BGA Wins Five Lisagor Awards

The Circuit, an ongoing collaborative series focused on the Cook County court system, won several top honors, including for best investigative-public service reporting.

Images clockwise from top left: Illustration by Veronica Martinez; Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images; State of Illinois; Madison Hopkins/BGA; Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times; Stacey Rupolo/Chalkbeat.

The Better Government Association won five Peter Lisagor Awards for its work in 2020, the most the BGA has received since 2015. Long considered the highest local honor in Chicago journalism, the Lisagors are awarded by the Chicago Headline Club.

The BGA was part of a team that won for best data journalism among all media outlets regardless of the size or type of news organization. Other wins for the BGA include best business reporting, best investigative-public service reporting, best series for non-deadline reporting, and best commentary.

Receiving three awards was “The Circuit” a collaboration between the BGA, Injustice Watch and the Chicago Reporter as well as civic tech firm DataMade. It won the award for best data journalism among all media, as well as best investigative-public service for online news and best series for non-deadline reporting for online news. It is the first time the BGA has won the award for best data journalism among all media.

The project, which remains ongoing, had reporters and editors gather, organize and analyze decades of data from the Cook County Circuit Court system. The work was assisted by researchers from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

“The Circuit,” has so far published a pair of stories about an overlooked but essential legal maneuver used in the courts and a massive data visualization documenting two decades worth of criminal charges in Cook County.

In addition, the BGA’s investigative reporting team won the best business or consumer report award in the online category for an investigation with WBEZ-Chicago Public Radio into Amazon’s massive, taxpayer-funded expansion in Illinois. The investigation found that the online retail giant had commissioned 36 warehouses in the Chicago area since 2015. Most of the taxpayer assistance came from Black communities.

Columns written by BGA President and CEO David Greising were also awarded. Earning best commentary in the specialty/trade category, Greising’s political commentary columns regularly appear in the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business.

BGA senior investigative reporter David Jackson was also recognized for his work on “Crime and bond reform in Cook County,” a story he co-wrote at the Chicago Tribune. That project was awarded Best Investigative Reporting – Circulation more than 100,000 in the general interest daily newspapers, news service or bureau category.

The Chicago Headline Club is the largest Society of Professional Journalists chapter in the country. Winners were announced virtually on May 14. See the full list of winners here.