SPRINGFIELD – The Daily Chronicle was named the best small daily newspaper in the state by the Illinois Press Association during a virtual award contest Friday.
The Daily Chronicle and MidWeek newspapers were awarded top honors from the Illinois Press Association, as more than 100 daily and nondaily newspapers competed in 42 editorial categories for work completed in 2020.
The Daily Chronicle earned the Patrick Coburn Award of Excellence for the Daily Chronicle, the highest in its division, awarded for the top newspaper in the small daily class, which includes those with circulations of 10,000 or less.
“I’m so incredibly proud of our mighty team here at the Daily Chronicle,” Daily Chronicle editor Kelsey Rettke said. “Through a significant and life-altering pandemic, a summer of civil rights demonstrations, and with the need for accurate, informative local reporting all the more paramount, our reporters and photographers gave it their all this past year. They’ve honored the local communities we serve by continuing to tell vital stories and give space to local voices at a time when information is so crucial to the well-being of us all. There is no paper without them.”
The Daily Chronicle also was awarded the 2021 IPA General Excellence award for its division, along with 22 IPA awards. The Daily Chronicle also was honored in other categories with six first-place awards, five second-place awards, three third-place awards and eight honorable mentions.
“The Daily Chronicle and MidWeek teams do impressive work on behalf of the community they serve. Their work is a blend of in-depth investigative articles and features that give readers an understanding of what it means to live in this unique community,” said Dennis Anderson, Shaw VP of News & Content Development. “The Daily Chronicle’s editor, Kelsey Rettke, provides important leadership and has a deep understanding of community journalism. This award proves their commitment.”
The first-place awards were for Daily Chronicle coverage of Sycamore’s water crisis, homelessness in DeKalb County public schools, DeKalb housing and sports.
Among the IPA awards, Daily Chronicle reporters also earned a three-win sweep for investigative journalism in the Freedom of Information Act award category.
IPA awards judges described the first place-worthy work Rettke and Daily Chronicle reporter Katie Finlon’s in covering the Sycamore water crisis as “great use of the Freedom of Information Act. This story would not have been what it became without using it.”
Rettke and Daily Chronicle Sports Editor Eddie Carifio received FOIA awards for coverage of local long-term care facilities battling COVID-19. Carifio received recognition in the FOIA category for his reporting on the DeKalb County Health Department’s virus mitigation strategy as it related to the indoor dining ban, as well as first-place recognition in the sports section category for his work covering high school and Division 1 collegiate athletics for the Daily Chronicle.
Judges said that Busch’s award-winning first-place photo coverage of Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery’s touchdown was “Hands down, the best action photo in the category. The composition, the cropping, the horizontal leap to the pylon, the athlete’s eyes, his concentration, all come together for just a fantastic shot.”
Busch’s other eight awards included recognition for his coverage of high school sports, the sentencing of a former firefighter found guilty in the DUI-death of late DeKalb senior Johnathon Ode, and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations this past summer across DeKalb County, including a portrait series highlighting local leaders.
Daily Chronicle reporter Katie Finlon also was recognized for her investigative reporting, placing second for the Knight Chair Award for Best Investigative Reporting, and second in the non-daily Maurice Scott Award for Best Taxation Coverage. Finlon earned first place in public information journalism for her work covering the DeKalb City Council’s steps to approve a special service area for rental properties on the north side owned by the city’s largest and most controversial landlord, Hunter Properties, including coverage of the landlord rejecting the proposal.
Rettke also took first in the feature writing category for her pre-pandemic coverage of homelessness on the rise in DeKalb County public schools.
Carifio and Rettke’s work delving into COVID-19 outbreaks at four local long-term care facilities earned second place in the FOIA category.
Shaw Media lifestyle editor and MidWeek editor Inger Koch was awarded for her page design work for the Shining Bright section.
Rettke and Carifio also received a community service award for a COVID-19 data series examining how the DeKalb County Health Department tracked COVID-19 cases, complaints and viral spread.
Carifio was also recognized for his regional business reporting on the unexpected increase in pawn shop sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former Shaw Media senior production editor Eric Olson and Rettke earned an award for their reporting on Ohio man Jonathon Hurst, charged with murder in the brutal double homicide of a Sycamore mother and son.
Rettke was also recognized for her editorial work, including a column on the death of former Daily Chronicle editor Barry Schrader.
The MidWeek newspaper, led by editor Inger Koch, also received top honors in its non-daily division, and received the General Excellence Award for work completed in 2020.
The MidWeek earned 12 awards in the Illinois Press Association editorial contest for work completed in 2020, including two first-place awards and two category sweeps for reporter and photographer Katrina J.E. Milton.
Milton received four awards for feature writing and eight for photography.