In April 2015, North Central College’s Russ Tanzillo and Josh Barlog were hosting their weekly radio show at 89.1 WONC-FM when they received a call from fellow staff member, Sean McDermott, a certified storm chaser, while he was following a twister in Rochelle.
What they did not know at the time was that the live feed of that phone call, set up by producer Sam Reiman, would earn the Associated Press' Best Spot News Award.
“We had done a few live calls before that but were not that familiar with the system,” Reiman said. Good instinct and quick thinking by Reiman led to the airing of McDermott’s chase for listeners.
“Watching the sky go from dark gray to pitch black while the EF-4 tornado crossed the highway in front of me and my partner was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life,” McDermott said. “As a child I was terrified of tornadoes. But as I grew older I became infatuated with tornadoes and started to appreciate their beauty as well as their incredible destructive powers.”
Reiman submitted the broadcast to the Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters Association, leading to the station receiving the award.