News-Democrat journalists earned four first place awards and several others Friday afternoon at the Illinois Press Association's annual awards banquet.
Digital Editor Joe Ostermeier won first place in the sports column category for his columns about Stan Musial, Game 3 of the 2013 World Series and Cardinal pitcher Joe Kelly.
Photographer Zia Nizami earned first place for spot news photo following a drowning. Judges said that Nizami's photo was a "wonderful composition of a tragic moment." Nizami also won honorable mention in the sports photo category.
Education reporter Jamie Forsythe took first place in the Robert M. Cole Award for Best School Board Coverage category for her reporting on technology used in metro-east classrooms. Forsythe also won honorable mention in the same category for a her reporting on school cafeteria inspections.
Reporters Jacqueline Lee and Dan Kelley won first place in the Maurice Scott Award for Best Coverage of Taxation category for their story about tax increment financing. Reporters George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer won third place in the same category for their coverage of a land deal in Centreville.
Pawlaczyk and Hundsdorfer also took third place in the news reporting series category and honorable mention in news reporting single story category for their stories about the drug scandal involving former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook.
Reporter Mike Fitzgerald won second place in the enterprise and feature writing category for his story about Capt. Brandon Cyr, who died in Afghanistan.
Pat Kuhl won second place for his columns in the original column category.
Jason Koch won second place in the headline writing category and third place in the informational graphic category. A judge called Koch's graphic of Stan "The Man" Musial "great work and presentation. That classic reach for the ball surround by a 'by the numbers' approach hit a home run with me."
Kelley won third place in the Knight Chair Award for Best Investigative/Enterprise Reporting category for his investigation into costly benefits for part-time county employees, which judges called, "outstanding public service journalism."
Photographer Tim Vizer won third place for his personality portrait. Said the judges, "One of the most original and striking photos I've seen."
The News-Democrat's staff won third place for its Lifestyle section, which one judge said, "Your sections are clean-looking, easy to navigate and filled with interesting stories and staples readers want. Also kudos to your advertising department for putting together the yard sale map. I'm betting readers love that."
News-Democrat reporters tied for honorable mention in the community service category. Jacqueline Lee won for her election coverage in Belleville. Judges sad, "This was robust elections coverage that any newspaper would be proud to publish." Both Maria Hasenstab and Jennifer Schaaf won for the "Giving from the heart" annual Christmastime series, which the judges said was "well-written and informative series that connects the community with services and programs that help the needy. Excellent use of personal stories from those in need and those who are inspired to help. I can see this series prompting action and a response from the public."
Joe Ostermeier, Hasenstab and Carla Keller Anderson earned honorable mention for their work on the newspaper's website, and Lori Browning, the editorial page editor, won honorable mention in the editorial page category.
On Thursday, the News-Democrat staff also was honored with nine awards at the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors contest.