OJA winners a memorable group

October 4, 2009 | By | Category: Top Story

By Anna Bloom

Online Journalism Award (OJA) winners this year won’t soon be forgotten. In between an exhibit of Pulitzer prize-winning photography and drawers of newspapers dating back to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, many of 2009′s innovators and their projects will be welcomed into the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. The museum is archiving the winners as part of a new effort to preserve history in an era that is not naturally wired for nostalgia.

“The phrase has always been that journalism is the first draft of history,” said Thom Lieb, a professor of mass communication at Maryland’s Towson University. “Unfortunately, in the digital age, those drafts are disappearing.”

The 2009 OJA winners (full list) have a lot in common with their ancestors at the Newseum, said Lieb, who was instrumental in connecting the museum with ONA. Both the winners and their predecessors focused on local interests and independent journalism.

For example, Publish 2, which offers journalists a set of linking tools that foster collaboration between journalists and readers, received $5,000 as the first Gannett Foundation Award winner for technical innovation in the service of digital journalism. The Gotham Gazette, a civic-minded resource for New York City, awarded a Creative Use Award in 2004 by OJA, was this year recognized again for its general excellence in the micro site category. Next Door Media’s My Ballard, a Seattle neighborhood site, was recognized as the first to receive a Community Collaboration Award.

“For all the neighborhood newsites, I think this is a respected stamp of approval for all the sites,” said Cory Bergman who accepted the award with Kate, his wife and co-founder of Next Door Media.

Among the other award-winners was The Chauncey Bailey Project, an in-depth investigation by more than 24 journalists into the murder of an Oakland Post reporter. The project took home two awards, receiving $5,000 for the Knight Award for Public Service and OJA’s award for investigative journalism in the small site category. Guantanamo: Beyond the Law, by McClatchy journalists Tom Lasseter and Matt Schofield, was honored by ONA for investigative journalism for a large site. ProPublica, the LasVegasSun.com, and The New York Times were also honored, each receiving a $3,000 cash prize from the Gannett Foundation for general excellence.

Overseas winners included Kazakhstan’s Radio Azattyq, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Kazakh Service for the small-site category for standing in defense of citizen’s rights to seek and receive information when Kazakh authorities tried to ban a book critical of the president. Spain’s soitu.es won an OJA large site award for its focus on audience-focused engagement and its mix of original content and aggregated material.

For Breaking News, OJA awarded top honors to Pressconnects.com/Press & Sun-Bulletin for its coverage of a mass shooting, the BBC News for its coverage of the Mumbai Attacks, and Knoxnews.com for its coverage of a church shooting.

In the Specialty Site Journalism category, Yale Environment 360 was recognized for its melting pot of news, opinion and community engagement. The Military Times was recognized for its service to a community that lacks a geographic center.

The OJA Awards for Multimedia Feature Presentation went to the National Film Board of Canada for Waterlife, the LasVegasSun.com for Quenching Las Vegas’ Thirst, and Washington Post Digital for Sacred Ground: The Building of the Pentagon Memorial.

The ONA Awards for Topical Reporting/Blogging went to The Flame Trench, Florida Today’s Space Team Blog and NPR.org’s Planet Money. The ONA Awards for Online Commentary/Blogging went to Christopher Buckley of The Daily Beast and Hero Complex by the Los Angeles Times.

Muckety and The New York Times Interactive Graphics won for Outstanding Use of Digital Technologies. In the student journalism category, awards were given to Lisa Pickoff-White, a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley for her project, It Happens at Midnight, and to students at UNC-Chapel Hill for Andaman Rising. A special recognition was given to Doug Feaver of washingtonpost.com, who received the Rich Jaroslovsky Award for lifetime service to ONA.

For Online Video Journalism, ONA gave awards to MediaStorm’s Danny Wilcox Frazier for Driftless: Stories from Iowa and Slate V for The Power Recap.

In the next year Lieb will begin the daunting task of hunting down award winners from the last 10 years, knowing that some projects, and their creators, might be impossible to find again. The BBC’s 24-Hours of War, a video project about wars throughout the world, for example, has a site, but the videos themselves are gone, says Lieb.

“It’s a project I’d love my students to see but it’s no longer available,” he said. “Someone leaves the OJA awards doing cartwheels and then they move on.”

This year, however, will be different. After the ceremony, Lieb interviewed the winners from Muckety, soitu.es, The Chauncey Bailey Project, Pressconnect.com, BBC News, NPR and MyBallard for the Newseum exhibit.

Judges of 2009’s Online Journalism Awards

  • Rosental Alves, Professor and Knight Chair in Journalism, University of Texas
  • Rich Beckman, Knight Chair of Visual Journalism, School of Communication, University of Miami
  • Paul Brannan, Editor, Emerging Platforms, BBC News
  • Alberto Cairo, James H. Shumaker Assistant Professor, School of Journalism, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Stephen Engelberg, Managing Editor, ProPublica
  • Rich Jaroslovsky, Technology/Digital Media Columnist, Bloomberg News
  • Keith W. Jenkins, Supervising Senior Producer for Multimedia, NPR.org
  • Tom Kennedy, Multimedia Journalism Consultant
  • Katie King, Creative and Development Editor, MSN UK
  • Solana Larsen, Managing Editor, Global Voices
  • Suzanne Levinson, Director of Site Operations, Miami Herald Media Co.
  • Michelle Nicolosi, Executive Producer, seattlepi.com
  • Eric Scherer, Director of Strategic Planning, Agence-France Presse
  • Tenny Tatusian, Associate Editor, latimes.com
  • Matt Thompson, Interim Online Community Manager, Knight Foundation
  • Molly Wood, Executive Editor, CNETTV.com

The click-through slideshow was photographed by Armand Emamdjomeh and Nicole Fallek and photo edited by Isabel Esterman.

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