Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wins APME Innovator of Year Award

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s “Just the FAQs” was named winner of the 2017 APME  Innovator of the Year Award.

The Journal Sentinel developed short, snappy and sharable videos that allow viewers to cut through a fog of information available in social media and online. “Just the FAQs” uses a new Wochit video-editing tool. Anyone in the newsroom can create clean, appealing and informative videos in less than an hour, usually after just one training session. The new video-editing tool has helped drive traffic. Video views in the last quarter of 2016 were 1.14 million. In the first quarter of 2017, video traffic increased to 1.44 million, and in the second quarter of 2017, video views jumped to 2.75 million. Judges said: “This is a great idea on several levels. Not only does it work for the short attention spans of readers in the era of social media and the smartphone, but also it repurposes existing content. Very clever to have a tool that cuts down on the production and editing time; it appears simple enough for just about anyone in the newsroom to use. This is certainly an idea that could be used by other news organizations.”

Competition for the 2017 Innovator of the Year award started with three finalists that pushed their relevancy and their limits. The winner was announced Tuesday at the News Leadership Conference in Washington.

The Journal Sentinel won $1,000 for their work.

Other winners announced Tuesday at the News Leadership Conference were:

In the News Reporting category, the winner in the 150,000 and up circulation category was the Dallas Morning News, for “Covering the Chaos of the Dallas Police Shooting.” The judges said the Morning News “provided the model for owning a big breaking news story. The staff did a first-rate job of making sense of events that created chaos in the streets and left police, marchers and readers unsure what would happen next.”

In the under-40,000 category, the winner is the St. Cloud Times, for “Mall stabbings.” According to the judges: “The staff of the St. Cloud Times preserved nuance, context and humanity in covering a major breaking news story that had potential for dividing the community. We hear from all sides in quick order after 10 people were stabbed at a mall by a 20-year-old Somali refugee.”

Storytelling

The winner in the large-circulation category is Christopher Goffard of the Los Angeles Times, for “Framed.” The judges called this “beat reporting at its finest, a great example of what happens when a diligent reporter with sharp news judgment realizes he has struck gold. The result is a story that reads like a crime novel, rich in details that expose the evil committed by a wealthy couple bent on the destruction of a less-well-off member of the community.”

In the 40,000 to 149,999 category, the winner is Frank Main of the Chicago Sun-Times for “Life on the Ledge,” the story of a woman who jumped to her death in the reporter’s own neighborhood. According to the judges, Main’s story was characterized by “great writing, smart organization, thoughtful interviews and great reporting. . . . His story revealed a woman who overcame significant challenges yet couldn’t outrun the mental illness that drove her to take her own life. Effortless online story form complements the spare writing, moving the story forward.”

In the under-40,000 circulation category, the winners were Brett Kelman and Gustavo Solis of The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, California, for “Border Bodies: The Grim Mysteries of Southern California.” The judges said: “This was a unique approach to covering problems on the border. The project presentation included good integration of video tools into the vertical progression of the story and made for a riveting experience. 

One entry in the Storytelling category stood out from the rest. Not because of its digital wizardry or “aha” value. But because of the old-fashioned eloquence and the courage of the man who wrote it, Bill Lyon, a retired Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist, who for more than a year has been chronicling his experience of Alzheimer’s disease. For his work, the APME board is honoring Bill with a one-time Special Achievement in Storytelling Award.

Mobile Platform Award

The winner was the Dallas Morning News for the redesign of DallasNews.com. Commenting on the success of the redesign, the judges said:  “The site provided fast load time, easy access and operation and the slide-out menu made it extremely easy to navigate. It was visually attractive with the big photos and headlines.  The redesign made the DallasNews.com site a nice way to increase readership and reader traffic. Nicely done!”

Community Engagement Award

The APME Community Engagement Award, in the 75,000 and up category, went to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, for “Somalis in Minnesota. The newspaper’s work stood out in a category of outstanding entries. According to the judges: “The Star Tribune’s series on the struggles of the city’s Somali Americans, some labeled unfairly as extremists, rises to the top as the best example of engaging a community on a complex topic. The newspaper gained the trust of this community and told the hard, honest truth that, while most Somali Americans live normal lives, there are some whose singular goal is to join terrorist organizations… The newspaper not only produced content that engaged with the community, but deepened its credibility by enlisting a Somali journalist who eventually was hired… Great work.”

In the under-75,000 category, the winner is the Peoria Journal Star, for “City of Disparity.” The judges said the “project shows what can be accomplished by a small local staff with deep commitment to community engagement. An impressive turnaround for the paper’s image and meaning to the local community…  The project’s success rests in the community learning troubling facts about itself.”

The Gannett Foundation is the sponsor of the Al Neuharth Award for Investigative Reporting. This year’s winner in the 75,000 and up category wasShocking Force,” by Mark Puente and Doug Donovan of The (Baltimore) Sun. According to the judges, their work combined database work with shot-leather reporting and outstanding storytelling.

