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Top story
Posted: November 13, 2004 09:43 PM
BBCNews.com, Ventura County Star take top honors

HOLLYWOOD — BBCNews.com in the United Kingdom and VenturaCountyStar.com in California took the awards for General Excellence in the fifth annual Online Journalism Awards, administered by the Online News Association and the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications.

The awards — emblematic of the best in online journalism — were handed out in seven professional and two student categories at the annual ONA convention, held Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel. In each professional category, separate awards were made to a site in large and small categories.

Following are the categories and winners in the 2004 competition:

  • General excellence in online journalism
  • Creative use of the medium
  • Enterprise journalism
  • Breaking news
  • Online commentary
  • Service journalism
  • Specialty journalism
  • Best student journalism
  • Best student Web site
  • Contest judges

    General Excellence in Online Journalism

    This category honors a Web site that successfully fulfills its editorial mission, effectively serves its audience, maximizes the use of the Web's characteristics and represents the highest journalism standards. The sites were judged on excellence of content, interactivity, multimedia, design, navigation and community tools.


    Paul Brannan, deputy editor of BBC News Interactive, accepts his organization's award. (Beth Welsh photo)

    Winner (large sites): BBCNews.com

    This is the second time that BBC News has won the general excellence award. The judges were effusive in their praise for this site, noting that it has continued to improve and innovate since BBC won the award two years ago. They provide breaking news around the world and around the clock in multiple languages. The site is well-designed and easy to navigate, offering versions optimized for narrow and broadband, Web and mobile devices. They use video and audio extensively, taking advantage of the deep resources of BBC News around the world. Community is an important part of the site too, with actively managed bulletin boards and live chat windows during live interviews and ongoing events. They set the standard for online news.

    Winner (small sites): VenturaCountyStar.com, covering Ventura County, California

    The judges said it's both a news site and an online home for the local community. They understand the area they serve, providing strong daily news coverage, live updates of high school sports, community photos, staff blogs, Web cams, and interactivity with clear design and navigation. They do something other local sites should do - providing links right on the home page to coverage of specific towns in their coverage area.

    Large site finalists: CNN.com, WSJ.com, WashingtonPost.com

    Small site finalists: PublicIntegrity.org, CQ.com, Frontline World, POV

    Creative Use of the Medium

    This category honors achievement in the combined use of audio and/or visual techniques, design, navigation, multimedia, interactivity and community to tell a story and serve a community.

    Winner (large sites):
    WashingtonPost.com for "Defining the Barrier" and AFP for "Tour de France"

    Regarding the Washingtonpost.com's package, the judges noted the creativity in storytelling, using both geography and point of view to illustrate the different sides of the conflict over the wall. They used maps, video, 360-degree photos and audio to explain complex issues in an even-handed and insightful way. The judges said it was an excellent use of the expertise of the Post correspondent in the region.

    And for the AFP Tour de France coverage, the judges said it is an incredible tool for following a sports event in real time, with an interface that provides tremendous detail on the race. It includes real-time running news updates and complete access to all data about every rider in the race. An excellent job mixing maps, news and data.

    Winner (small sites): POV/Borders for "Environment."

    The project is an interactive examination of the choices Americans make about what they eat, drink and breathe. The judges said the site is beautifully designed, with an outstanding mix of various media - using text, photos, audio, video, interactive graphics and games to tell each part of a very deep package.

    Large site finalists:

  • Sun-Sentinel.com for "Haiti: The Eroding Nation," a multimedia documentary on the environmental crises that deepen the poverty and despair of Haiti's people.
  • CourtTV.com for multimedia coverage of the Laci Peterson case
  • SPTimes.com for "The last full measure of devotion," an interactive special report on the bravery of Army Sgt. Paul Smith, who died defending his men in Iraq.

    Small site finalists:

  • GothamGazette.com for its rich roster of interactive games and quizzes, that take issues of civic life and politics in New York and turn them into clever interactive experiences.

  • WBUR.org for "Greenland: The Land of Ice and Stone," a multimedia documentary on the past and present of this isolated land.

  • Projo.com for "A Tribute to our Troops," a community site that allows friends and family members to create tribute pages for American service members deployed around the globe.

    Enterprise Journalism

    This category honors stories that uncover major news based on the reporters' own exclusive investigations or that offer compelling and original analysis and interpretation.

    Winner (large sites): CBSNews.com for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal

    The "60 Minutes" story broke open the scandal of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, and the judges said CBSNews.com did an excellent job of extending the story for the Web. It was packaged well and provided content that went far beyond what was in the television reports.

    Winner (small sites): PublicIntegrity.org for "Silent Partners"

    The judges called it a strong story which was timely in recognizing early on the impact 527 committees would have on the political campaign. Not only do their stories put the issue in context, their deep database and detailed research gives insight into which individuals are funding these organizations. An excellent, well-organized piece of Internet journalism with real impact.

    Large site finalists:

  • DenverPost.com for "Betrayal in the Ranks," an investigation into sexual assault and spousal abuse in the armed forces, and the military's mishandling, even punishment of the victims.

