30th Annual Peter Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism
Deadline report. Circulation more than 300,000
Award: Chicago Sun-Times, “High-Rise Havoc,” Metro Staff
Comments: Pulls an amazing amount of information together quickly and provides a
concise but compelling story that was at the top of everybody’s “want to know” list after
this high-rise shooting.
Deadline report, circulation less than 300,000
Award: Daily Southtown, “Two New Lenox Cops Shot at L-Way Central, Courtney
Greve and Will Lee
Comments: Makes clear on deadline the details of a shooting incident with lots of
confusion and information hard to come by.
In-depth reporting, Criminal justice and social issues, circulation more than 300,000
Award: Chicago Tribune, “Teens at the Wheel,” Staff
Comments: Possibly the most comprehensive, in-depth coverage of this issue –of
supreme concern to parents and citizens — done in a mainstream newspaper. Impressive
In-depth reporting, Criminal justice and social issues, circulation less than 300,000
Award: Daily Herald, “Crossing China,” Kara Spak, Tara Malone and Patrick Kunzer
Comments: no comments
In-depth reporting, Politics & government, circulation more than 300,000
Award: Chicago Sun-Times, “Clout’s Sick List,” Tim Novak and Art Golab
Comments: Ambitious and impressive data gathering and analysis by Novak and Golab
led to an eye-opening report on widespread abuse of sick leave by city of Chicago
employees, particularly those hired through patronage. Some astonishing chutzpah is
revealed. Reporting team resourcefully sidestepped resistance from City Hall and the City
Council. They quantified the cost to taxpayers of the sick list, and neatly dovetailed the
problem with the patronage issue. The findings are being examined by a federal grand
jury, and Mayor Daley acknowledged that changes in the city’s workers comp system
In-depth reporting, Politics & government, circulation less than 300,000
Award: Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, “Judiciary Sees Imbalance of Power Among
Branches,” Steve Lash
Comments: This was a huge investigate look at the horrors against judges, potential
interference with the judiciary and what happens when a judge must run for a political
office, rather than an appointment. It is obvious that extensive research went into this
series and is an important bit of reporting to show the imbalance of powers among
governmental branches and the threat to an independent judiciary. It is well-documented
and written so that the general public is more aware of the problem.
In-depth reporting, Education, circulation more than 300,000
Award: Chicago Sun-Times, “Unoriginal Sin,” Dave Newbart
Comments: A succinct and expertly told “gotcha” story written and reported fairly and
without ego. Reporter follows the story to its just conclusion; an ending that only came
about due to his persistence.
In-depth reporting, Education, circulation less than 300,000
Award: Daily Southtown, Investigation of Calumet Park Schools, Kati Phillips
Comments: Kati managed to craft an inspiring, heart-wrenching story from newsworthy
material that could otherwise bore the average reader.
In-depth reporting, Science, health, technology or environment, circulation more
Award: The Wall Street Journal, “Blood-Test Hurdles,” Thomas M. Burton
Comments: A damning exposure of the human cost of green — and how the federal
government can be complicit.
In-depth reporting, Science, health, technology or environment, circulation less than
Award: The Beacon News, “Bad Water,” Matt Hanley
Comments: A compelling, thoroughly researched series that not only educates the reader
and exposes a major health hazard, but truly illustrates the human impact.
News column or commentary
Award: Daily Southtown, “Prey for a Predator,” Tim Placher
Comments: A wrenching account that brings home the betrayal of a sexually abusive
clergyman. Strong, honest and brave writing that will stay with readers a long time.
Award: Daily Southtown, “Governor Aware of What’s Needed in Our Classrooms,”
“Lottery Sale Hardly the Cash Solution State Schools Need,” “Politics Outweigh
Education Needs In Lottery Plan,” “What Does It Say to Tie Our Schools to Gambling
Money?” and “Lottery Plan Falls Short in Addressing the Real Problem,” Dennis
Robaugh, Kristen McQueary, Donna Vickroy and John Hector
Comments: Clear, extensive presentation on all aspects of plan and editorial board’s
problems with it.
