2 Newspapers Pick Up Online Awards

By: Wayne Robins

The Web sites of Fort Lauderdale’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel and The (Durham, N.C.) Herald-Sun were the only two newspaper affiliates to take top prizes in last weekend’s second annual Online Journalism Awards. The awards are sponsored by the Online News Association and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

The Sun-Sentinel won the Feature Journalism: Affiliated category for “Witness to an Epidemic — AIDS in the Caribbean.” (“Affiliated” categories refer to sites connected to print or TV outlets, to distinguish them from “Independent” categories, which related to online standalones such as Slate.com or Salon.com.)

Judges cited both the content and presentation of the Sun-Sentinel‘s package. “The writing is brief, intelligent and clear, making great use of photography and providing good access to powerful information,” the judges said. The “beautiful” presentation was offered online in two bandwidths and three languages: English, Spanish, and Creole, with reports from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.

Other finalists in that category were The New York Times on the Web, ABCNews.com, and CNN.com.

The Herald-Sun won the top prize for Creative Use of the Medium: Affiliated for “Touching Hearts — A Story of Hope & Help in Nicaragua,” about its hometown Duke University medical mission to the impoverished Central American country. The judges were impressed by “a daring design that made good use of the ‘Ken Burns-style’ technique of moving a camera over still photos.” They added: “The Durham paper covered the story of local Duke University doctors donating their services in Nicaragua as only a local newspaper could and then told that story as only a Web site could.”

Other finalists were the Web site of the Canadian television network CTV, MSNBC.com, Time.com, and ProJo.com, the Web site of The Providence (R.I.) Journal.

Both the Sun-Sentinel and Herald Sun Web productions complemented special sections of the print editions of their respective newspapers. In addition, the Sun-Sentinel also produced the story as a radio documentary on WXEL-FM, the local NPR affiliate, for which the South Florida flagship of the Tribune Co. provides news.

“The print stories were many column inches of material. We re-wrote it in an online-friendly format that perhaps made the photos more central,” said David Blackwell, deputy managing editor for multimedia at the Sun-Sentinel. Blackwell estimates that it took about six weeks from the time all the material was collected to produce the package on the three tracks: print, interactive, and radio. The story ran in June.

“It was extremely collaborative,” Blackwell said. “The interactive designers are on the print graphics staff of the newspaper, and work very well with the online folks.”

In Durham, a key member of the photo staff also works well with the online department, since they are the same guy. Joe Weiss, the multimedia editor, is also a photographer for the newspaper.

The family-owned Herald-Sun sent a reporter, Jim Shamp, and Weiss, a photgrapher, to Nicaragua for 11 days with the Duke doctors. The result was a 24-page special section in the newspaper last February, and the award-winning interactive production.

“I was the photgrapher, gathered all the audio in the field, the designer, and the programmer,” Weiss said. He used a mini-disc recorder for audio. At the time of the trip, the Herald-Sun was in transition from film to digital photography, so he shot his pictures with a Nikon and “old school film.”

“The daily [online] product is put out by the same copy editors and designers who put out our normal paper,” Weiss said. As the multimedia editor, he executes the interactive elements and coordinates special projects with the newsroom. “We don’t have five or six people to throw on this, but one of the things we can make up for is we can give a project like this more production and editing time,” he said. “We make due with a limited amount of resources. What we have is time and the ability to adapt.”

To see the winning packages, visit http://www.heraldsun.com/heart/ and http://www.sun-sentinel.com/witness.

For a complete list of winners, visit http://www.journalists.org/.

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