Daily Herald, Kane County Chronicle big winners

Photo by Barry Schrader
Rex Huppke’s message to the attendees of NINA’s annual banquet ranged from goats to metro editors named Cliff to the importance of journalists staying true to their craft.

DeKALB — More than 60 regional journalists and journalism educators gathered Thursday for the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association’s annual awards banquet at Northern Illinois University.

The Daily Herald won a sweepstakes award for having the most points in the daily category, and the Kane County Chronicle won a sweepstakes for earning the most points in the nondaily category. This year’s competition included four new categories: election coverage, humor, meeting coverage and immigration/mulitcultural coverage.

The banquet featured keynote speaker Rex Huppke, columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

NINA has been serving the journalists and educators in Northern Illinois in conjunction with the Communication Department of Northern Illinois University for 55 years. For the list of winners, please see below.


Register now for annual banquet, featuring columnist Rex Huppke

Rex Huppke

Please join Northern Illinois journalists for a special evening Oct. 26 featuring Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke. NINA’s annual banquet also will recognize the past year’s best work from journalists in Northern Illinois with an awards presentation.

Rex Huppke was a chemical engineer before going back to school for a journalism degree from Missouri. He was a reporter for the Associated Press before joining the staff of the Chicago Tribune in 2003. After several years as a general-assignment reporter, he transitioned to column writing. In 2012, he wrote a satirical obituary for facts (“Facts died Wednesday, April 18, after a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet”) that was named one of Time magazine’s top 10 opinion pieces of the year. The Tribune syndicate describes the now full-time columnist as putting “a wry spin on today’s social trends, pop-culture misfires and political blowhards.”

Register by Oct. 17 for the banquet, which will be in the Sky Room atop the Holmes Student Center at Northern Illinois University.

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

When: Thursday, Oct. 26
Where: Sky Room, 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

Awesome, FREE FOIA, Watchdog Seminar Sept. 21!

Seriously, how often have you complained in the last few years that there’s never enough time for training, or that training is too costly, or that we can’t get to those important stories?

News Journalism Gov Depositphotos A.jpgWhen was the last time you FOIA’d something, or asked yourself if you were doing it effectively?

Well, there’s an opportunity coming up fast for a first-rate seminar for you, your colleagues and your staff — and it’s free, and the speakers will be awesome, and you’ll come away a better journalist, dammit.

NINA, the NIU Department of Communication, and the Better Government Association are co-sponsoring a must-see Sept. 21 seminar at NIU on becoming a better watchdog of government, with an emphasis on FOIA.

The relevance of the topic speaks for itself.

NINA’s goal is to fill the 350-seat auditorium. You can best help by attending, sharing this message with your co-workers and friends and posting on your favorite platform that this thing is happening.

“Steal This News Release,” to paraphrase Abbie Hoffman.

Don’t wait an minute longer: click here to sign up now.

How to be a Better Watchdog

  • Watchdog_LogoWhen: 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017
  • Where: Cole 100 (auditorium), NIU main campus in DeKalb
  • Sponsors: NIU Dept. of Communication, Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, Better Government Association
  • Cost: FREE and open to the public. No reservations/tickets are necessary, but it is a first-come, first-seated event. The auditorium has a capacity of 350 people.
  • Presenters: Annum Haider and Matt Topic.

About the Presenters

Matt Topic

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Matt Topic

Matt Topic is an attorney at Loevy & Loevy in Chicago and the Outside General Counsel of the Better Government Association. He has extensive experience representing journalists, activists, and the general public in obtaining records under the Freedom of Information Act, enforcing the Open Meetings Act, and protecting First Amendment rights.

Among many other successes, Matt is responsible for the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video; the release of thousands of pages of emails on the so-called “private” email account of Mayor Rahm Emanuel; and the release of FBI records about corrupt Chicago Police Officer Ronald Watts, which helped lead to the exoneration of an innocent man. Matt also litigates intellectual property, False Claims Act, and other cases.

