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Staff Report
5:00 am CDT June 16, 2019

From an “inspirational” obituary to “engaging” breaking news to a “haunting” and “exceptional” investigation, 22nd Century Media publications earned a company-record 16 awards for journalistic excellence from the National Newspaper Association. 

It is the seventh year of national competition for 22nd Century Media, parent company of The Wilmette Beacon, and the 16 awards top the company’s previous high of 14 (2015). The Beacon has won eight national editorial awards since 2014. 

The National Newspaper Association boasts more than 2,000 members, and this year, its annual Better Newspaper Contest welcomed more than 1,300 entries from 36 states. Winners in the competition, judged by esteemed journalists from across the country, will be honored at an Oct. 5 banquet in Milwaukee.

“I am blown away,” said Joe Coughlin, the company’s publisher and former editor of The Wilmette Beacon. “Our editorial team works tirelessly to produce quality community journalism that informs and equips our readers. The work is for the community, but accolades of this magnitude help validate those efforts.”

Of the 16 awards won by 22nd Century Media, two were first-place and seven were second-place honors. 22CM also earned three third-place nods, and four were honorable mention.

The Homer Horizon, the first newspaper launched by 22nd Century Media, earned both first-place awards — one for a feature written by Editor Tom Czaja and the other for an investigative piece produced by a team of reporters.

Four of the honors went to The Orland Park Prairie, which was recognized for two editorials by Managing Editor Bill Jones, a sports column by Jeff Vorva and an obituary tribute by reporter Meredith Dobes.

Three each went to The Northbrook Tower and the Malibu Surfside News, 22CM’s only California newspaper. 

The Tower’s editor, Martin Carlino, authored two award-winning articles: a sports feature and an education story. Sports Editor Michal Dwojak earned recognition for a sports news story. The Surfside News was honored for its collective work covering the devastating Woolsey Fire, a feature by Editor Lauren Coughlin and a sports story by reporter Chris Megginson.

Other awards were won by: The Tinley Junction (a review and a sports feature each by Sports Editor Jeff Vorva), The Lockport Legend (sports story by Editor Max Lapthorne), The Frankfort Station (sports photo by Julie McMann).

“The variety of work that was recognized is particularly impressive to me,” Publisher Joe Coughlin said. “These are the best reporters in Chicago’s suburbs, and they keep proving it.”

And the winners are ...

List and details of the 16 national awards for 22nd Century Media

Paper Category Author(s) Description of work

  • The Homer Horizon - Investigative Story Max Lapthorne, Tom Czaja, Joe Coughlin (Report from a four-month investigation on a former Lockport Township High School student who said she was sexually abused by her teacher)
  • The Homer Horizon - Feature Story - Tom Czaja (Exploratory profile of a religious icon that appears as if it is crying)
  • Malibu Surfside News - Breaking News - Lauren Coughlin, Joe Coughlin, Bill Jones, Barbara Burke (In-depth coverage of a disastrous and deadly wildfire)
  • Malibu Surfside News - Sports Story - Chris Megginson (Recap of Olympic bobsledder Lauren Gibbs' silver-medal performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics)
  • Malibu Surfside News - Feature Story - Lauren Coughlin (In-depth look at the disappearance and search for Elaine Park, one year after she went missing)
  • The Orland Park Prairie - Sports Column - Jeff Vorva (Local angle on a historic high school football win by Brother Rice)
  • The Orland Park Prairie - Editorial - Bill Jones (1. A rallying cry to push voters to the polls, and 2. How some missed the point of a student walkout)
  • The Orland Park Prairie - Obituary Tribute - Meredith Dobes (Honoring the life of a local Congressional Medal of Honor recipient)
  • The Tinley Junction - Review - Jeff Vorva (Recap of a head-banging show by Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson)
  • The Tinley Junction - Sports Feature - Jeff Vorva (Story of a senior resident running a race just months after a heart attack)
  • The Northbrook Tower - Education/Literacy Story - Martin Carlino (The stories of a high school’s walkout and a district’s handling of the walkouts)
  • The Northbrook Tower - Sports Feature - Martin Carlino (Profile of pitcher Michael Oh, who after two surgeries was back on the mound)
  • The Northbrook Tower - Sports Story - Michal Dwojak (Looking at the career and influence of Hall-of-Fame basketball coach David Weber)  
  • The Lockport Legend - Sports Story - Max Lapthorne (Report on a youth baseball team’s blow-torch- and triple-play-aided victory)
  • The Frankfort Station - Sports Photo - Julie McMann (Cover photo of a leaping, horizontal touchdown catch by football star AJ Henning)