Wednesday Journal was honored last week as the state’s best large-circulation weekly in the annual competition sponsored by the Illinois Press Association. Overall, the Journal won 11 awards, which were presented during a luncheon Friday in Springfield.

In addition to General Excellence, the paper won first place honors for its Viewpoints editorial section, for best government beat reporting, and for Lifelines, its arts and feature section.

In addition, the four other weekly newspapers owned by Wednesday Journal, Inc. also won notable awards in the IPA contest. The Forest Park Review won first place in General Excellence in the small-circulation category. Austin Weekly News took second place in General Excellence in the mid-sized circulation category. The Riverside-Brookfield Landmark won four awards and Chicago Journal, serving city neighborhoods surrounding the Loop, won twice. There were 3,800 entries in the entire contest.

In naming Viewpoints the best editorial page section, for the second straight year, judges wrote glowingly of the section edited by Ken Trainor. “Runaway winner! Clearly the best. This is an editorial section at its very best. … Big-time quality section.”

“Our style would normally prohibit exclamation points,” said Publisher Dan Haley. “But since we’re quoting the esteemed judges, I guess it is OK. Honestly, the editorial page and letters section is the heart of this newspaper. Long before blogs and message boards, Oak Park and River Forest folks started talking to each other in these expansive pages. It is an honor to publish a paper in a town as thoughtful, and sometimes as loopy, as ours,” said Haley.

Journal-owned papers swept first place in each circulation level in the Government Beat Reporting category. Wednesday Journal’s News Editor, Drew Carter, won for coverage of Oak Park village government. “Variety and depth put this entry at the top,” wrote judges. Riverside-Brookfield Landmark Editor and Associate Publisher Bob Uphues won for coverage of rancorous local politics in Brookfield. And the Forest Park Review was honored for its extensive coverage of the District 209 Proviso Township high school district.

Journal reporter Bill Dwyer doubles as a monthly opinion columnist in the Review. Dwyer took first place for original column for the Review. Other awards captured by the Journal were for local editorial (2nd place); sports section (3rd); sports column (honorable mention); sports photo (honorable mention); feature writing (honorable mention); special section (3rd) and an honorable mention in a special category called The Public’s Right to Know for Drew Carter’s report on the use of e-mail by public officials in Oak Park.

“We’re proud of each of our neighborhood newspapers,” said Haley. “And each one of these papers is unique and specially focused on a town or city neighborhood. We’re not making mass-produced community journalism as so many of our competitors do these days. We’re still publishing the local newspaper. Our readers notice the difference. Our advertisers notice the difference. And it is gratifying when, this year, a bunch of journalists from Michigan, the people who judged this year’s IPA contest, noticed the difference.”

Haley also pointed out, immodestly, that Chicago Parent, a magazine published by Wednesday Journal, Inc., was named the best regional parenting magazine in the country this year by Parenting Publications of America.

Triton coverage earns IPA ‘Worsty’

This year, for the first time, the Illinois Press Association honored member newspapers for aggressive coverage of local governments which fail to meet requirements of the state’s Open Meetings Act or which abuse the Freedom of Information Act. Both measures are intended to further open governance policies.

Offering up the 10 most egregious violations of each act, the IPA last week created the Worsty Awards to shed light on an issue the organization’s outgoing president, Doug Ray of the Daily Herald, said “continues to spiral out of control.” Wednesday Journal was one of 10 papers recognized for reporting chronic Open Meetings Act violations. The IPA cited the Journal’s ongoing coverage of governance abuses at Triton College. Specifically, the paper has reported that minutes from the past 22 monthly public meetings of the Triton College Board of Trustees revealed no reporting of any of the closed door meetings. In addition, the board had not recorded any roll call votes required for going into closed session.

Bill Dwyer, a Journal reporter, has headed the paper’s coverage of Triton College.

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