Prize-winning piper: This portrait of Forest Park bagpiper Bryan Jirsa won first place in the Illinois Press Association competition.DAVID PIERINI/Staff Photographer

The Forest Park Review won five first-place awards including general excellence at the annual Illinois Press Association convention in Springfield June 14. The Review competed against many other small-town Illinois newspapers ranked by ranges in circulation.

“A good blend of hard news and community-interest stories,” judges wrote, awarding the Review first place in the general excellence category. “[The] stories showcase paper’s role as government watchdog.” The judges also praised editorials as showcasing the paper’s “role as a community information hub.”

In addition, columnist John Rice and contributing reporters Tom Holmes and Amy Malina were honored. Rice won an award for best original column. His work in the Review’s No-Gloves special section was also honored. Holmes and Rice shared an award for the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce’s 100 year anniversary special section and Malina won for her stories about the reconstruction of the University of Illinois’ Alma Mater sculpture. The Review’s Play Ball Little League section, written by junior reporter Mark Rice, also won an award.

Photographer David Pierini won first place for his portrait of 17-year-old Forest Park bagpiper Bryan Jirsa.

Designers Luke Baker, Mark Tatara and Editorial Design Manager Claire Innes were honored with a first place award for design.

The paper also won first place in news reporting for a series of stories about how Forest Park responded to the legalization of video gambling in Illinois. The paper won a cash prize for the 2012 Knight Chair award for best investigative reporting from the University of Illinois Journalism Department. The prize was given for a series of stories related to Illinois Gaming Board video gambling applications.

The Illinois Press Association awards were judged this year by a team from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. More than 100 daily and non-daily newspapers competed in 36 editorial categories. More than 3,600 editorial entries were judged, according to the IPA.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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