Award: Chicago Tribune, “Throwaway Workers,” Stephen Franklin and Darnell Little
Comments: Puts a very moving human face on what could have been a fairly dry story
and merges a very real business story with the political and social ramifications that
surround the use of immigrant labor in dangerous workplace environments.
Award: Chicago Sun-Times, “Your Cell Phone Records Are for Sale,” Frank Main
Comments: “Thorough and comprehensive, the look into the practice of selling cell
phone records and the potential misuse of the information is not only of interest to the
general public as news, but a solid piece of illuminating practices that could impact the
Award: Chicago Tribune, “Test of Faith,” Julia Keller
Comments: The series was a comprehensive look at one of life’s mysteries — how we find
purpose in the face of tragedy. It really got to the heart of the subjects, sharing the
perspective from a variety of ways and putting it in compelling prose. Well done!
Arts reporting & criticism
Award: Chicago Tribune, “Upon Further Review,” Arts staff
Comments: A fascinating concept, writ large and perfectly executed. Over nine pages, the
entire arts staff revisits their own mistaken reviews and predictions, making corrections
and updating the facts with precision and good humor. Everything is here, from local
architecture and restaurants to national rock bands and TV shows. Obvious thought went
into what could’ve been a one-off filler for a slow arts week and a big page count. But
forethought is apparent, from the layout to the intro to the consistency of each critic’s
contribution. This should be a concept shamelessly stolen by other arts sections.
Award: The Naperville Sun, “Coach for Life,” Brad Engel
Comments: A compelling story with clear writing; part of an amazingly comprehensive
package; nice sidebars. Especially difficult circumstances with not being able to
interview the subject because of medical reasons, but a great story on how to fight
adversity with spirit.
Sports column or commentary
Award: Chicago Sun-Times, Series of columns on the Turin, Italy Olympics, Greg Couch
Comments: Great series that offers behind-the-scenes look at what feels like is the most-
covered sporting event in the world. A true stand-out was the column on Totmianina and
Marinin who train in Chicago. Terrific insight and tact covering a difficult topic.
Award: Chicago Tribune, “A Tank of Gas, a World of Trouble,” Kuni Takahashi
Comments: An outstanding example of how to bring a global story close to home.
Takahashi does what we should all hope to do well every day, tells us a story with
compelling images and does it while connecting the world to our doorstep. Tough
judging this category
Award: Post-Tribune, “Gary Century,” Michael McArdle
Comments: How can there be so many old people in Gary, Indiana? Photog did a nice job
in capturing the personalities of theses life-long residents in each portrait. The use of
black and white adds to the mystique of the story. A nice find.
Award: Chicago Tribune, “Rock ’em, Sock ’em,” Phil Velasquez
Comments: Of the three photos from the Cubs/Sox brawl we all agreed Velasquez’s photo
was the best. Cleaner shot of the first impact.
Award: Chicago Sun-Times, “The Speck Murders,” Eric White and Frank Sugano
Comments: The illustration on the front cover is great — that creepy, staring eye over that
memorable quote immediately pulls you into the story. The washed-out, archival look of
the photographs of Speck and the victims is also compelling. On the inside, the use of
white text on the black background, along with the photos of the victims and Speck, is
very dramatic, which I think is appropriate to the story. The repeated use of the simple
“The Speck Murders” logo on the front and the inside is also very nice. The file photos
from 40 years ago are played big, which adds to the impact of the story. The mug shots
and the text subheads also work nicely to break up the text.
Feature or sports design
Award: Daily Herald, “Map Quest,” Richard Westgard
Comments: Intelligent, dignified and quietly appealing design that succeeded in capturing
the eye and interest of this confirmed non-map reader. Proof that an investment of time in
understanding a story’s subject and following one’s discovery to a logical design
conclusion works every time (even without a design department the size of an emerging
NON-DAILY NEWSPAPER, MAGAZINE, NEWSPAPER MAGAZINE SECTION
Award: Crain’s Chicago Business, “Cook County Cash Crunch,” Greg Hinz
Comments: Great county government story about a budget on the brink of bankruptcy.