Before joining Loevy & Loevy, Matt was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and previously clerked for Hon. Morton Denlow in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Matt graduated from Chicago-Kent College of Law as valedictorian in 2006.

Annum Haider

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Annum Haider

Annum Haider serves as the civic engagement and research analyst at the Better Government Association. She is responsible for coordinating the BGA’s advocacy efforts, such as Citizen Watchdog Trainings on the Freedom of Information Act and Idea Forums on the Illinois School Funding Formula. She also writes content specific articles on legal and policy matters and handles a number of special projects with an end to promoting good governance.

Annum has more than six years of experience representing those who have suffered as a result of the negligence or unlawful conduct of others, both as a human rights attorney and a judicial clerk. She formerly clerked for the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and currently externs for Judge William J. Bauer in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

In addition to this, she has handled claims on behalf of plaintiffs against large corporations and has helped prosecute corrupt governmental entities, pharmaceutical companies, and politicians—including a Head of State—for embezzlement, fraud, and corruption.

Annum holds a Master’s degree (LL.M. Honors) in International Human Rights Law from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, and a Bachelors in Law (LL.B. Honors) from the University of London, United Kingdom.

How to be a Better Watchdog

Some details about entering the NINA contest

By now submitting entries to NINA’s annual news competition via our online database system has become routine for most members. However, some minor details are hanging people up. Here are some finer points to consider while registering:

  • You must register before trying to log in. Don’t go to the login screen thinking you can create an account from there.
  • Please register anew every year. The database is wiped at the end of each contest year, so your old passwords and usernames won’t work.
  • Make sure you have Flash downloaded to see the anti-bot code you have to retype.
  • Use NINA as the association code.
  • You are not technically registered until you go into your email and click the link acknowledging your registration.

If you still have trouble registering for the contest, call Shelley Hendricks at 815-753-4239.

Four categories added for annual competition

We are pleased to announce NINA’s 2017 newspaper competition and invite your participation.

We have added four categories this year: Best Election Coverage, Best Multi-Cultural/Immigration Coverage, Best Use of Humor and Best Meeting Coverage. Also, the categories we introduced last year are back: Best Niche Publication, Best Watchdog Reporting, Best Use of Social Media by an Individual and Best Use of Social Media. Please read the submission information carefully for Best Special Section, Best In-depth News Story and Best In-depth News Story Series. The entry information for these long-standing categories was revised last year.

Enclosed you will find directions for submitting entries, contest rules and categories. As in years past, entries will be submitted online as PDFs or JPGs with a few exceptions, which simply will require URLs.

Please (1) read all rules carefully; (2) make certain your NINA membership is current and that you are entering in the appropriate division and entry categories; (3) read the directions for submitting entries online before attempting to do so; (4) be sure entries are submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. Friday, July 28, 2017. Questions should be directed to Shelley Hendricks at 815-753-4239 or shendricks@niu.edu.

Finally, don’t forget to mark your calendars now for the annual NINA fall conference and awards ceremony scheduled for Thursday evening, Oct. 26, 2017, at Northern Illinois University. We look forward to seeing you there.

Good luck in the contest!

April 14 Deadline to Enter 2017 High School Student Journalist of the Year Competition!

Calling all high school journalists in Northern Illinois!

Know any high school seniors who have done outstanding work in the past year on a student newspaper, as a freelancer for a professional publication or as a contributor to a high school yearbook or literary magazine?

The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, a professional organization with member newspapers throughout the region, is seeking the best and brightest students in the region to compete for the title of 2017 Northern Illinois High School Journalist of the Year.

The winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship, the endorsement of the professional organization, a presentation at your home school and a title that will stand out on any resume or college application. The announcement of the winning student will be distributed via news release to all NINA member publications and will appear on the NINA website and in the NINA newsletter.

The second-place winner will receive a $500 scholarship along with the accolades that go with the title.

The competition is open to graduating high school seniors who plan to continue their journalism education at the college level.

All entries must be postmarked no later than Friday, April 14. Competitors are asked to send entries to The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, c/o John Etheredge, Record Newspapers, 109 W. Veterans Parkway, Yorkville, IL 60560.

