NINA Board names 2017 officers

The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association Board has named its 2017 officers. Jay Dickerson with the Galena Gazette is president. Wally Haas with the Rockford Register Star is first vice president. Tammie Sloup with The Times of Ottawa is second vice president. Jim Slonoff with The Hinsdalean is treasurer. Roger Ruthhart with The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus is past president/at-large member. In addition, Shelley Hendricks, adviser of the Northern Star at Northern Illinois University, is communications coordinator for the board. And Jason Akst, a journalism instructor at NIU, is executive secretary.

Throughout the year, NINA hosts journalism training events, an annual contest, a scholarship program for high school students and more.

Galena Gazette, Moline Dispatch win sweepstakes

DeKALB — The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association presented awards to regional newspapers Thursday at its annual banquet at Northern Illinois University.

The Moline Dispatch won the sweepstakes for the daily category, and the Galena Gazette won the sweepstakes for the nondaily category. Both newspapers won the sweepstakes in their respective division in 2015 as well. NINA awarded more than 125 other awards in more than 45 categories.

Roger Ruthhart (left) of the Moline Dispatch accepts the 2016 news competition sweepstakes trophy Thursday from the group's executive secretary Jason Akst. The award was presented at NINA'a annual banquet held at Northern Illinois University.
Roger Ruthhart (left) of the Moline Dispatch accepts the 2016 news competition sweepstakes trophy Thursday from the group’s executive secretary Jason Akst. The award was presented at NINA’a annual banquet held at Northern Illinois University.

The banquet featured keynote speaker Dann Gire, film critic for the Daily Herald.

NINA has been serving the journalists and educators in Northern Illinois, in conjunction with the Communication Department of Northern Illinois University for 54 years. See the complete list of 2016 NINA Contest Winners.

Register now for annual awards banquet

Please join Northern Illinois journalists Thursday, Oct. 20, for Northern Illinois Newspaper Association’s annual Fall Banquet. The special evening will include dinner, drinks, networking, awards ceremony and keynote speaker  Dann Gire, film critic for the Daily Herald. We hope to see you there!

Register online or call Shelley Hendricks at 815-753-4239.


When: Thursday, Oct. 20
Where: University Suite, Holmes Student Center
Cost: $25, NINA members; $35, nonmembers

5:30 to 6:30 p.m.: Cash bar
6:30 to 7:15 p.m.: Dinner
7:15 to 8 p.m.: Keynote
8 to 9 p.m. Awards ceremony

Candidate coverage and more discussed during ‘Tales From the Trail’ program in DeKalb

Jim Webb (left), a former political editor for the Chicago Tribune who is now with the public relations firm Serafin & Associates, and Chuck Sweeny (center), senior political editor for the Rockford Register Star, were panelists during the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association’s “Tales From the Trail” training program, which took place June 16 in DeKalb.


DEKALB – The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association hosted its annual spring training program June 16 at the Northern Illinois University Campus Life Building in DeKalb.

“Tales From the Trail” was the title of the program, which examined how the media covers elections.

The event was broken down into three sections: the first exploring how hard it is to write an engaging and fair election-based story and how election coverage is changing with the shifting political and media landscapes; the second discussing what the press does well when covering politics and where it falls short; and the third delving into how digital coverage of elections is evolving and what effective strategies are for using various social media platforms in election coverage.

Panelist Jim Webb, a former political editor for the Chicago Tribune who is now with the public relations firm Serafin & Associates, noted that lending context to political stories can help media outlets stand out in a world markedly different from the past – a world where, because of advancements in technology, “everyone is in the wire service.”

“It’s an incredibly challenging environment,” he said. “How do you make a difference for your readers? I would argue that you add context.”

Fellow panelist Chuck Sweeny, senior political editor for the Rockford Register Star, discussed how he took two road trips as part of covering the 2004 presidential contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry.

While on the trips, he asked regular people what they thought about that election. And during the training program, he contrasted the road trips with having covered multiple GOP and Democratic national conventions (first noting to laughs from the audience that “the Republicans have better booze” at those conventions).

“I went to places that were obscure and places that were well-known, like the St. Louis Arch,” Sweeny said of the two trips that he took. “I think that ended up as better stories than going to a convention where I’m doing the same thing 150,000 others are doing.”

Professor Matthew Streb, chair of the NIU Department of Political Science, and Bill Catching, a former journalist and current supervisor for Aurora Township and spokesperson for the mayor of Aurora, joined Webb for the second part of the training program.

While discussing where the media excels and where it is lacking, Streb said, “In general, I think the media gets a bum wrap. … At the end of the day, people get the information that they need from the news media to make decisions.”

But, he noted, journalists should be cautious of falling into the 24-hour news cycle, recommending that they often take a step back to ask themselves whether a particular event or happening actually matters in the long run.

Catching, meanwhile, answered a question from the audience about what journalists might not realize about elected officials, to which he answered that the vast majority of politicians are human; that it can be difficult for them to campaign; that – as part of campaigning – they often have to request money from their friends and others; that they are not all narcissists, as many of them want to help; and that they work hard.

Roger Ruthhart, president of the NINA Board and managing editor of The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and Nicole Franz, who has served as a digital editor for the Northwest Herald, led the final part of the program.

Ruthhart used a projector to show the audience a new electronic database for candidates that his operation was creating, while Franz discussed utilizing new digital tools such as ScribbleLive for election reporting.

“I think as we try and figure out how to do more with less people and also present more information digitally … that’s one thing we’re working on,” Ruthhart said of the candidate database he presented. “I challenge you all to look for ways that we can do our reporting smarter and easier, and maybe better.”

NINA kicks off annual contest with new categories

The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association is accepting entries for its annual news competition, which this year includes four new categories.

Contest organizers have added categories for Best Niche Publication, Best Watchdog Reporting, Best Use of Social Media by an Individual and Best Use of Social Media. Although no categories have been eliminated, the submission information for some long-standing categories — Best Special Section, Best In-depth News Story and Best In-depth News Story Series — has been revised. Please read directions, rules and category information carefully. As in years past, entries will be submitted online as PDFs or JPGs with a few exceptions, which simply will require URLs. Directions for submitting entries, contest rules and categories can be found at here or at the contest site. The deadline to submit entries is 11:59 p.m. Friday, July 29, 2016.

The contest is open to NINA members only. Contact communications coordinator Shelley Hendricks at 815-753-4239 or for answers to questions about membership or about entering the contest.

Finally, don’t forget to mark your calendars now for the annual NINA fall conference and awards ceremony scheduled for Thursday evening, Oct. 20, 2016, at Northern Illinois University. We look forward to seeing you there.

A look at election coverage

This election season promises to continue to be quite a wild ride. Join NINA and its panel of experts from journalism, government and academia for a hard look at how the media covers elections. What do we do well? Where do we fall short? How can we cope with shifting political and media platforms? See flier for details.


Watchdog reporting seminar in May

Mid-America Press Institute and Investigative Reporters & Editors are teaming up for a Watchdog Journalism seminar Tuesday, May 24, at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Co-sponsored by the Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, registration for the seminar is $25. Journalists can register by emailing MPI Executive Director John Ryan at

The one-day seminar will run from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include lunch.

Alex Richards, an IRE trainer, will lead the seminar, which will center on using the Internet in deadline and long-term investigations.