2016 Morris Journalism Excellence Awards
2016 Morris Journalism Excellence Awards
June 21st, 2016
Congratulations to all the recipients of the tenth annual Morris Journalism Excellence Awards, a celebration of enduring stars across the company.
Even as we experience the tidal wave of change on our business model, we must not forget that our content must be of the highest quality and have value to the people in our communities. The journalism highlighted in these awards is a shining example of the great work our teams do. Below are some highlights from each of the winners.
And once again, congratulations on a job well done.
Till next time,
Morris Journalism Excellence Awards 2016
(Commentary below is a compilation from judges and Frank Denton)
A (Large Market)
Tessa Duval, Florida Times-Union
An impressive look at a mostly minority middle school that, after 19 years of near-failing grades, was transformed into two schools: an academy for boys and one for girls. Reporter Tessa Duvall interviewed administrators, teachers and students for a well-written three-part package on how the school had changed and the effects those changes were having on the kids, like sharp declines in behavior issues and sharp increases in (still dismal) reading scores. The sidebars on the kids -- especially their poetry -- were engaging and deeply moving. And the newspaper's radio and TV platforms extended the reach of the stories. A strong, highly readable package with terrific visuals.
"Transforming Butler" is an excellent look at how one school transformed itself from a struggling below-average institution to a creative environment. Kudos to reporter Tessa Duvall -- and members of the editing/design team -- who used every form of media -- web, print,TedX talk,video, live-streaming, TV, radio and social media -- to convey the important message of renewal. In addition, Duvall's writing and appearances were a needed catalyst for the community, which offered help to the school in the form of a free field trip, free books, and free dry cleaning services. Nice work!
Terrific reporting that turned into an excellent example of community engagement that went way beyond the traditional reporting to a series of events and efforts that showed the reform of a troubled school.
B (Small Market)
Juneau Empire staff
Transboundary mining engagement in Alaska and beyond
The Juneau Empire devoted extraordinary space to reporting, commentary and public response to the issue of Canada's transboundary mining -- proposals to build giant new mines in Canada whose runoff and pollutants would threaten Alaskan waterways to the south and west of the mines. The paper made a similar effort in 2014. And it appears it's getting results. Canada, which initially had said mining decisions were its responsibility solely, has now agreed to cooperate with Alaskan officials on drafting new water quality and safety measures. It's not clear to me how much the paper's coverage directly contributed to that agreement, but the sheer volume -- and diversity -- and its use of social media has to have had an impact. A real triumph for a small newspaper.
Nice job engaging with the public, using the web and video to build a (large) conversation about Canada's mines polluting Alaska waters.
Samantha Foster and Justin Wingerter, Topeka Capital-Journal
Topekan held in terrorism plot: Fort Riley bomb plan alleged
Strong coverage of a young man arrested on terrorism charges. Reporter Justin Wingerter delivered a solid mainbar and an excellent follow on how confidential informants set up the arrest and the pros and cons of an entrapment defense. Meanwhile, reporter Samantha Foster provided excellent sidebars on the young man's reaching out to an imam, Catholic priests and a Lutheran minister to talk about differences between Islam and Christianity.
Thorough reporting beyond information released by authorities. Well-balanced, avoids sensationalism. Would be easy to write about terrorism in the nation's heartland, but this settles for a restrained, facts-only tone that doesn't draw conclusions.
Dana Treen, Eileen Kelley, Andrew Pantazi, Tessa Duval, Joe Daraskevich, Teresa Stepzinski and Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union
The Lonzi Barton case
The Florida Times-Union reporting staff does an exceptional job telling readers about the tragic death of 21-month-old Lonzie Barton -- and the adults responsible for it. So many dramatic twists and turns. Very good writing of a very sad story.
Good use of detail to let readers visualize the missing child, without being overwrought. A model of how to report an ongoing case despite police reluctance. The reporting of friends, family and acquaintances reflects appropriate sensitivity.
The T-U did good work covering this story from child's disappearance, capturing the skepticism of officials that eventually played out in convictions.
Josie Musico, Jordan Sigler, Adam D. Young, Ellysa Gonzalez, Gabriel Monte and Karen Michael, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Goliath roars in
There is no bigger local story than a big storm that paralyzes a city. This coverage had everything a reader could need to know about a historic winter storm, with plenty of tales of how real people coped, essential information on closings, etc., and questions about how the city responded. The writing was crisp.
