And the winner is ... The Hinsdalean

Just before we sat down to watch the Illinois Press Association’s annual editorial awards lunch last Thursday, I asked Jim Slonoff a question.

“Is there any chance we won the sweepstakes this year?” I queried.

“We never win the sweepstakes,” he replied.

It’s true. We received third place two years ago and an honorable mention last year, but we’ve never brought home the trophy.

“I just thought maybe this would be the year,” I said with a sigh.

Fast-forward about 90 minutes. We’ve eaten a delicious catered lunch and are watching on Zoom as the newspapers that won general excellence are announced. We didn’t win.

“You can’t win the sweepstakes without winning general excellence,” Slonoff said, and I, as I typically do, believed him.

A few more minutes pass and we get to the presentation of the Harold and Eva White Memorial Trophy for the best medium-sized nondaily newspaper in the state of Illinois. We listen to the history of the award and then a slide pops up showing the newspapers who received honorable mention and third and second place.

Under second place, it reads “Galena Gazette.”

“Galena Gazette!” I shouted at Jim.

The Galena Gazette has won the trophy four of the past five years, including the last two in a row. If they were in second place this year, could that mean we were in first?

And then I heard the announcer say “The Hinsdalean” and saw one of our pages appear on the screen. My initial reaction was to punch Jim in the arm a couple of times and call him a name, which I will not repeat here.

He, of course, was not at all surprised that we won. He lays out the pages for the Best of the Press publication that is handed out after the awards lunch, which includes the sweepstakes winners (three dailies and three nondailies win each year). He had known about our success for a couple of months.

I have to admit, I didn’t get any work done Thursday afternoon. The last time I was this excited about an award was at the IPA luncheon in 1997. I was managing editor of The Doings at the time and a special section I had conceived of and helped write was up for an award for best special section. The announcer had just gotten to the category when my pager (remember those?) went off. I was practically under the table, frantically trying to grab my purse and turn it off. Meanwhile, I missed hearing that the section had won first place.

Should I have suspected something was up when he ordered a big lunch and suggested we all watch the awards presentation together in the conference room?

Not really. Jim is always looking for an excuse to order a big lunch.

As much as I enjoy giving him grief for keeping it a secret, I suspect it was more fun not knowing.

To top it all off, we won the advertising sweepstakes the very next day. (You can read all about it on Page 5.)

When I told Dan and Ainsley the news, I shared my belief that this is the biggest honor the paper will ever receive.

“This could be the only time we win the sweepstakes,” I told them.

“No!” they replied. “It’s the start of a streak.”

I reminded them both of the 2016 Cubs.

But you never know. We might win it again. Maybe even next year.

— Pamela Lannom is editor

of The Hinsdalean.

Readers can email her at

[email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean