Diocesan Newspapers Take Regional Honors
November 5, 2020
DEKALB—Showing that religion and science do go together in the Catholic faith, The Observer won awards in both categories at a virtual awards banquet for the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association (NINA) Oct. 29.
The staff took first place in the religion awards for its series about religious garb, starting with its “In the Habit” story featuring the Poor Clare Colettines in Rockford. 
The judge wrote, “Excellent, thorough series that provides great detail in a clear, interesting fashion. The idea to run it as a series, with deep dives into each type of religious attire, gave plenty of room to tell interesting stories and histories. The design was excellent with pictures of local people identifying specific items. Really good job of particular interest to her audience!”
Amanda Hudson, who wrote the series, also took second place in the category for a four-page spread on retreats. 
The judge described the section as a “well-constructed package with several perspectives on what a reader would want to know about retreat options. I especially liked the range of interviews about personal experiences of retreats, plus the practical guide to going on retreat.”
The award is named in honor of Dr. Owen Phelps, retired diocesan communication director and editor of The Observer who is also a past president of NINA.
This year, daily and non daily categories were combined for religion coverage.
In other categories, The Observer competed against other non-daily secular publications.
Hudson also took second place in the technology/medical coverage category for her story “With An Eye to God ­— Deacon’s Work Helps See Heavens, Ministry Speaks to the Deaf.”
In the first ever Spanish language category in the NINA competition, first place went to El Observador editor Margarita Mendoza for her coverage of the 2019 Good Friday living stations in Aurora. The story was called “Viernes Santo en Aurora experiencia de fe.”
The judge said of the language, “Spanish is native with a very natural feel. The writer also went out of the way to interview several people for the piece which makes it very nice. (It is) a readable piece that has identified its readers and gave them a feeling of having attended.”
Third place in the Spanish Coverage of the Latino Community category also went to El Observador for a story about a Holy Family attorney who works with asylum-seekers on the Mexican border. Sharon Boehlefeld wrote the story in English and Mendoza translated it. 
It was headlined “Abogada católica de Rockford ayuda en la frontera sur a quienes buscan asilo.”
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