Each year, Editor & Publisher honors “Newspapers That Do It Right” nationally. And most years, Illinois figures prominently on the list. This year was no different.
Three central Illinois newspapers were among those honored in the trade journal’s March 2019 edition.
The Herald & Review of Decatur and the News-Gazette of Champaign were among the “10 Newspapers That Do It Right,” while the Journal Star of Peoria was among 12 newspapers receiving Honorable Mention.
“This year’s list of 10 Newspapers That Do It Right recognizes some of the most diverse ideas out there today,” E&P reporters Nu Yang and Evelyn Mateos wrote. “From an augmented reality app to a video studio, some of these publications are thinking outside the box, experimenting with strategies and revenue ideas to engage with their audiences.
“On the other hand, some of them, despite operating with limited staff and resources, are being recognized for doing hard-hitting investigative journalism that produced results and changes in their communities.
“Our 10 newspapers, along with the ones listed in our honorable mentions, show that journalism continues to thrive, thanks to bright ideas and bright people. We hope they inspire others to keep up the great work.”
Herald & Review
The Decatur newsroom is being recognized for its use of government documents and public records to create substantive journalism.
"This award is an incredible honor," said Allison Petty, regional editor. "Everyone in this newsroom works hard to ensure we are providing a strong news organization for the community we live in, and it’s gratifying to see that passion recognized on a national level."
The magazine pointed to the Herald & Review's coverage about the shortcomings of the medical system at the Macon County Jail, a shortage of court reporters in the region and other watchdog reporting for the award.
"Playing detective has paid off for the reporters at the Herald & Review," Editor & Publisher wrote. "By scouring through documents of local elected bodies, reporters were able to connect dots and discovered trends that led to important stories."
The magazine said "this aggressive approach to a simple strategy has delivered big results."
Other honorees include Kansas City Star in Missouri; Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington; Columbus Dispatch in Ohio; and Wilmington StarNews in North Carolina. Previous "Do It Right" winners include the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Houston Chronicle, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Newsday and Boston Herald.
"I am very proud that the Herald & Review was named one of the '10 Newspapers That Do It Right,'" Publisher Michelle Pazar said. "This award doesn't group newspapers by circulation or staff size, so it is even more of an honor that we rose to the top of a very crowded and talented field."
Last year, the Herald & Review's strong digital growth and focus on public service journalism won an honorable mention in the "Do It Right" edition. Petty in April also was named to the magazine's "25 Under 35” list of rising stars in the media industry.
The newspaper also in 2018 won top honors for public service and investigative journalism from Illinois Associated Press Managing Editors and was one of 10 newsrooms from across America selected for the Total Newsroom Training program from Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening investigative journalism.
“I'm so proud of what our team in Decatur does each day," said Chris Coates, the Central Illinois editor. "They're doing such important work. This recognition really speaks to the commitment of the journalists here and the kind of local reporting we're doing. It matters."
In the submission for the award, Coates wrote, "The very best newspapers deliver on three fronts: Sense of urgency, sense of surprise and sense of place. That means agility on breaking news, but also a keen understanding about the importance of depth and analysis on big stories."
Said Pazar, "Under the leadership of Editor Chris Coates, our newsroom has become more dynamic, more digitally connected and more involved with the community. Chris is one of the most driven and passionate people I have had the pleasure of working with. He challenges all of us to bring our 'A' game every day."
"The mantra that 'local journalism matters' is more than a slogan; it's the guiding force behind everything the Herald & Review does," Pazar said. "We are constantly tapping into new audiences and informing our readers through digital initiatives, community events and watchdog reporting. While this award is well-deserved, it's not why our reporters, editors, photographers, delivery staff and advertising sales people show up to work every day. They do it for our readers."
For the second time in four years, The News-Gazette was named by Editor & Publisher as one of "10 Newspapers That Do It Right."
The magazine honored News-Gazette Media for its newsroom-wide podcast project.
"These publications are thinking outside the box," the magazine wrote. "We hope they inspire others to keep up the great work."
Several News-Gazette Media veteran print and radio reporters introduced podcasts in 2018, including Carol Vorel ("Cold Cases"), Scott Richey ("Inside Illini Basketball"), Mary Schenk ("Legally Speaking"), Loren Tate ("Tatelines: Unedited"), Julie Wurth ("Campus Conversation") and producer Ed Bond.
In 2016, The News-Gazette's "50 Ways To Engage Our Readers" project led to a "10 Newspapers That Do It Right" honor.
In 2015 and 2017, Editor & Publisher named The News-Gazette honorable mention in its "10 Newspapers That Do It Right" issues for the newpaper's drone videos and "High School Confidential" series, respectively.
"We're blessed with an innovative staff that will try anything to reacher a greater audience," said Jim Rossow, News-Gazette Media vice president-news. "These podcasts are doing just that. The plan is to expand our offerings in 2019."
The 10 newpapers recognized by Editor & Publisher range in circulation size, from the Kansas City Star (100.000 daily) to the Ledger Dispatch in Jackson. Calif. (5,000 on Tuesday and Thursdays).
In the year leading up to the Illinois Bicentennial (Dec. 3, 2018), nearly two-dozen members of the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors produced a weekly series of articles featuring key moments, figures, industries and events that help make Illinois unique.
This statewide project was created and coordinated by Dennis Anderson, executive editor of the Journal Star in Peoria, and produced and shared by 21 newspapers in Illinois and published by more than 110 newspapers statewide, as well as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
This project was not only a readership initiative, but it provided newspapers sponsorship and advertising opportunities as well.
“Illinois newspapers have been chronicling our state’s history throughout the past 200 years, so it makes sense that we share this series of stories celebrating the Bicentennial,” Anderson said. “And it’s great that so many newspapers wanted to get involved to tell the stories that are important to all of Illinois and unique to their community.”
The SJ-R’s editorial engagement editor, Kate Schott, and Diane Dungey, senior deputy managing editor of the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, assisted Anderson with the project, and “both have been vital to this happening,” Anderson said.
In addition to the SJ-R, other newspapers contributing articles included the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, the Belleville News-Democrat, the Pantagraph of Bloomington, the Southern Illinoisan of Carbondale, the News-Gazette of Champaign, the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Decatur Herald & Review, The Paper from Dwight, the Galesburg Register-Mail, the Hancock Journal Pilot, the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, the Lebanon Advertiser, County Journal of Percy, the Journal Star of Peoria, the Rock Island Argus, the Rock River Times, the Rockford Register Star and Sauk Valley Media of Sterling/Dixon.