In-depth reporting in a general-interest publication
Award: Chicago magazine, “The Nightmare,” Bryan Smith
Comments: Smooth conversational writing and gripping narrative made this piece, about
the investigation into a toddler’s murder, stand out. The people involved are rendered
with exquisite detail — Riley Fox’s “tiara of chestnut curls,” a detective’s ghost-like
reflection in a one-way mirror caught in the police video of the surviving child’s
interrogation. The story is rich in supporting fact, and the writer’s grasp of the material is
In-depth reporting in a community newspaper
Award: Star Newspapers, “Cold Cases,” Patrick Ferrell
Comments: Ferrell admits he took an idea from a popular television show, but this
extensive series of stories localizes the issue. Maybe new leads could be discovered on
these cases, which obviously still are difficult issues for the families involved — but the
series also offers a glimpse into murder victims’ families that is not often seen — the
trauma, the relentless questioning and the pain.
In-depth reporting in a business magazine or newspaper
Award: Crain’s Chicago Business, “Enter the Dragon,” Thomas Mucha and Mark
Comments: In depth indeed. A multi-cultural, multi-national story bringing all of China
into the heart of the Chicago business scene.
In-depth reporting in a trade or specialty magazine, newspaper or newsletter
Award: ABA Journal, “After Katrina,” Terry Carter, Molly McDonough and Siobhan
Comments: Takes a niche look at the legal system in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina
and examines every possible facet of a system still struggling with some lack of success
to recover from a storm whose effects on every facet of a city remain hard to
News column or commentary
Award: Southwest News Herald, “Thanksgiving Tabouli Wars Is Now Served,”
“Graduates Who Defy Stereotypes” and “Reavis Reunion Creeps Up Like Receding
Hair,” Ray Hanania
Comments: Writing a regular column is a lot harder than it looks. General interest
columnists have to be ready to show themselves and share their inner thoughts and beliefs
with their readers — something most of us were trained not to do in the course of our
other job as fair and ideally objective reporters of facts. Ray Hanania’s columns illustrate
how the best of us are able to accomplish that, taking the random and (globally)
inconsequential activities of daily life and crafting them into a deceptively simple-
sounding monologue that touches people with the familiarity of the experiences while
shedding light on the serious and significant concerns of the larger world. Mr. Hanania
manages that slight-of-hand with both wit and grace, and most difficult of all, a dash of
humor that lightens outrage and makes it palatable, causing the reader to think about the
greater issues roiling beneath the surface without compelling them in any obvious way to
challenge their assumptions. Instead they think about the world in ways they might have
resisted if they were simply being bashed over the head with passionate and reasoned
Award: American Medical News, “The Right to Speak Up For Patients,” “Hospital
Standards Worth Your Attention” and “Only the Best Science Belongs in Court,” Tanya
Comments: It was tough to pick a clear winner in this category because most of the
submissions were well though-out, clear and persuasive. Henry backed up her rhetorical
points with cogent analysis and made her arguments with a conversational style that
Business reporting in a general interest publication
Award: Chicago Reader, “Hecho en Illinois,” Linda Lutton and Catrin Einhorn
Comments: No squash story here, but a real look at just how far the impact of a local
business reaches in the world.
Business reporting in a community newspaper
Award: Pioneer Press, “Blue Collar Blues,” Karen Shoffner
Comments: Interesting look into the side effects of a more and more college-driven
population. Great use of quotes and statistics and well as personal stories, with an
alternative view on the secondary school track.
Business reporting in a business magazine or newspaper
Award: Forbes, “Dirty Laundry,” Mark Tatge and Miriam Gottfried
Comments: Great example of a well-reported and flushed-out business story. The story
really captures the corporate culture and aggressive tactics of Cintas. Terrific punchy and
incisive narrative that hooks and compels readers to keep going.
