The Belleville News-Democrat on Thursday won four first-place awards from the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association, including the group's highest award for journalistic excellence in 2012.
The BND won first place in the editorial sweepstakes category for its series on the lack of protection for disabled adults in Illinois. The series, called "Hidden Suffering, Hidden Death," also placed first in the investigative reporting category. It was written by reporters Beth Hundsdorfer and George Pawlaczyk.
The BND won first place award in the newspaper website category for bnd.com overseen by online editor Joe Ostermeier, online content editor Carla Anderson and online producer Maria Baran and first place in the enterprise story category for an article entitled "Should we provide drug users with needles?," which was written by former reporter Kevin Bersett.
The following second-place awards were given to BND journalists:
* Derik Holtman in the general news photo category for "Fire vigil."
* Steve Nagy in the feature photo category for "Fly daddy" and in the picture story category for "Christian Activity Center."
* Joe Ostermeier, David Wilhelm and Steve Nagy in the sports breaking news category for "Matt Carpenter's homer fuels win."
* Jason Koch in the informational graphic category for "Approach Election Day."
* The BND staff in the public service category for election campaign coverage "We the people."
The BND competes in the division for newspapers with the largest circulation in the state.
Here are comments from judges about the BND:
'Hidden Suffering, Hidden Death'
"George Pawlaczyk's and Beth Hundsdorfer's shocking investigation into the Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General upholds the highest journalistic values protected by the First Amendment. Through painstaking investigation these reporters were able to expose a government that failed to carry out its basic charge of protecting its most vulnerable citizens. Through deep sourcing, analysis of records and data, and sophisticated storytelling techniques, the reporters documented instance after instance of horrifying abuse and neglect. And, time after time, the government sat idly by. The reader is left reeling at the agency's willful disregard for the humanity of these victims. Pawlaczyk and Hundsdorfer's thorough reporting and compelling writing could not be ignored, and resulted in needed reforms. Hats off to the Belleville News-Democrat for this fine piece of watchdog journalism."
"The News-Democrat espouses a web-first philosophy in its newsroom, and that certainly shows on its website. Appealing homepage layout makes it easy to tell, at a glance, the content users can expect to find. Polls and easy access to the newspaper's Facebook page invite reader interactivity, and multimedia content is also easy to find. Congratulations to the News-Democrat staff for recognizing and acting upon the importance of presenting the news and engaging your readers online!"
"Election coverage can be dry and boring, or it can ask tough questions on issues and pay more than lip service to what voters want to know and who the candidates really are. This staff pulled off the latter, impressively."