  • SeattleTimes.com for "Coaches Who Prey," examining sexual misconduct by athletic coaches at schools in the Pacific Northwest.
  • DallasNews.com for "Runaway Priests," a year-long project to track down priests who were accused of sexual abuse and fled to churches in other countries.
  • HoustonChronicle.com for "Searching for Eddie Peabody," the personal tale of a Houston Chronicle reporter who traveled to Liberia in the midst of civil war to track down his father.

    Small site finalists:

  • ConsumerWebWatch.org for "Booking and Bidding Site Unseen," a two-year investigation into whether Hotwire.com and Priceline.com really offer the best deals for consumers.
  • The World Fellows program from Frontline World, a series of reports from student journalists from around the globe.
  • JournalNow.com in Winston-Salem for "Murder, Race, Justice," an investigation into police tactics in the case of a young man convicted of murdering a woman, and 10 years later was exonerated and freed, in part because of the investigation.

    Breaking News

    This category honors coverage by a site staff of a breaking-news event or development demonstrating exceptional reporting under deadline pressure.

    Winner (large sites): SignOnSanDiego.com for coverage of "The Week of Fire"

    This award is for coverage of the October 2003 wildfires that swept through San Diego County. The judges said SignOnSanDiego.com knows their readers and their territory and covered the local story well, providing updates throughout the day, original video on deadline and a valuable tool that let readers find out how close the fires were to them - very important, practical information during a story that was changing quickly with conflicting reports.

    Winner (small sites): NBC4i.com for their coverage of the Columbus serial shootings

    The judges said that the site covered the story minute-by-minute with frequent updates on the Web. They used the medium well with profiles of the victims, maps of the shootings, comments from readers and in addition to breaking news coverage, offered solid service journalism providing up-to-date information for a community facing a crisis.

    Large site finalists:

  • NYTimes.com for coverage of the capture of Saddam Hussein.

  • WashingtonPost.com for coverage of the capture of Saddam Hussein.

    Small site finalists:

  • MousePlanet.com for coverage of an accident on a ride at Disneyland that killed one person and injured 10.

  • FresnoBee.com for reporting on a bizarre mass-murder.

  • PE.com for coverage of the October 2003 Southern California wildfires.

    Online Commentary

    This category honors a unique and powerful voice of commentary original to the Web, displaying freshness of insight and clear writing, with special emphasis on creative use of the medium through blogging and community journalism.

    Winner (large sites): Nicholas D. Kristof for his op-ed stories on NYTimes.com

    The judges said Kristoff is using a different medium to provide op-ed. He's extending his work to the Web in a significant way, clearly reporting these columns for both media simultaneously. In the paper you can read his column, online you can feel it. He's engaging his readers in his work and you can tell from the comments he gets back and forth that they value that interaction. He also goes out in the world to report in a way that many columnists do not - his piece on the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge points out that most people who talk about it, haven't ever seen it. He did.

    Winner (small sites): Dan Gillmor's "E-Journal"

    Dan Gillmor's "E-Journal" from SiliconValley.com is one of the original blogs covering news of the tech industry and topics beyond. The judges said it's a quick read that fits the medium, responds quickly to the news of the day and generates lots of comments from readers. Gillmor is a pioneer in the form who covers a wide range of topics and has one of the best approaches to commentary online. His approach, posting multiple times each day, has helped define the medium and influenced the hundreds of bloggers who followed him online.

    Large site finalists:

  • Seth Stevenson's "Ad Report Card" from Slate deconstructing television advertising with humor and intelligence.

  • James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" blog on politics, media and current events from OpinionJournal.com.

  • Christopher Dickey's "Shadowland" column from Newsweek.com, covering the war on terror and the war in Iraq from abroad.

  • "Fiscally Fit" columns by Terri Cullen, covering personal finance for The Wall Street Journal Online.

  • "Words, Woe & Wonder" by Blair Shewchuk of CBC News providing commentary on language and writing.

    Small site finalists:

  • "Mark Glaser Online" from Online Journalism Review, providing insightful commentary on new media.

  • Jay Rosen's "Pressthink" blog on politics and media.

    Service Journalism

    This category honors stories and sites that shed light on a single topic that helps visitors improve the quality of their lives, for example, health, personal finance, education or family, to name just a few such topics.

    Winner (large sites): CBC News for "Adverse Drug Reactions"

    The judges found it to be an extremely comprehensive project, giving Canadians, and Americans as well, useful information on dangerous drugs in an easy to use database, with accompanying stories and information providing valuable context. The judges said CBC News performed an outstanding public service in bringing this information to the public. They did significant work in getting the Canadian government to divulge this information and then putting it online.

    Winner (small sites): "Toxic Treats" from OCRegister.com

    The judges said the package is a very sound investigative project bringing attention to an important public health issue, with every part of the package in both English and Spanish. It is nicely repurposed from the newspaper and takes advantage of the medium with features the print version just can't offer - in particular the database of the candies and images of the wrappers is a very valuable public service, helping the community address an insidious problem.

    Large site finalists:

  • OrlandoSentinel.com for "Building Homes: Building Problems," a comprehensive look at shoddy home construction in Central Florida.

