Melanie Balog is a columnist and outreach editor. She joined the paper in 2005 as an assistant city editor. She was named web editor in 2008 and digital editor in 2010. Prior to that she spent 8 years as a reporter and news editor at The Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, IL. In 2003 she received a first-place award for column writing from the Illinois Press Association. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Millikin University in Decatur, IL and a master's degree in professional writing from Illinois State University, and has been an adjunct instructor at the College of Charleston.