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Staff Report
4:44 am CDT June 19, 2019

A feature piece on a weeping icon many consider a miracle and an investigative story from The Homer Horizon have both been awarded first place to lead 22nd Century Media publications in earning 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 Horizon, and the 16 awards top the company’s previous high of 14 (2015).

The Horizon has won five national editorial awards in its history, including these two most recent ones. 

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

“A really nice balance of objectivity, explaining what this unusual phenomenon means to both the faithful and to those disinclined to explain it religiously,” a judge wrote of the feature, which provided an update to the ongoing happening of the weeping icon of St. John the Baptist at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Homer Glen. 

For the investigative piece, which focused on a Homer Glen native and former Lockport Township High School student who said she was sexually abused by a teacher, a judge wrote of its lasting effect. 

“Out of all the entries in this category, this story haunted me for days,” the judge wrote. “It was well-written, well-reported and impactful. The research through interviews and records was exceptional. It is definitely relevant in today’s climate and shows the impact that newspapers across the country can have.” 

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. 

Malibu 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,” Coughlin said. “These are the best reporters in Chicago’s suburbs, and they keep proving it.”