, D'Alessio, Noelle McGee, Adalberto Toledo);

— Sports feature (Matt Daniels);

— Personality profile (Toledo);

— Best review (Jim Dey);

— Video journalism (Zilis);

— Social media journalism (D'Alessio);

— Informational graphic (D'Alessio, Mike Goebel);

— Headline writing (George Dobrik);

— Public notice journalism (Deb Pressey);

— School board coverage (Noelle McGee).

The Ford County Record won 24 awards, including first place for government beat reporting (Will Brumleve), business/economic reporting (Brumleve), obituary tribute (Andrew Rosten), sports news (Rosten), agricultural story (Brumleve), online photo series (Rosten), sports section (Rosten) and coverage of taxation (Brumleve).

The Mahomet Citizen won five awards, including a first place for feature series (Emily Jankauski).

In the IAPME contest, The News-Gazette won nine awards, including first-place finishes in sports feature (Wurth) and headlines (Goebel).