Business reporting in a trade or specialty magazine, newspaper or newsletter
Award: The Chicago Reporter, “Sold in the USA,” Kimbriell Kelly and Angelica Herrera
Comments: The anecdotal lead-in is gripping and gives the story real significance. The
subject matter is also extremely interesting, and the writer supplies the numbers and
comments from organizations to give it that depth.
Award: Crain’s Chicago Business, “When Death Comes to Work,” Dan Weissmann
Comments: This is a compelling look at an issue that no one wants to face — the loss of a
colleague. The lede was well crafted and the story took off from there to move the story
forward. We often look at death as a singular incident, rather than the multiple levels of
impact a single death can have on many people. This story raised the question about what
happened when someone in the role of leadership dies, and the shockwaves that can be
set off from that event. The piece about how to deal with a co-worker’s coming death was
particularly interesting, and could standalone by itself.
Arts reporting & criticism
Award: Chicago Tribune Magazine, “Troupers,” Desiree Chen
Comments: The first judging criteria in this category is “enterprise,” and Desiree Chen
shows lots of it when she decided to hang out with a troupe of Chinese acrobats playing a
three-month stand in Chicago. Every arts section surely reviewed the performance, but
Chen went back stage, in the dressing room and to dinner with the troupe, getting their
stories and opinions on everything from their rigorous practice schedules to their
sightseeing tours around Chicago. Anyone who bought a ticket after reading this
expansive piece must have enjoyed the show even more. Two quibbles: “precision and
clarity” is another judging category, but Chen doesn’t tell us exactly how many troupe
members there are, and “style” is another category, but Chen’s occasional use of first-
person proves jarring when it arises only after grafs of third-person. But those are indeed
quibbles in a fine piece.
Award: Arlington Heights Post, “All Pumped Up,” Matt Harness
Comments: Harness tackled a difficult subject with fairness and sensitivity. He took a
faceless statistic and told an enlightening story of two local students who fell victim to
the “hidden problem.” Also, adding the layers with side-effects for acknowledgement
could help other parents recognize a potential problem. Fairly reported; responsibly told.
Non-daily newspaper photography
Award: Star Newspapers, “House Arrest,” Brett Roseman
Comments: Though most entries were of a multiple photos, we went with a single image
as the winner. Nicely thought out portrait with good lighting along with an easy read.
Non-daily newspaper design
Award: Crain’s Chicago Business, “FOCUS: Doing Business in China,” Melissa Phee
and Timothy Mollette-Parks
Comments: Gorgeous layout. Nice tone. Perfect shade of red. Understated and respectful,
with a thoughtful mix of type and photos. The lead paragraph style with the giant drop
cap is a nice touch throughout. Crain’s Chicago Business should be commended. Several
of their entries were among the best looking, with relevant/clever statistics and fact
Award: Modern Healthcare, Modern Healthcare design, Keith Horist and Percy Marioni
Comments: Beneficial use of white space. Nice clean layout. Smart use of photos and
san-serif factoids. To be fair, Andrew Skwish should receive a portion of this award for
his unique, full-page map of South Chicago.
Award: WGN Radio, “Pilgrim Baptist Church Fire,” News Team
Comments: This story included all the elements I wanted to hear: great intro and set-up,
good interview subjects and actualities, history and importance of the subject and future
impact. Great job on looking at all the angles of the story!
In-depth reporting or series
Award: WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, “Chicago Matters: Valuing Education,” City Room
Comments: This comprehensive entry is impressive. It is first-rate journalism reflecting
the vast resources of Chicago Public Radio. There were several entries in this category
that deserve top prize, but this one was selected as the best.
Award: WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, “The Science Sisters,” Lex Gillespie
Comments: We found this documentary to transcend the confines of a radio story and
leave a lasting concern for the science sisters themselves and their situation. How are
they doing? Will they persevere? Can they beat the odds? Why can’t schools do more for
students who want to excel? What better testament to a finely crafted radio story than to
have it leave a lasting impression?
