May 10, 2010

Quincy news coordinator wins writing contest

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Interviews that weave together the stories of how two immigrant families came to live in Quincy is the judges’ top choice in the annual Polly Robinson Feature Writing Contest at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

David Adam, a news coordinator with the Quincy Herald-Whig, used interviews with families from the Philippines and Morocco to tell the story of how David Strawman, a part-time Quincy resident who manages the International Broadcasting Bureau in the Philippines and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, was able to assist the two families in coming to the United States and Quincy.

The story also spends time with Jovie Solimon, who is originally from the Philippines, and Moroccan Abdelhamid Merzouk, his wife, and three teenage children, as they make adjustments to a new life in a new country. The story weaves a portrait that while both families left better-than-average surroundings and lifestyles in their home countries to immigrate, the trials faced with finding jobs, starting school, and adjusting to a new life in the United States are well worth the effort.

Adam said he was pleased to win the award. In addition to his work as news coordinator, Adam also coordinates the newspaper’s website. He recalls placing in the feature-writing contest about 20 years ago.

The School of Journalism administers the contest in memory of Polly Robinson, a 1978 SIUC journalism graduate and award-winning feature writer and photographer at Tazewell Publications in Morton who died in November 1979. Her parents, the late Warren and Doris Robinson, established the contest in April 1980.

This year’s contest drew 23 entries from Illinois newspapers with circulations of 100,000 or less.

Adam spent three or four days with each family conducting interviews. The story, “Chasing a dream,” appeared Jan. 3, 2010. He will receive $150 for his effort.

The idea came from a gentleman who suggested the story as one that Herald-Whig readers might be interested in. After some initial fact gathering, Adam said he, too, was intrigued.

“It just blossomed from someone just thinking you guys might be interested in writing about this,” he said.

A July 2009 series by Mary Ann Ford, a reporter with The Pantagraph in Bloomington, “Heeding the Call,” and “Taking Up the Cause,” took second place. The series looked at the founding and funding of Lifelong, a central Illinois organization dedicated to helping orphans in Honduras, India, Ukraine, and Zambia, according to the newspaper. The series appeared July 12-13, 2009. Ford will receive $75 for her effort.

A pair of stories by Paul Swiech, health and medicine editor for The Pantagraph, took third place. The first story, “Giving Locks & Love,” appeared Feb. 1, and told the story of a 14-year-old Bloomington girl who celebrated the 10th anniversary of her own surgery for brain cancer by donating her hair. The second story, “Altered Life,” looked at the lifestyle changes a Bloomington man made after suffering a heart attack in his early 30s. The story ran Feb. 23. Ford will receive $50 for his effort.

Senior reporter Theresa Churchill of the Herald & Review in Decatur earned an honorable mention certificate for her Aug. 2, 2009, story, “Ride to recovery,” profiling the life of a Pana woman whose finding of faith enabled her to complete treatment for methamphetamine addiction and start a transportation ministry to assist other addicts.