The Better Government Association received 21 Peter Lisagor award nominations in 15 categories for its work in 2021. The Lisagors, which are awarded by the Chicago Headline Club, are long considered the highest local honor in Chicago journalism.
Among the categories in which the BGA was nominated are best investigative reporting, best multimedia collaboration, best data journalism, best in-depth news story or series, best reporting on race and diversity, best news website, best podcast, best non-deadline reporting, best in-depth report or series, public service, best use of news video, best online photography.
Receiving six nominations was the investigation “Failures Before the Fires,” a collaboration with the Chicago Tribune, which found scores of fire deaths in buildings City Hall had long known were fire traps. The project, by reporters Madison Hopkins and Cecelia Reyes, was nominated for best investigative reporting, best investigative/public service reporting, best data journalism, best in-depth reporting, best multimedia collaboration and best use of news video — a category in which Olivia Obineme, Armando L. Sanchez and Alex Garcia were also named.
Receiving four nominations was “The Costly Toll of Dead-end Drug Arrests,” a collaboration with the Chicago Sun-Times, which exposed thousands of low-level drug arrests that cost taxpayers millions even though the cases are rarely prosecuted.
The project, by reporters Frank Main, Casey Toner and Jared Rutecki, was nominated for best investigative reporting, best multimedia collaboration, best data journalism, and best online photography.
Nominated three times was “Milking Medicaid,” a BGA series that exposed how privatization shifted hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to insurance companies and away from medical providers and Medicaid recipients.
The series, by reporters David Jackson and Kira Leadholm, was nominated for best investigative reporting, best in-depth reporting and best online series.
Jackson was also nominated for best online feature reporting on COVID-19 for his work with reporter Kelly Bauer of Block Club Chicago on clouted vaccines distributed through Loretto Hospital.
The Loretto series was also nominated for the prestigious Watchdog Award.
Also receiving three nominations was a BGA/Injustice Watch report entitled “Fewer People in Cook County Are Being Charged With Crimes. Why Are Black People Making Up a Larger Share of Defendants?,” which examined the rising racial disparities in criminal court.
The story, by reporters Josh McGee and Jared Rutecki, was nominated for best data journalism, best reporting on race and diversity and best online non-deadline story.
In addition, the BGA was nominated as best news website and for best podcast for its series “The Madigan Rule,” hosted and produced by Justin Kaufmann.
The Chicago Headline Club is the largest Society of Professional Journalists chapter in the country. Winners will be announced at a dinner ceremony May 6 at the Union League Club of Chicago, where the Headline Club will also celebrate its centennial anniversary. See the full list of finalists here.