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Love story wins top journalism honor for Sun-Times reporter

Walter Levin (right) with his wife Evi Levin in 2015. | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Stefano Esposito has been awarded one of the top honors in Illinois journalism for his two-part series “Evi & Walter: A love story in any key.”

The Chicago Headline Club honored Esposito on Friday night with its 2016 Anne Keegan Award, recognizing journalists “who tell stories of ordinary people in extraordinarily well-reported and well-written prose.”

His stories, published online and in print last Dec. 27-28, examined the lives and struggles of a remarkable Chicago couple, Evi and Walter Levin.

Introducing the stories, Esposito wrote: “As a renowned classical musician and teacher who counted the great American conductor James Levine among his students, Walter Levin led, and others followed. Now it’s his wife of 66 years, Evi Levin, who leads, orchestrating every aspect of his life and trying to keep the music alive as he faces dementia.”

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Stefano Esposito. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times
Stefano Esposito. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

sposito’s award marked the third time in the past four years that a Sun-Times reporter has won the Keegan Award, named for a former Chicago Tribune reporter who died in 2011.

The Headline Club — the Chicago chapter of the national Society of Professional Journalists — also handed out its annual Peter Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism at a dinner Friday at the Union League Club of Chicago. The awards, named for the late Peter Lisagor, Washington bureau chief of the old Chicago Daily News, were expanded this year to recognize the best in journalism throughout Illinois.

Sun-Times staffers took home six Lisagor Awards, winning top honors in categories covering a range of reporting, photography, commentary and design:

• Photographer Ashlee Rezin won in two categories for her work with Esposito on “Evi & Walter” — for best feature photos among big-circulation newspapers and news services and for best online photography.

• Lauren FitzPatrick and Dan Mihalopoulos also won in two categories — best political and government reporting among big papers and news services and also best education reporting for a series of investigative reports on the downfall of Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

• John W. Fountain won for best news column or commentary for a selection of editorial page columns.

• And Jessica Sedgwick won for best design among big papers for three samples of her work for the Sunday magazine Splash.