In the under-75, 000 circulation category, the award went to The Flint Journal, for “All the Governor’s Men.” The judges called this “dogged watchdog work from a staff that wouldn’t accept what they were hearing from the governor’s office. This team was way ahead of the national media on the investigative work and finding the faces and voices of those who were affected as contaminated water put the population at risk.”

First Amendment Award

The winner in the 40,000 to 150,000 category was the Quad-City Times, for “Steady Drumbeat.” The newspaper changed a political culture in Davenport, Iowa, in which the business of the people was conducted in informal closed meetings of small groups of aldermen that didn’t constitute a quorum. The City Council called it “reaching consensus. The newspaper saw it for what it was: a cynical means of bypassing open government laws. After a steady drumbeat from the newspaper, the new mayor relented and opened the meetings to the public. The judges said, “The Quad-City Times’ efforts epitomized the goals of First Amendment journalism and brought about change in the public interest.”

In the under-40,000 category, the winner is the Peoria Journal Star, for “Police Report Unmasked.” The newspaper waged a two and a half year battle with the city of Peoria to obtain a police officer’s report about her colleagues’ and supervisors’ misuse of on-the-clock time litigating the case to the appellate level and winning at every turn. The result was an investigative report that revealed how officers went home or did other personal activities while they were on the taxpayer-funded clock. The police chief and many other department leaders ultimately left the city or were reassigned.

Public Service Award

The winner in the 150,000 and up category were the Chicago Tribune and reporters Ray Long, Karisa King and Sam Roe, for “Dangerous Doses.” Working with the Columbia University Medical Center, the newspaper found that all too often, pharmacists miss dangerous, potentially fatal, drug interactions. The judges said the project was characterized by its journalistic sophistication and novel approach and noted that it changed rules and laws governing pharmacists and their training. In short, judges said, this is journalism that undoubtedly has saved lives and will continue to do so.

The winner of the Public Service Award in the 40,000 to 150,000 category was the Herald-Tribune of Sarasota, for “Bias on the Bench.” The newspaper analyzed the sentencing patterns of trial judges across Florida and found that blacks frequently received far longer sentences than whites convicted of similar crimes.

In the under-40,000 circulation category, the winner is the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois, for “Enough.”  As Illinois lawmakers’ inability to agree on a state budget made the state a national laughingstock, the State Journal-Register led a collaborative statewide effort to show the impact of the budget stalemate. Newspapers across Illinois decried the legislative inaction through stories, editorials and columns, prompting tens of thousands citizens to respond. Said the judges: “This was a strong example of leadership, determination and ingenuity.”

Associated Press staff award winners in the Feature Writing category were

Sharon Cohen, Martha Irvine and Charles Rex Arbogast, for “Beyond the Bullet.”

The judges called their work “A compassionate, yet insightful look at one boy’s adjustment to a new life in the aftermath of being shot, apparently randomly, on the streets of Chicago during a time when escalating gun violence in that city treats these individual tragedies more often as statistics.”

The AP staff award for Best Use of Video went to Martha Irvine for “Ben’s Voice,” a compelling look at how parents cope with adult children with autism. The judges noted, “As the reporter focuses on Ben’s successes, she also shows a clear and sobering picture of his dependence on his parents for his most basic needs.”

In Best Digital Storytelling, winners were Martha Irvine, Jonathan Bachman and Roque Ruiz, for “Ben’s Voice.” Judges said: “Although Ben is voiceless, relying on a computer to speak for him, there would be a temptation to tell his story for him. In this winning entry, however, Ben is allowed to tell his own compelling story of the effects of autism and how one family chose to face it head on. The viewer is drawn into Ben’s Voice through the linear progression in which the story unfolded and through Ben’s own words, which seem perfectly chosen. In this amazing story, we learn that Ben carried a 3.7 grade point average at Tulane University, even as his mother had to brush his teeth.”

The Charles Rowe Award recognizes an AP staff journalist for excellence in state news reporting. This year’s winner was Mark Scolforo, for “Pennsylvania Open Records.” The judges called this “diligent, exhaustive and relentless work” and said, “This ambitious report leveraging the power of the Associated Press and more than 100 journalists from 19 newspapers across Pennsylvania found that government offices are not applying the state’s Right-to-Know Law uniformly and sometimes scrub critical details from records they turn over.”

Other winners in their categories were:

The Samuel G. Blackman Award for Enterprise Reporting – Hannah Dreier, for “Venezuela Undone.” Hannah received $1,000 sponsored by Ann Blackman and Michael Putzel.

The John Winn and Margo C. Miller Award is given annually to an AP staffer 30 years old or younger. This year’s winner was Hannah Dreier.

