CU-CitizenAccess receives national award for project highlighting racial issues in Central Illinois

You are currently viewing CU-CitizenAccess receives national award for project highlighting racial issues in Central IllinoisSam Vega/Hoy has won a national investigative journalism award for its collaborative project with Hoy Chicago looking at changing demographics and racial issues in Central Illinois.

Investigative Reporters and Editors, a 4,000 member organization, gave the small multi-platform award to CU-CitizenAccess and Hoy Chicago for the project called Midwest Chronicles.

The project took a deep look at the demographic shift across 16 counties in Central Illinois, including stories on racial issues and data analysis of crime statistics. The project included presentations in video, audio, and text on the organizations’ Web sites and a 16 page supplement published in editions of the News-Gazette and Hoy Chicago last fall.

CU-CitizenAccess contributors named in the award were Brant Houston, Professor and Knight Chair in Investigative Journalism in the College of Media at the University of Illinois and Pam Dempsey, the CU-CitizenAccess project coordinator.

CU-CitizenAccess is an online community news site based at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign that also works with the News-Gazette and Illinois Public Media.

Hoy contributors named were Jeffrey Kelly Lowenstein, Samuel Vega, Roger Morales and Fernando Diaz. Hoy Chicago is a Spanish language daily and Web site published by the Tribune Company.

“We deeply appreciate the recognition of a journalism project that focused on the profound changes and issues in Central Illinois and showed the strength of collaboration among journalists and their organizations,” Houston said. “We also want to thank all those who helped jump-start CU-CitizenAccess with funding and for the continued support of the College of Media and the Stevick Foundation.”

CU-CitizenAccess launched in 2009 with funding from the Marajen Stevick Foundation and the University of Illinois and a matching community information grant from the John S. Knight and James L. Knight Foundation.

The stories, photos and graphics show the impact of the changes and the successes and struggles of those who have immigrated to Central Illinois – and of those who were born here but who say they still face challenges in becoming a part of their communities.

To better serve all readers, the project has stories in both Spanish and English, with additional online content at and In addition, some stories were published by the News-Gazette, which printed and distributed the supplement, and aired by Illinois Public Radio.

Earlier this year, the project’s infographic “Seeds of Change” in the print edition (a version can be seen here) netted an Award of Excellence from the Society for News Design.  This dot-density demographic map, created by Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, Alex Bordens and Kyle Bentle from the Chicago Tribune and Hoy Chicago visually shows the diversity downstate.

The project has also been named a finalist in the Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor Awards in the multimedia category as reporters from Hoy Chicago produced video stories of our collaborative work during the reporting process.

Review the full project here.

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