Eligibility requirements and other criteria are listed below and available by clicking this link.

The scholarship competition entry form is available by clicking here.

The NINA Board of Directors is asking high school principals, student advisers and guidance counselors throughout Northern Illinois to help spread the word about this vital and prestigious award opportunity.

NINA maintains this scholarship fund to encourage high school students to continue to study journalism and to promote journalism careers.

NINA past president and Kendall County Record Newspapers Editor John Etheredge says that in days when “fake news” and social media snarkiness are almost ubiquitous, it’s more important than ever to support young people who are committed to professional journalism.

“As a professional organization dedicated to advancing print and online journalism education and training in Northern Illinois, we are excited at the prospect of awarding this scholarship to a student who shows promise for a career in our profession,” he said. “As always, welcome comments and suggestions about the scholarship program and how we can work together to advance journalism education at the high school level.”

2017 scholarship rules


Northern Illinois High School Journalism Scholarship recognizes outstanding achievement by high school students in print and/or online journalism.


A winner will receive a cash scholarship from the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, a plaque and an announcement of the award in the NINA online newsletter. Arrangements will be made for a formal presentation of the scholarship award and plaque.


The scholarship award will be presented to a high school senior who demonstrates the standards of honesty, integrity, attention to detail, hard work, creativity and an understanding and commitment to quality community journalism.

The successful candidate may be an editor, writer, photographer, manager, marketing or advertising representative or graphic designer at a high school newspaper and/or website, or a professional news publication, either print or online.

All applicants should show an intent to attend college as a journalism or communications major with an emphasis on print and/or online journalism.

Students must attend high school within the Northern Illinois region. The primary counties include Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Henry, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Knox, Lake, LaSalle, Lee, Marshall, McHenry, Mercer, Ogle, Putnam, Rock Island, Stephenson, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago.

Selection criteria

Applicants must submit a copy of their high school transcripts, which must include grade-point average.

They also must submit:

  • A letter of recommendation from a high school counselor, newspaper adviser or professional supervisor. Additional letters of recommendation are welcome.
  • A portfolio of published newspaper work. Examples include articles, display or classified advertisements, photographs or photo pages, page layouts or full copies of a newspaper showing the student’s contribution to the overall product.
  • An autobiographical essay that includes a description of career goals.
  • A completed nomination form (next page).


Applications must be postmarked by the April 14 deadline, which was extended from March 17. Send to: Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, c/o John Etheredge, Record Newspapers, 109 W. Veterans Parkway, Yorkville, IL 60560


All applications will be judged by members of the NINA board of directors. The scholarship winner will be notified in April.

2017 scholarship entry form

Nomination Form

Nominee: ________________________________________________________

Address: ________________________________________________________

(street, city, state, ZIP)

Email: ________________________________________________________

High school: _______________________________________________________

Address: ________________________________________________________

Nomination submitted by: ____________________________________________________

Title: ________________________________________________________

Telephone number (day): ___________________________________________________

Email: ________________________________________________________________

List all materials submitted with this entry:




How did you learn about this opportunity? ________________________________________

Send entries to:

Northern Illinois Newspaper Association
c/o John Etheredge
Record Newspapers
109 W. Veterans Parkway
Yorkville, IL 60560

Deadline extended: April 14, 2017

About the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association

NINA-logo1NINA was founded by Northern Illinois University journalism faculty and newspaper editors and publishers throughout the Northern Illinois region. Its present board consists of some of the top online and print publications in Illinois and the United States, including but not limited to the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Shaw Media, The Register-Mail, Galesburg, The Times, Ottawa, The Dispatch / The Rock Island Argus, The Hinsdalean, Rockford Register Star, The Observer, Rockford Diocese, the Northern Star and The Galena Gazette.

Membership is open to print and digital publication professionals, freelancers, educators, students and others working in or supporting professional journalism in northern Illinois. For more information, visit the NINA website or Facebook page.

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.