Emily Russo Miller, Juneau Empire
Murder in the Valley
Reporter Emily Russo Miller hustled hard all day to get details of a murder on which Juneau Police released almost no information. From interviewing a neighbor in the trailer park where the shooting occurred -- "You never think it\'s a gunshot, you know?" he said -- to tracking down an out-of-town prosecutor and fruitlessly trying to get a comment from Safeway, the reporter touched all the bases. And she spun her information into a well-crafted, highly readable tale.
Quick thinking to uncover key details of the police investigation. Captures the trepidation of neighbors.
Excellent detail and great reporting angles, such as the failed search of buses and the fact the prosecutors are out of town. Plus all the essentials a reader would want.
Sam DeGrave, Juneau Empire
Fast fact-gathering and good writing combine to tell the tragic story of a massive landslide that ultimately claimed the lives of three.
Authoritative coverage, a supermarket of information essential to dealing with a local disaster.
Very fine job covering the tragedy of a landslide. Good reporting and nice writing on deadline over multiple days of coverage. Captured the people and the emotion.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Topeka Capital-Journal
What’s in a name?
What's in a bill? Not a name, apparently. This story lifts the veil of political and bureaucratic camouflage to hold legislators accountable. That's the epitome of the press's watchdog role.
Christopher Hong, Florida Times-Union
Jacksonville City Council
Good story here about turning political influence into money.
Jonathan Shorman and Luke Ranker, Topeka Capital-Journal
Judge: DCF biased
Terrific work here.
Playing off a newly unsealed 2013 decision blasting that state's Department of Children and Families for actively discriminating against same-sex couples, reporters Luke Ranker and Jonathan Shorman took a look at what they termed widespread and systematic bias against gay couples. In one case, a three-year-old had been removed from her gay foster parents -- who had sought to adopt her -- and sent to the home of a Topeka city council member, who was subsequently charged with child abuse.
The stinging 2013 decision, in which DCF officials who removed the child from a gay foster home were said to have raised the best interests of the child "not once," reinforced what the reporters had been hearing from three gay couples willing to go on the record. And actions by the head of DCF and Gov. Sam Brownback, who did away with state employment protection for gays and lesbians, also provided evidence of anti-gay discrimination. The result was the governor conceding that the DCF system needed a complete evaluation and legislators agreeing to set up a committee to audit the department. Terrific work that seems to have prompted some results in a deeply conservative state government.
Paula Ann Solis and Randi Spray, Juneau Empire
Schools in jeopardy
Thorough look at the impact potential school funding changes could have on local schools. Examines the pros and cons while the proposals are still being vetted, before they get to the legislation stage. That's a genuine public service for concerned parents.
Faced with a $4 billion deficit, Alaska legislators are talking about perhaps raising the minimum number of students required to qualify for state support from 10 to 25. The Empire ran the numbers and found that would result in the closing of 55 schools -- many of them miles away from the closest nearby school -- that had student bodies that were disproportionately Native American.
An enormous Page 1 map documented the findings. A great example of a newspaper getting out in front of a story.
Smart and useful. The Empire started with a premise and supported it through statistics and testimony. Watchdog journalism needs to be credible, and the work of Solis and Spray give this piece both heft and credibility.
Jake Martin, St. Augustine Record
Good work to expose questionable practices that overstated the value of a master's degree for orthopedic physician assistant.
Paper went deep in reporting how a school's so-called master's program really did nothing for students beyond what they could get in high school.
Matt Soergel, Florida Times-Union
Bugs Bowers’ long life
Matt Soergel of the Florida Times-Union has a terrific talent for storytelling -- one that avoids formulaic dialogue and instead encourages his characters to be their awesome selves. Whether his story lines are dramatic, comedic or somber -- Soergel tells them all with a unique and elegant flair. Well done!
Wonderful profile. The reader isn't just told who Bugs Bowers was but gets to know him. You get a real sense of the person, far beyond basic bio, which is what a good profile does. Same for Joe Jones and Thompson Williams: beyond the basics.
A great set of stories highlighted by the profile of Bugs Bowers and his journeys through the music industry. Wonderful writing and storytelling.