  • "Cell phones" from Consumerreports.org, a deep review of the pros and cons of different phones, carriers and service plans.

  • BusinessWeek Online's "B-Schools" section, providing everything you want to know about business schools, from rankings and profiles to admissions advice.

    Small site finalists:

  • Epicenter from PE.com, the earthquake news and preparedness section from Web site of the Riverside, California Press-Enterprise.

  • Projo.com's coverage of the ongoing impact of the Station nightclub fire on Rhode Islanders.

    Specialty Journalism

    Specialty Journalism is a category that's new to the OJAs this year. It honors Web sites and subsites that focus on a specific area of content, such as entertainment and the arts, sports, business, lifestyle and so on.

    Winner (large sites):
    "Canada Votes" from CBC News

    The judges found the CBC site covering the June 2004 Canadian elections to be breathtaking in its comprehensiveness, offering a detailed look at the entire country, covering issues, deep election results, analysis and commentary, voter tools and extensive archives. CBC News goes well beyond the election coverage provided by many other news organizations.

    Winner (small sites): The Arts section of WBUR.org

    The judges described the site as a terrific example of arts journalism. It provides cultural news, blogs, cartoons, reviews and opinion. In particular, the judges said the arts blog is an innovative way to provide local arts coverage. If you live in the Boston area and want to stay tuned in to the arts, nothing would be more useful.

    Large site finalists:

  • MayoClinic.com, the comprehensive health information site produced by the Mayo Clinic.

  • The Movies section of NYTimes.com, providing reviews and information about new movies, DVDs and videos.

  • The Outdoors section of LATimes.com, offering advice, columns and multimedia covering outdoor life and activities in Southern California and the West.

  • HoustonChronicle.com's special site covering SuperBowl XXXVIII [38]

    Small site finalists:

  • CowboysPlus.com, a site dedicated to covering the Dallas Cowboys for fans of "America's Team," wherever they are.

  • CQ.com's Homeland Security site, providing news on the federal government's actions in securing the nation against terrorist attack.

    Best Student Journalism

    This new category honors excellence in original online journalism by a full-time student or student team reporting on a single story or issue.

    Winner: "Chiloe Stories"

    An online documentary by students from the University of North Carolina and the University of the Andes examines the clash of modern culture and native traditions in a fishing and farming community on an isolated archipelago in Southern Chile. The judges said this bilingual site exhibits excellent design, slicing the story in a nonlinear fashion and using the medium well, combining text, sophisticated photography and graphics in an easy-to-navigate package that shows creativity and innovation. It's a huge effort on a little-known topic.


  • "Friendship Stories," a unique look at the multiple facets of friendship through the eyes of eight pairs of friends, produced by students at Ball State University.
  • "Making it in LA," a examination of the lives and economic struggles of six Los Angeles residents striving to improve their lot, reported and produced by students at the USC Annenberg School for Communication.
  • And "South Africa: 10 Years On," also from the University of North Carolina, a multimedia look at race relations in South Africa 10 years after the end of apartheid.

    Best Student Web site

    Another new category, awarding overall excellence in an online news Web site by a staff of student journalists.

    Arizona State University's WebDevil

    This site provides news to ASU's 57,000 students. The judges noted that the WebDevil is an online newspaper that's covering its community well, with a strong focus on breaking news. They're doing exactly what a news Web site should do.

    Finalist: NewsLink Indiana, a site serving Muncie, Indiana and the surrounding counties, produced by a team at Ball State University.


    The Online Journalism Awards received 500 English-language entries from Web sites in the United States and abroad.

    The Online News Association is an association composed largely of professional online journalists. The Association has more than 600 members whose principal livelihood involves gathering or producing news for digital presentation. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, photographers and others who produce news for the Internet or other digital delivery systems, as well as academic members and others interested in the development of online journalism.

    The USC Annenberg School for Communication, located in Los Angeles, is among the nation's leading institutions devoted to the study of journalism and communication, and their impact on politics, culture and society. With an enrollment of more than 1,700 graduate and undergraduate students, USC Annenberg offers B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in journalism, communication, and public relations.

    This is the list of judges for the 2004 awards:

    Beau Brendler, director, Consumer Reports WebWatch;

    Merrill Brown, founder and principal, MMB Media LLC;

    Doug Feaver, executive editor, Washingtonpost.com and president of the Online News Association;

    Sue Gardner, director, CBC.Ca;

    Mitch Gelman, senior vice president and executive producer, CNN.com;

    Rich Jaroslovsky, editor at large, Bloomberg News;

    Chris Jennewein, director of Internet operations, Union-Tribune Publishing Co.;

    Kevin P. McKenna, Circuits editor, The New York Times;

    Anthony Moor, editor, OrlandoSentinel.com;

    Robert Niles, Editor, Online Journalism Review;

    Michael Parks, professor and director, School of Journalism, USC Annenberg School for Communication;

    Kevin Roderick, journalist and creator of L.A. Observed blog;

    Neal Scarbrough, vice president and editor-in-chief, ESPN.com.

    • Student newsroom and conference site sponsor