Observer, El Observador Earn Nine Awards for Journalism
November 10, 2022
DEKALB—Celebrating Catholic Schools, the Lenten tradition of eating fish instead of meat, Hispanic traditions and burying the dead were all subjects for which The Observer and El Observador were recognized by the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, (NINA), Oct. 27.
The annual awards presentation was held during a banquet celebrating the 60th anniversary of NINA which began through the former College of Journalism at Northern Illinois University. Observer correspondent Patricia Szpekowski, owner of PR Strategies and Communications, is the current NINA president. In her opening remarks, Szpekowski spoke on the legacy of NINA and its mission to embrace the future of excellence in journalism thereby announcing the new name of the organization as Northern Illinois News Association. 
Special guests of the evening included chairpersons from the NIU department of Communication, family members of the NINA founder Dr. Donald Grubb, and former NINA board members including Dr. Owen Phelps former Observer editor and Communication Director for the Diocese of Rockford. Phelps was a longtime board member of NINA and was the first religious journalist to serve on the board. The association’s religion award category now bears his name as well.
Among the nine awards presented to The Observer and El Observador were a first, second and third place award for coverage of the Latino Community by editor Margarita Mendoza. 
Mendoza’s entries included an article about Latino couples celebrating marriage at the annual Silver and Gold event, a feature on the history and evolution of cultures at St. Joseph Parish in Elgin and care, treatment and respect for the elderly.
Editor Penny Wiegert earned three awards: a third place for her monthly column, From the Editor; a third place in the Spot News category for her story on “Cemetery Provides Rest for 243 Unclaimed People;” and a first place for her photo of Bishop Malloy giving a final blessing over the cremated remains which accompanied that story. 
News Editor Amanda Hudson was awarded a third place for her work on the annual Catholic Schools Week Special Section celebrating the faith and service of diocesan Catholic schools. Hudson also received a third place religion award for her Lenten background story titled “Go Fish! How Fish Became the Focus on Fridays.”
Longtime Observer Correspondent Lynne Conner was awarded a third place award in the Social Issues category for her coverage of a presentation by author Gloria Purvis at Boylan Central Catholic High School titled, “Boylan Talk Connects Racial Justice and Human Dignity.”
The Observer and El Observador are the only exclusively religious publications holding membership in NINA and compete against secular publications and news organizations throughout Northern Illinois. In addition to Phelps, three other Observer staffers, Sharon Boehlefeld, Penny Wiegert and Margarita Mendoza have served on the NINA board as well as serving terms as president of the organization. 
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