Daily Chronicle named runner-up for best small daily newspaper in Illinois

Daily Chronicle journalists earn top state awards for photojournalism, investigative work on taxes, government

Jahnora Sturges, 3, from DeKalb tries to catch a bubble during Camp Power at Welsh Park in DeKalb. Camp Power, which is run by the Kishwaukee Valley YMCA, is a summer program for youth at University Village that provides positive activities for kids.

The Daily Chronicle, part of Shaw Local News Network, recently was named runner-up for best small daily newspaper in the state by the Illinois Press Association.

More than a dozen awards were earned by Daily Chronicle journalists and photojournalists recognized this month at the IPA’s Best of the Press convention in Bloomington.

Among them, the Daily Chronicle was runner-up for the small newspaper’s sweepstakes division, the Patrick Coburn Award of Excellence. The Chronicle’s award-winning 2023 reporting covered Bears football, local taxes, secret business contracts used to entice major corporations to town and 15 years since the mass shooting at Northern Illinois University, among other stories.

Chicago Bears running back D'Onta Foreman hurdles Detroit Lions cornerback Cameron Sutton during their game Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Reporter Megann Horstead’s work using public records to look inside secret contracts used by the city of DeKalb to entice big businesses such as Meta and Amazon to town earned her first place in the Division D Freedom of Information Act award category.

“Megann Horstead did a great job digging into nondisclosure agreements for big-business deals in DeKalb, like Meta’s $1 billion data center, dubbed ‘Project Ventus’ in documents obtained by the newspaper. This story sheds light on government’s wheeling and dealing to boost economic development. This is why we’re here, folks,” contest judges wrote about Horstead’s work.

Horstead’s same work also took second in Division B for the Knight Chair Award for Best Investigative/Enterprise Reporting.

“[This is] an important investigation into how public officials are using nondisclosure agreements when trying to lure corporations’ major projects to their cities. This lack of transparency should be investigated throughout the state,” judges wrote about Horstead’s government reporting.

Reporter Camden Lazenby’s use of public records to expose the city of Sycamore’s overtaxation of residents without City Council approval earned him first place in the Division D Community Service reporting category.

“Classic example of the fourth estate fulfilling its government watchdog role, followed by clear and comprehensive coverage of the repercussions,” IPA judges wrote about Lazenby’s work.

A goat gets ready for a nail trim as Didi Dowling, owner and executive director of Live, Learn and Lead, (right) and Cathy Best, executive director of programs, look on Friday, March 31, 2023, at their barn in Hampshire.

Lazenby’s Sycamore tax coverage also earned him second place in the Division D Government Beat Reporting category. IPA judges heralded Lazenby’s work as “being a great government watchdog” in Sycamore.

Photo Editor Mark Busch’s coverage of the Bears, his work photographing a day at Camp Power at Welsh Park in DeKalb and the 2023 Storm Dayz softball tournament earned him top prizes in multiple categories.

Said a contest judge about Busch’s first-prize photograph capturing a DeKalb child playing with a bubble on her birthday at Camp Power: “Great composition in this photo! Capturing the joy and determination in the young person’s face as they try and catch a bubble as well as having good depth of field made this photo memorable. Well done!”

Kishwaukee Valley Storm 10u player Emma Wilczek finds the ball among the dirt in her glove to throw to first for an out Wednesday, June 21, 2023, during a scrimmage game against the Poplar Grove Power at the Sycamore Community Sports Complex. The Kishwaukee Valley Storm is hosting the Storm Dayz tournament this weekend which draws about 70 teams and runs Friday through Sunday in Sycamore.

Busch’s photo coverage of a Dec. 10, 2023, Bears versus Detroit Lions game also earned him first place in the Sports Photo category.

“What a dynamite photo of high-flying pro football action! The photo captures it all, from the action with the players to the dirt flying off the shoe. This is photojournalism at its finest!” judges wrote.

Busch’s photo capturing a gazing goat at Live, Learn and Lead in Hampshire earned him second place in the General News Photo Division D category, while a photo of Storm Dayz took second in the Sports Photo Division D category. Busch also earned second for his feature photo of a sack race at Camp Power.

The Daily Chronicle news team also took top awards for their work marking a somber 15 years in 2023 since the 2008 mass shooting at Northern Illinois University. The team took first place in the News Reporting – Single Story Division D category.

“This comprehensive look back goes beyond the typical anniversary story to explore the lasting impact on the community,” judges wrote.

Malania Sanders, 6, from DeKalb, enjoys the sack race during Camp Power at Welsh Park in DeKalb. Camp Power, which is run by the Kishwaukee Valley YMCA, is a summer program for youth at University Village that provides positive activities for kids.

Lazenby and Horstead’s ongoing coverage inviting survivors and witnesses of the 2008 shooting to react to Illinois’ gun ban also earned second place in the Localized National Story Division D category.

“A good, deep look into this issue that can be dicey to give balance to. You gave me chills and educated me,” one judge wrote of the reporters’ work.

Editor Kelsey Rettke’s reporting that looked at the DeKalb and National American Legion’s “Be the One” campaign to combat veteran suicide earned third place for localized national story and fourth place for feature writing.

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