Award: WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, “Sinatra,” Karen Brenner
Comments: Ms Brenner’s feature commentary is a wonderful and wistful trip down her
personal memory lane. Writing is superb. She makes great use of Frank Sinatra songs to
make her points and underscore her poignant memories of her father. She had me hooked
from the first chords. The clear winner here.
Business & consumer reporting
Award: WGN Radio, “Farewell to Fields,” Rob Hart
Comments: Excellent use of sound throughout. Good use of radio stand-up. Series makes
impression about historical significance of Fields.
Finalist: WBBM Newsradio780, “2006 Chicago Auto Show,” Bob Roberts, Craig
Dellimore and Mary Frances Bragiel
Comments: Great series, covering lots of different angles of the auto show. Good mix of
Award: WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, “Joshua,” Steve Edwards
Comments: His was a heart-wrenching story about a condition that not many people
know anything about. The story kept me glued to my computer, with great first-person
sound from Joshua’s parents. Very good production, great sound bites and an engaging
storyline. Very good radio.
Arts reporting & criticism
Award: WBBM Newsradio 780, “WBBM Moving Day,” Steve Grzanich
Comments: Great use of archival sound!
Award: WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, “Windy City Boxing Club,” Alex Helmick and
Comments: Great interviews, nice use of nats and a wonderful sense of place. An
excellent job of reporting on sports through story-telling
Award: CBS 2 WBBM-TV, “Blue Line Emergency,” News Team
Comments: No comments
In-depth reporting or series
Award: CBS 2 WBBM-TV, “Tracking Your Security,” Suzanne Le Mignot and Michele
Comments: No comments
Soft news feature
Award: WGN-TV, “Last Typewriter Repairman,” Pam Grimes, Mike, D’Angelo and
Comments: No comments
Award: WTTW11, “Beauty Rises: Four Lives in the Arts,” Daniel Andries, Tracye J.
Campbell and Fawn Ring
Comments: The judges were struck by the beauty of these images woven together to tell
the stories of four artists — using no reporter or narrator — but only the words and sounds
from the subjects themselves, who were so at ease it was as if the camera was invisible.
Award: WTTW11, “Beauty Rises: Four Lives in the Arts,” Tom Siegel
Comments: Breathtaking composition, subdued colors, and an inventive eye toward
shooting in unconventional ways marked this amazing work. It’s not easy to tell a story
without the crutch of a reporter’s narration. But this work shows that exhaustive and
compelling photography does just that.
Commentary or criticism
Award: WTTW11, Chicago Tonight: Mancow Muller Commentaries, Mancow Muller
Comments: The modern twist on the classic commentary rule: Love ’em or hate ’em, it’s
hard not to watch ’em. Mancow Muller’s energy and exuberance gets you to think.
Business & consumer reporting
Award: WTTW11, “Chicago Tonight: The Merc,” Dan Protess
Comments: Enterprising look at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and how technology is
changing it. You get a real sense of the people and the nostalgia behind the futures
market. Great piece of explanatory journalism with lots of interesting cookies that keep
the viewers hanging on.
Lifestyle or sports reporting
Award: CBS 2 WBBM-TV, “Having Fun with the Long Snapper,” Megan Mawicke
Comments: A fun piece. It gives you a good perspective on the role and ability of the
long snapper which goes very unnoticed among fans. The interactive ideas were creative
and the piece had a central focus and flowed well. It was short, to the point and
entertaining to watch.
NEWS BUREAU, WIRE SERVICE, ONLINE OR DISK MEDIA
Award: Associated Press, “Licenses for Sale,” Mike Robinson and staff
Comments: The AP’s plan for getting around court rules against use of cell phones as the
verdict against former Gov. George Ryan was read was ingenious, albeit probably not
usable again. The articles are admirably clear, concise and comprehensive, a classic
model of AP deadline reporting.
