The Better Government Association and its partners took top honors for 2021 public service reporting at the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors contest for newspapers throughout the state.

Failures Before the Fires” — an investigation with the Chicago Tribune that identified 61 people who died in fires in buildings the city had been warned were dangerous, sometimes for years — won the public service category for larger newsrooms. The stories were written by Madison Hopkins of the BGA and Cecilia Reyes from the Tribune.

The project also took first place in the category of best digital storytelling, an effort led by Jonathon Berlin, formerly the Tribune’s data visualization director.

Taking second place in the same category was the BGA/Chicago Sun-Times partnership “The Costly Toll of Dead-End Drug Arrests,” which exposed thousands of low-level drug arrests that prosecutors, police and judges all knew were never going to stick. The accused were detained and jailed anyway, costing them jobs and disrupting their lives, before the charges were dropped.  The series was written by Frank Main of the Sun-Times, and Casey Toner and Jared Rutecki of the BGA.

Both projects have been the recipients of numerous journalism awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for the fires project.

The IAPME awards will be presented during the Illinois Press Association convention, Aug. 10-12 at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Springfield. For a complete list of winners, click here.