Diocesan Newspapers Earn Seven Awards for Journalism Excellence
November 11, 2021
DEKALB—The Observer and El Observador were recognized for excellence in journalism by The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association during its annual meeting and awards banquet held virtually, Oct. 28. The event was hosted on Zoom by Northern Illinois University.
El Observador received first place for a story by Margarita Mendoza about priests serving as hospital chaplains during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It grabbed me immediately. The story gives you an idea of the complicated logistics that these people of faith have to navigate to fulfill their mission,” the judges said.
The Observer received six awards in four different categories. Observer correspondent Louise Brass was posthumously awarded a first place in the highly competitive General feature category for her story on a DeKalb distillery that switched to producing hand sanitizer during the pandemic. Judges said, “Great story about a company that switched gears to make it work.”
Another first place was earned by Observer correspondent Patricia Szpekowski in the localized news category. 
The judges said her story, “Catholic Chaplains Change Normal Routines” provided a “Nice angle on the pandemic that I didn’t see anywhere else. Love the photo that accompanies the story.” 
For the first time since the Owen Phelps Award for Religion writing was added to the annual competition, The Observer swept the category. 
Receiving a first place was the ongoing coverage of the Year of St. Joseph by the staff. Judges said the package was an “Excellent series that combined research, explanation and personal anecdotes from around the Diocese.”
Amanda Hudson received a second place award for “Keeping Holy the Sabbath; Church of Holy Apostles Builds Community with Virtual Tools” and a third place award for “Catholic Charities’ Programs Figure Out How to Keep Helping.”
Sharon Boehlefeld earned a second place award in the best informational graphic category for her illustration of how diocesan schools responded in the pandemic. The graphic, “Timeline for Diocesan Response to COVID-19,” accompanied a story published during Catholic Schools Week in January 2021.
And editor Penny Wiegert earned a second place in the Spot News Photo category for her photo of Bishop David Malloy receiving his first COVID-19 vaccine injection.
Entries were submitted from publications between May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021.
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