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Northwest Herald reporter recognized as Illinois' Reporter of the Year

Katie Smith is presented with the Illinois Press Association 2019 Reporter of the Year award by Jeff Rogers of the IPA during a surprise celebration for Smith with her colleagues and family at the Northwest Herald on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Crystal Lake. (Matthew Apgar - mapgar@shawmedia.com)
Northwest Herald reporter Katie Smith was named the 2019 Reporter of the Year by the Illinois Press Association, the first time the award has been issued.
The award recognizes one reporter in the state, foundation director Jeff Rogers said. The association issues other recognitions – for articles, photos and investigations – for various circulation sizes or publication frequency.
“I think that Katie Smith is the perfect reporter to receive the first Reporter of the Year Award from the Illinois Press Association,” Rogers said. “She’s young, she’s learning, but she also has shined in doing the difficult investigative reporting work that she has done for the Northwest Herald.”
Rogers said he thought it was “perfectly fitting” Smith the last person to arrive for the surprise celebration of her winning the award in early September because she was filing a story.
“Katie digs and gets the stories that no one else can get and is a huge asset to Shaw Media and the Northwest Herald for that,” Senior News Editor Jon Styf said in his nomination. “She tells important stories, she is able to get people to talk with her and she can cut through the jargon and misinformation many public entities attempt to provide to give us the true story of what happened.”
Smith led the Northwest Herald’s coverage of AJ Freund's murder as well as the follow-up to uncovering charges against an area teacher and discovered what really happened in the death of a pedestrian in front of McHenry's Home Depot.
Smith worked by herself and with teams to cover most of the important news that happened in our coverage area in 2019 while also continuing to cover the daily news that happened on her cops and courts beat.
In the past, the Illinois Press Association awarded a sales manager of the year and a sales representative of the year on the advertising side, but hadn’t done anything similar for editorial, Rogers said. It decided to change that this year.
Three editors judged the nominees, who were recommended by their editors, he said.
“At the IPA, we get an opportunity to see all of the work that’s being done by the state’s newspapers, and the Northwest Herald is among the best in serving their community as a public watchdog.” Rogers said. “That doesn’t happen without reporters like Katie Smith.”
The Northwest Herald was also awarded 2nd place for general excellence in the division for mid-sized newspapers by the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors.
The recognition was one of a handful presented by APME Wednesday. The association had announced in May the Northwest Herald staff had won 13 other honors and four first-place finishes in its competition, among them Photo Editor Matthew Apgar, sports reporter Sean Hammond and former Northwest Herald reporter Drew Zimmerman.