One of the few upsides to bad government is that it often makes for good journalism.
The Northwest Herald this year had an outstanding showing at the annual awards for the Illinois Associated Press Editors' Association and the Illinois Press Association. The newspaper earned 22 awards last month from the AP and 42 from the IPA last Friday.
With no U.S. Supreme Court health care ruling today, I figured I'd take some time to share judges' comments regarding some of the 42 awards we won from the IPA, including the top honor in our circulation category for the fifth straight year.
Again, I'll defend this self-administered pat on the back by linking to my previous blog post about how journalism awards help serve the newspaper's watchdog function as Illinois government and its officials get more and more shameless with each passing year.
Speaking for myself only, I'd like to thank my parents, my co-workers, and of course, government ineptitude and the county Good Ol' Boys Network that shields the faithful from the consequences of their actions.
Without further ado ...
• "Housing Road Map: A Survival Guide", our five-part series about McHenry County and the housing bubble, won a number of awards, including Community Service, News Series, Business Reporting, and Special Section.
"Outstanding, comprehensive series. Tackles a complicated issue and puts a face – or a lot of faces – on it."
"It's tempting to look at such an exhaustive report and say it, of course, should win a news competition. But packages like this need to deliver. It does ... strong reporting and writing throughout this survival guide."
"A best of class winner that thoughtfully and comprehensively revealed McHenry County's housing crisis. A top-notch effort."
• The newspaper won first and third place for Best Coverage of the Public's Right to Know, courtesy of our local governments' secret war on transparency by paying lobbyists to scale back our open-government laws. And, of course, we won courtesy of that illegal McHenry County Board redistricting meeting.
"Two guys walk into a meeting – no joke. They rotate in and out so a government body can work on public business. The Northwest Herald did top notch work exposing this and staying with the story. The effort included bringing about an Attorney General's investigation, training for the government body and change perhaps."
"Good explanatory reporting on a tough FOIA climate in Illinois."
• We won first place for News Reporting Single Story for covering the July 2011 derecho that includedMcHenryCounty on its 1,400-mile swath. (For the record, "derecho" is Spanish for, "What the @$*#% was that?")
"You got to the people at the center of it and worked it from multiple angles. Lots of good resource information for readers still in need of assistance."
• Our coverage of the trials, and acquittals, of McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi (stories and columns here, here and here) won the newspaper first place for Best Legal Media Coverage.
"Comprehensive, well-articulated coverage that captured all the details. Thorough reporting and good writing dominated entry."
• "Coincidence or Cluster", our ongoing coverage of the McCullom Lake brain cancer lawsuits, won awards for investigative and legal reporting. It's been a years-long. complicated issue involving science, multi-million litigation, and county government's taxpayer-funded effort to defend corporate interests.
"The continued coverage of the McCullom Lake cancer cluster over the past five years is admirable and should serve as a shining example of how a newspaper should serve its community."
"Clean writing marked this entry, thorough knowledge of legal issues and the cases' intricate details more evident."
• We also won Best Coverage of Taxation for a story I wrote on the pension system available for retired state lawmakers. Undoubtedly, one of the 600-pound gorillas in the room of pension reform is that fact, as I wrote, that "those who created the lucrative public employee pension system made sure that they set one up for themselves."
"In-depth and high-quality enterprise of a highly contentious plan to revamp state pension plans. Solid reporting and analysis elevated this package."
• And overall, the newspaper won first place in General Excellence:
"Excellent design, comprehensive coverage on the housing bust. All-around strong local content. Strong use of graphics and promos. Good photography. A lot of dynamic layouts."
Senior Writer Kevin Craver can be reached at email@example.com.