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.

Speakers sought for school journalism conference

The Northern Illinois School  Press Association is looking for speakers for its spring conference, which will be Friday, April 22, at College of DuPage.

Speakers are needed for its 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. sessions. Each session will be 50 minutes.  Speakers are welcome to present on multiple topics. However, space is limited, and speaking opportunities can’t be guaranteed.

Send your name, job titles and presentation topic or idea to Jason Block at


Board debates name change

The board is considering changing the name of NINA from “Northern Illinois Newspaper Association” to “Northern Illinois News Association.” Please read the following two arguments: the first in favor of changing the name, the second in favor of retaining the name. Please email Communications Coordinator Shelley Hendricks at if you would like to share your opinion.

Argument to change name

By Sharon Boehlefeld

More than 50 years ago, the chair of the Northern Illinois University Journalism Department, Donald Grubb, met with several regional newspaper editors to gauge interest in a professional association.

At that time, if the stories told to me by old timers at my hometown publisher in Rochelle, it was called the Northern Illinois Editorial Association. By the time I came to my first meeting, it was already the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association – familiarly known as NINA.

Back then, the big technology changes were the move from lead type to computer punch tape, from letterpress to offset printing. That shift to computer generated copy, to cut and paste in the literal sense, was tough on some people in the industry.

Today, as computerized processes have permeated the entire industry, those of us who still have a print product have long since moved on to work with other means of spreading the news. We work with digital video, audio and social media in its many forms. We are still producers of news, but we send it out in a variety of media.

Our association began as a way for editors to share knowledge and support each other. When the first name change came, I was told, it was because the editors’ understood every department in their papers – news, advertising, and the back shop – were important to success.

Since I’ve been on the board, we’ve narrowed our focus so that it has rested largely on the news again.

We have not eschewed our mission, to advance journalism and journalism education in northern Illinois.

But our media have changed.

We should acknowledge that our commitment to quality, credible and reliable news extends beyond the printed page.

By eliminating the “paper” from our name, we make obvious our support of  journalists and journalism in all forms.

We also give ourselves a chance to encourage broader membership and rejuvenate our association.

We don’t even have to give up our familiar acronym.

It’s time to become the Northern Illinois News Association.

Argument to retain name

By Roger Ruthhart

We all know that the role of our newsrooms is changing, but at the same time I think the general public understands that “newspapers” today are much more than ink on paper. We are online, mobile, on social media, niche publications and sites, and besides a variety of text reporting, we also report with graphics, maps, audio, video, slideshows and more. NINA has embraced these changes, both by accepting non-traditional members and by providing training programs that dive deep into new media.

The Northern Illinois Newspaper Association has a proud tradition dating back to 1962 and is a valued and recognized brand in the industry. We need a really good reason to tinker with that. Our current bylaws were amended in 2012 to admit “establishments and their duly accredited representatives engaged in publishing local news (changed from newspapers) in the 26 northern most counties of Illinois …”

In short, we are already able to do — and are doing — what those seeking a name change are trying to achieve. To me, much more important than the name is how we see and carry out our mission.

Many of these same arguments were made in 2012 when the bylaws were amended, but the board voted down a name change for many of these reasons. It was also noted at that time that “News Association” was far less descriptive and could be taken to be a wire service or a group that issues news releases.

Under our bylaws, it will require a two-thirds vote of board members present to change the name.

The role of newspapers will continue to evolve and change as will our role. But in the end what is important is our effort to identify and support professional and ethical presentation of the news. This is what makes newspapers, and those who contribute to them, different from a blogger in his mom’s basement or an untrained person sending out poorly written press releases. At the same time we should be happy to work with online publications, religious, ethnic and other special interest publications, government websites, and independent contractors of all kinds, whose missions share our same values. In some cases we already do.

Protecting these professional standards, and helping to train people to meet them, should be our continuing goal. That’s been the position of newspapers dating back to beforeNINA was formed. Being an organization of NEWSPAPERS tells everyone who cares that we support such professional standards.

Moline Dispatch, Galena Gazette sweepstakes winners in NINA competition

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. NINA awarded more than 125 other awards in 46 categories.

The banquet featured keynote speaker Jim Rossow, executive editor of the News-Gazette in Champaign/Urbana, who presented “50 Ways to Engage Your Readers.”

NINA has been serving the journalists and educators in Northern Illinois, in conjunction with the Communication Department of Northern Illinois University for 53 years. Complete list of winners.