Observer alum takes 3rd place in nation

Editor-in-Chief places in national photo competition; Observer nets 8th place in Best of Show at MediaFest 2022

Observer staff

Shelby Anne Taylor, former Observer editor-in-chief, earned 3rd place in the Story of the Year feature writing category at the Pacemaker awards. The winners were announced at MediaFest 2022 on Oct. 28 in Washington DC. MediaFest is a national college journalism conference where colleges and universities attend from around the country.

Current Observer staff accepted the award on behalf of Taylor.

Taylor’s story, which previously won a state award for feature writing, was a profile of ECC student Ernesto Olea and his HIV diagnosis.  Taylor graduated Elgin Community College at the end of 2021; she served as Observer editor-in-chief during her final semester. Taylor currently attends University of Illinois-Chicago.

“I never expected to even be a contender for a national award, so getting third place feels pretty great,” Taylor said. “I’m mostly just excited that the story got a bigger audience because that means more people can read about [Olea] and hopefully come to love him, too.”

The Observer took home 8th place in the Best-in-Show competition for two-year schools in the website division. The Best-in-Show recognizes the work of schools that attended MediaFest in person.

“This recognition is gratifying,” said Nick Obradovich, Observer adviser. “Earning any sort of national award is extremely difficult. Our staff is made up of so many remarkable and likeable students. They work hard, and I’m could not be happier that they received this honor.”

Dominic Di Palermo, Observer editor-in-chief, competed in a photo contest at MediaFest, and earned an honor mention from a panel of 44 professional photojournalists. Di Palermo’s photo of a Franciscan monk was selected in the top 5 of 32 entries. For the competition, photographers were given a prompt, a set of guidelines and a deadline to submit their photos and captions. Di Palermo’s was voted 2nd among his fellow competitors at the conclusion of the competition on Oct. 29.

“Dom should be very proud of his work,” Obradovich said. “From the moment the competition started, he was working on finding a scene to shoot that would be special. He called multiple locations. He walked a lot. He took expensive Uber rides, all to push himself to take the best photo he could. He hustled as much as anyone in the competition.

“This conference was very special for the Observer,” Obradovich said.  “Dom’s performance and Shelby’s third place…those were just amazing. It validates their work on some level, but the truth is, they have a high level of intrinsic motivation. They do not produce outstanding work for awards. They produce it because it is in their character. At this conference, we even had other former Observer staff who was recognized for her work she produced at her transfer universities. All of this was very gratifying for me, almost overwhelming.”

This story was revised on November 7, 2022, to reflect Di Palermo’s honorable mention in the photo contest.