In-depth report or series
Award: Associated Press, “The Jobs Game,” John O’Connor
Comments: Public records request stories can be tedious and time consuming to report
and read. It is easy, given the nature of the primary source material, for such stories to fall
into stilted jargon and convoluted timelines. Often the reader is lost among the trees,
desperately hoping for a glimpse of a forest. None of those things are true with
O’Connor’s series, which has the added cachet of actually changing government.
O’Connor complemented his extensive records work with revealing interviews to add the
human element. “The Jobs Game” is a wonderful expose’ of political sausage being
Award: chicagotribune.com, “The Swamp,” Staff
Comments: Seldom does one find a political blog that is actually about reporting the
facts, let alone about reporting the facts evenly from both sides. When, in the course of
evaluating the entries, I found myself e-mailing the link to a news junky friend and
including a comment about “the thorough, accurate and inclusive coverage,” I knew I had
a winner. Well done.
Business & consumer reporting
Award: Associated Press, “Meatpacking: A New Jungle?” Sharon Cohen
Comments: Strong reporting on an old problem that has returned with a fury. “Must”
reading before sinking your teeth into that next cheeseburger.
Features or sports reporting
Award: Associated Press, “Katrina — the Road Back,” Sharon Cohen
Comments: Some of the best reporting done anywhere on the human side of the storm’s
Award: chicagotribune.com, “Beyond the Barriers,” E. Jason Wambsgans and staff
Comments: Excellent presentation, audio (including spot-on haunting music) set the
mood for the whole piece. Great editing of photos and perfect timing of pictures as they
“moved” along with the audio. Classic look, great lighting. Would show beautifully in a
gallery; numerous televisions showing each piece at the same time. Beyond the Barriers
of 9/11 jumped out head and shoulders above the rest in both its creativity and execution.
I will add the caveat that while it was very good, it came tantalizing close to being a great
piece — but a bit of inconsistency in shooting styles or maybe the lack of locking down a
camera in a stationary place in a few of the scenes left it a little more jumbled than
needed, and there were several scenes where I just wanted a bit better angle or content.
That said, what a great idea to shoot many multiple shots from the same locked-down
spot. A really wonderful use of the online, multi-media format. Slam dunk on that, it
Creative use of multimedia
Award: chicagotribune.com, “A Tank of Gas, a World of Trouble,” Chicago Tribune,
chicagotribune.com, CT electronic news
Comments: This project almost runs away with the category and many of the other
entrants would do well to study it. First and foremost, it takes a great story idea and
develops it with meticulous reporting that yields a piece of news-feature writing in the
very best old school journalism tradition. The viewing lens of the South Elgin gas station,
the global cast of characters and locales and Salopek’s deft narrative make for a gripping
read. Then, the fine prose are married to a very simple but elegant Web portal for the
project that makes it extremely easy for users to navigate between stories and the
fabulous images from Takahashi, a wealth of highly professional video pieces and other
features that incorporate multimedia elements. If I have any criticism, it’s that there may
be simply too much for the average reader to digest, but always better to leave readers too
full than hungry. Anyway, hats off to everyone who contributed and to your honchos for
making such an expensive commitment.
Award: WBEZ Chicago Public Radio and WTTW11, “Chicago Matters: Valuing
Comments: This entry was the category winner because of the depth and breadth of
collaboration shown. Not only did three news organizations join together to share
reporting resources, but they also used the full power of every medium and editing
technique available to share the story — long and short video pieces, edited radio
packages and online galleries of less edited interviews, text pieces. In addition, the
information wasn’t flowing on a one-way street; using traditional “town meetings” and
new-technology blogs, the community helped shape and contribute to the reporting and
Award: Crain’s Chicago Business, Roger Schillerstrom
Comments: Wow, powerful stuff. I know a few people who can identify with the Cubs
cartoon. These cartoons packed a punch and conveyed their messages without having to
use any more explanation than what he did with his pencil.