The AP staff award for Global Sports Accountability Reporting went to John Leicester, Eddie Pells, Ben Curtis, John Minchillo and Roque Ruiz, for “Global Doping Impact.” In the awards for AP staff photography, the winner in the News Single Shot category is Burhan Ozbilici, for “Turkey: And Assassination,” the iconic image that captured a gunman’s assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey.

In the Photography-News Story category, the winner was Felipe Dana, for “The Battle in Mosul.”

The winner in the Feature Single Shot category was Rodrigo Abd, for “Ray of Light.”

The winner in the Photography-Feature Story category was A.M. Ahad, for “Bangladesh: Migrant Worker Life.”

ASNE Awards

Each year, the American Society of News Editors recognizes excellence in journalism. Inspired by former ASNE President Eugene Patterson and started in 1979, the contest is open to all newspapers, news services and news websites across the United States. The awards honor excellence in 10 categories.

ASNE Breaking News Writing

The winner was the staff of the East Bay Times (Bay Area News Group) for its strong and comprehensive coverage of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. The judges said in part: “East Bay Times’ hustling, comprehensive and rapid-fire digital coverage of the Oakland warehouse fire captured every available detail of this horrendous tragedy in the first 18 hours, including quickly breaking investigative reporting on failures by fire inspectors.”

The ASNE Photojournalism Award

The winner was the staff of The Dallas Morning News for a compelling entry titled “July 7th shooting.” The judges said, in part, “The Dallas Morning News’ ‘July 7th Shooting’ is a showcase of compelling breaking news photography woven with poignant, touching imagery that documents the aftermath. The viewer is placed in the middle of a breaking news situation, a harrowing, horrific shooting playing out in the streets of Dallas, despite incredible danger and unknown circumstances and personal risk to the photographer.”

The ASNE Mike Royko Award for Commentary/ColumnWriting

This year’s recipient was Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press for a series of editorial and columns including ones about Flint’s long miser and one titled “Invisible in Trump’s America” and another, “Police shootings of black men: Haven’t we seen enough?” The judges said, in part: “Stephen Henderson writes with grace, clarity and humanity, an exceptional combination at any point in time but one that is especially valued amid the unspooling tumult of 2016. That he writes with such experience and insight about his native Detroit in no way diminishes his ability to write about the national political scene and the human condition, both of which he did in this year’s extraordinary entry.

The Frank A. Blethen Award for Local Accountability Award recognizes outstanding work done by a news organization that holds important local institutions accountable for their actions. The winner was the staff of The Salt Lake Tribune for “Campus sexual assault in Utah,” reporting that spurred change and charges.” The judges cited The Salt Lake Tribune’s “relentless coverage of how Brigham Young University and Utah State University botched investigations into sexual abuse complaints. Their reporting highlighted example after example of how victims were vilified.

ASNE Burl Osborne Award for Editorial Leadership

The winner was Brian Colligan, The Virginian-Pilot for “The Jailhouse Death of Jamycheal Mitchell” The judges said, in part: “Brian Colligan led The Virginian-Pilot’s editorial campaign on ‘The Jailhouse Death of Jamycheal Mitchell’ with passion and grit. He took up the mantle of a mentally ill man, jailed for stealing $5 of snacks from a convenience store, who never got his court-ordered psychological evaluation but rather was found dead in his cell 101 days later. Colligan pressed for investigations and transparency and reminded readers at every turn of the injustice done to this man.

ASNE Deborah Howell Award for Writing Excellence went to Billy Baker, The Boston Globe for the beautifully written and dramatic story,  “The Power of Will.”  The judges said, in part, “”In ‘The Power of Will,’ Billy Baker used detailed reporting, beautiful writing and dramatic tension to craft a compelling narrative that holds its audience rapt until the very end. Baker tells the story of Will Lacey, a boy diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that typically kills.

ASNE Punch Sulzberger Award for Online Storytelling went to Malia Politzer and Emily Kassie, The Huffington Post for the entry, “The 21st Century Gold Rush.” The judges said, in part: “Visually stunning, cleverly presented and richly reported, ‘The 21st Century Gold Rush’ is a masterstroke in high-end digital storytelling that is easy to navigate and understand. Not only were the reporters able to capture readers in a delicate story via the written word, but also the interwoven photos, facts and widgets led the readers’ attention by the hand, winding them through the story.

The O’Brien Fellowship Award for Impact in Public Service Journalism went to the Panama Papers reporting team, The Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, McClatchy, the Miami Herald and more than 100 other media partners The entry:The Panama Papers: Politicians, Criminals and the Rogue Industry that Hides Their Cash. The judges said, in part: “The Panama Papers is recognized with the inaugural O’Brien Fellowship Award for Impact in Public Service

Journalism because of the breadth of its reporting, the strength of the partnership that yielded this effort and the global impact that resulted.”

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