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

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.

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.”