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WNIJ reporters win four Illinois Broadcast News Awards

May 7, 2018

Sue Stephens and Jenna Dooley

WNIJ News reporters won four top prizes in the Illinois Associated Press Broadcast News Contest for stories aired in 2017. WNIJ swept the category for “Best Use of Sound” and also was honored in the “Best Light Feature” and “Best Newswriter” categories.

Jenna Dooley’s feature headlined “NIU Library Brings World War I Sheet Music To Life,” about a new collection at Northern Illinois University library, took first place in the “Use of Sound” category. WNIJ Business Associate Abi Mogge also contributed to this award by playing the music selections used in the piece.

The judges’ comments: “Thanks for starting this with the piano, and not just any piano, one that I imagined sounded like a piano being played during World War I. The reporter/producer chose strong actualities and did a fantastic job of weaving those comments with the music and the script.”

Dooley and senior reporter Susan Stephens shared the second-place award for “The Art and Heart of Virgil’s Lenten Fish Fry,” which highlighted preparation for and enjoyment of the Friday event at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Virgil.

The judges’ comments: “Thanks for starting this with natural sound. The reporters/producers put together an easy-to-follow “play by play” featuring multiple speakers. Collectively, hearing from those preparing the food, the customers and the priest allowed listeners to hear about not only the importance of the fundraiser but also its religious significance.”

Dooley also won second place in the “Light Feature” category for “It’s Mud Madness As Northern Illinois University Hosts National Soil Testing Competition,” about participants’ efforts evaluating soil at a site near Malta.

The judges’ comments: “Loved the writing. Jenna used creative writing skills to take what may not seem to be a really exciting topic to some and made it relatable. A wide range of interviews covered a variety of angles. Good mix of narrative and actualities to tell the story, which likely wouldn’t have worked had it not been reported from the scene.”

Stephens, who also hosts All Things Considered on WNIJ, was runner-up as “Best Newswriter” for 2017 – a category she won in 2016 and 2015 – for the consistently high quality of her work in a wide range of stories. Her entries for 2017 were “Teachers Learn Social Justice At NIU’s Summer Camp,” “Filmmaker Wants Everyone To Learn A Lesson From The Rita Crundwell Fraud Case,” “Vets Call Veterans Choice ‘A Piece Of Cake,’ ‘A Nightmare,’ And Everything In Between,” and “Property Rights Versus Environmental Protection In DeKalb’s Battle Over ‘Weeds’.

The judges’ comments: “This entry had four in-depth packages that were well written. The packages were also produced where the script and the audio relied on each other.”

The awards were presented Saturday night, April 28, at the Illinois News Broadcasters Association (INBA) gathering in East Peoria. INBA is an organization of professional journalists from radio and television stations which serve Illinois audiences.