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The Illinois Associated Press Media Editors / Illinois Press Association annual convention was held virtually this week, thanks to COVID-19.

During the AP editorial awards on Thursday, the Effingham Daily News won the Editorial Sweepstakes Award for its coverage in 2019 of the legalization of recreational marijuana through stories, editorials and columns. The sweepstakes winner is chosen from the first place winners in more than a dozen writing categories.

Our recreational marijuana coverage won first place in the Public Service category, an award that journalists take great pride in because we think of public service as one of the main responsibilities we have.

Here’s what the sweepstakes judge said:

“This entry is the definition of a sweepstakes winner. The newspaper did a tremendous job of covering the issues of recreational marijuana in Illinois from a variety of angles. Editorials and columns offered readers multiple perspectives. Great job.”

Here’s what the public service judge said:

“This is exactly what a newspaper is supposed to do. Coverage of this major issue for their community included voices from all sides of the issue and gave readers the information they needed to understand what was happening and its potential impact. The well-written editorials added additional points of view to help readers better understand the issues at stake.”

Meanwhile, the EDN won second place for General Excellence in both the AP and IPA contests. Your EDN editor is proud of his reporters and editors for those second place finishes because we’re among the smallest papers in our division in terms of staff and resources. For example, the first place winner in our division for the Illinois Press Association contest was The Southern Illinoisan of Carbondale.

“Powerful stories on page 1,” the judges said of the two random editions from 2019 that we submitted. “Strong editorial page, with local columnists; coverage of arts in addition to sports; excellent photos.”

The shoutout to “local columnists” means that the members of our community who contribute to the Opinion Page are also recipients of this recognition. Congratulations. And thank you.

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The State Journal-Register of Springfield this week reported a thorny reminder of the challenges faced out west by communities devastated by wild fires: “A milky haze to the central Illinois skies the past couple of days is from the wildfires burning out West, said a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Lincoln. With a frontal boundary coming, the air quality forecast will go up a tick to moderate and central Illinois could even get a whiff of the smoke that has burned millions of acres in California, Oregon, Washington and into British Columbia. Kirk Huettl of the NWS said persons with respiratory problems should be able to bear the situation. There has been no reduction in visibility on the surface either, Huettl added.”

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Roses to the group of teens who spent Sunday afternoon making one roadway in Effingham a little bit cleaner. Effingham County CEO member Reese Jones coordinated a group of high schools students to collect trash along Outer Belt West in Effingham. Sunday’s work day was one of two service projects coordinated by the Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities program. “We’re doing this one and the boys are building a drop-off box for Catholic Charities,” Jones told EDN reporter Charles Mills. “This is a group effort,” said the St. Anthony High School senior. Students from St. Anthony High School and Effingham High School came to help. “Most all of the highways have some kind of construction right now,” Jones said. “So, we decided to just collect trash along Outer Belt West.”

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The Center Square news service reported this thorny news: The Farmers’ Almanac, founded in 1818, is forecasting cold and snow in the north this winter, drought in the west, and wild weather in the south. Illinois is included in the cold and snowy section of the country. Managing editor Sandi Duncan said a lot of factors are considered when the almanac arrives at its weather predictions. “A long term outlook that is actually based on a mathematical and astronomical formula,” Duncan said. “The formula was actually devised back in 1818 by our founding editor who correlated different things like sunspot activity, position of the planets and other factors.” More widely accepted in the scientific community is the forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This year, NOAA is forecasting average temperatures for Illinois, but more precipitation than normal from December to February.

Effingham Daily News Editor Jeff Long can be reached at or 217-347-7151 ext. 129.

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Graduated with a degree in journalism from UW-Madison in 1987. Reporter at a newspaper outside London, England. Then a reporter at papers in Pennsylvania and Virginia. For 13 years, a reporter and editor at the Chicago Tribune. Named EDN editor in 2014.

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