Emily Russo Miller, Juneau Empire
Articles by Emily Russo Miller
Emily Miller has a great writing style. It isn't flashy, but it is clear and to the point and conveys the story she is telling in excellent form. Clarity triumphs over wordsmithing here. Her entry was interesting and, as suggested, versatile.
Douglas Island and Hoonah trial are strong uses of detail creating a vivid sense of place. Moving a library is delightfully offbeat.
Elizabeth Earl, Kenai Peninsula Clarion
“It saved me:” Opioid addicts face stigma even while seeking treatment
Brings addiction to painkillers out of the shadows -- with real people on the record, no less.
A different take on the opioid epidemic, well written and told.
Mary Catharine Martin, Juneau Empire
Articles by Mary Catharine Martin
Alaska is a fascinating place, and Mary Catharine Martin writes well about its outdoors. From a steelhead fishing trip in Yakutat, to new fossil discoveries along the southeast Alaskan coast to a glacier that may be beginning to disappear, she writes authoritatively and colorfully about the state's natural environment.
A nice, easy touch.
Parish Howard, News and Farmer
Hutch; Midnight Run; Keys to worship
Parish Howard is one heck of a feature writer. I quickly found myself engrossed by his story about Hutch Wheeler, a 14-year-old who won the national night-hunting coon championship, because of paragraphs like this: "It wasn’t any one thing, Hutch said. It was all of it. It was the excitement of running through the woods, the summer night thick with humidity and mosquitoes. It was the hunt itself, trying to use lights to pick out the glowing eyes way up in the branches. And it was the dogs, Timber especially."
Howard's feature on the mayor opening up a moonshine shop included a detailed explanation of how a copper still worked. And his piece on the church pianist retiring after 40 years was just lovely: "Her place has never been behind the pulpit or even in the choir loft, and while she has never sought attention for her part there, her hands, as they moved across the keys have helped unlock emotional responses to the word of God for countless in the congregations. Her ministry has been subtle and supportive, the melody behind the choir, the humming strings behind the soloist, the acoustic refrains behind the preacher’s call to the altar."
This is high-end writing, material that the biggest of big-city papers would be proud to publish.
Tom Corwin and Sandy Hodson, Augusta Chronicle
Congratulations to Tom Corwin and Sandy Hodson of the Augusta Chronicle for their in-depth look at how people with developmental disabilities fare in state-sponsored community care. And it isn't well. This is a great piece of multi-media investigative journalism that accomplishes exactly what journalism is supposed to accomplish: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Well done!
Dynamite expose of the deadly consequences of moving developmentally disabled patients from state hospitals to community homes for care. It uses statistics to paint a disturbing picture but goes beyond the numbers to put a human face on the helpless victims.
Smartly done. Corwin and Hodson took an issue and used an example to shed some light on it. Though there wasn't a lot of community engagement or multimedia in the article, it was first-rate reporting and writing.
Outstanding report that documents in dramatic fashion how well-intentioned move of patients into community homes was an abysmal failure, at least as measure by a shocking number of deaths.
Charles Westmoreland and Sam DeGrave, Juneau Empire
Child care crisis in Juneau
Well-focused, comprehensive package that revealed the problem and got immediate results. That's the definition of community service journalism.
Solid work that no doubt helped expedite changes in local ordinances and resulted in it being easier to operate child-care centers in Juneau.
So much good reporting is about the things under our noses. This is a good example of that. A few statistics, looking at a map and then digging, digging, digging. Smart approach and a smart series.
Emily Russo Miller, Juneau Empire
Kudos to Emily Russo Miller of the Juneau Empire who successfully sounded the alarm on the city's heroin epidemic -- with several stories and two series. One four-part series underscored the need for treatment options for heroin addicts and prompted action -- both by the community and by the Alaska Legislature. Community journalism at its best.
The heroin epidemic is not limited to Juneau or Alaska. Nevertheless, this package exposed the extent of the problem locally, explored the causes and spurred legislative action to combat it.
Very strong work detailing the heroin problem in Juneau, treatment issues and the people trying to make a difference. After reading this, cities there could not have a better understanding of the problem and issues around it.
Miller knows how to report and how to tell a story. A lot of gritty details here and a lot of reporting that showed, rather than told, what was going on.
Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union
Our Biggest Threats are Homegrown
Mark Woods has a droll way of showing us, on the burning issues like same-sex marriage and immigration, how little we've learned from history. Rather than preach, He turns the words of critics against themselves. Slats Grobnik would love it.
Woods brings some historical perspective -- from the clip files of the Times-Union -- to current events. He contrasts the furor over same-sex weddings with the city's closing -- and then selling -- two municipal golf courses in the '50s rather than allowing blacks to play on any day of the week. He looks at the furor over admission of Syrian refugees in the context of Jacksonville's Syrian population -- and the fact that all of America's (and Jacksonville's) terrorists have been home-grown. He provides a well-reasoned voice of calm authority about major issues, offering readers a well-crafted appeal to look at these issues from an alternative perspective.
Woods writes common-sense columns. Good clear writing that does what opinion writing should do: take a stand, give an opinion, force the reader to think.
James Brooks, Juneau Empire
James Brooks wrote three blistering editorials about the state Department of Corrections; a response to a Canadian minister about transborder water pollution from mineral mining; and a legislative commission's failure to end a $4 million-a-year lease for space the newspaper believes is not needed. Each editorial marshaled solid facts to back its rhetoric and made clear what the newspaper thinks should be done. Substantial, solid work on important local issues.
1. Interesting use of an editorial to engage in a debate about water pollution.
2. Powerful editorial lays out the problem of people dying because of neglect in Alaska prisons, and steps that should be taken to find solutions.
3. Shines a light on wasteful spending for office space for the state Legislature, Detailed, to-the-point, and also touches on government secrecy involving use of a private email account to negotiate the lease. Good government accountability editorial.
Such a great example of editorial voice. Thundering at the world, using narrative techniques to make opinion more interesting. Commentary should be compelling. James Brooks makes it so.
Charles J. Westmoreland, Juneau Empire
Editorial demanding investigation on whether a highly paid state legislative staffer has been paid while doing no work since her arrest on a firearm charge. 2. Explanation of publication of the Prophet Muhammed cartoon that triggered the deaths of 12 people at the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Refreshing to see a counter-intuitive argument when it would have been easier, if not safer, to refrain from publication in the name of religious tolerance. 3. Hidden reports on deaths of inmates due to neglect in state prisons. Strong work on three high-profile cases involving potential government wrongdoing, secrecy to protect state employees and freedom of the press.
Andrew Jensen, Alaska Journal of Commerce
Dunleavy, accomplices are a disgrace on Erin's Law
A wonderfully angry editorial about a state senator who's attempting to gut a sexual abuse education act that passed the Legislature overwhelmingly the previous year. The senator, with a bill that simultaneously leaves it up to local school districts as to whether to teach the course and then bans them working with Planned Parenthood, seems a clear bid to rile up the Republican right in advance of a U.S. Senate bid. With a mix of vituperation and sarcasm, Andrew Jensen pillories the senator and his allies. My favorite line: "By simultaneously requiring a local option while also restricting those options, it makes one wonder whether Dunleavy has the necessary equipment to experience cognitive dissonance." Terrific work.
Strong, persuasive stand on an emotional issue.
Jensen writes smart and reasoned pieces with turns of phrase that push the piece along. Don't always agree with his views, but his columns are a delight to read.
Jennifer Menster, Savannah Morning News
Excellent use of digital space to package together words, photos, interactive elements listing cases and video. Brought the story home in an effective way.
An interesting application of Timeline.js as a portal to deeper reporting. The timeline makes for browsability, and the read more links allow for deep dives. Smart.
Florida Times-Union staff
Smart coverage of a kidnapping and murder. Constant updates, using field staff to tell the story incrementally rather than gathering string for the legacy product. This coverage shows how digital journalism should be. Kudos, too, for the decision to put the blog outside the paywall.
Particularly liked the trial previews.
Gary T. Mills and Phillip Heilman, Florida Times-Union
Compliments for this live blog on the lost ship. Wise use of live blog technology to help readers stay up to date.
Videos, audio, words, pictures, digital engagement. The T-U's coverage of El Faro's sinking was comprehensive -- and took full advantage of the digital space. What really stood out was the updates -- more than 160 of them, something that couldn't have been done in the old days.
Savannah Morning News & SavannahNow.com staff
When it comes to social media, the Savannah Morning News & SavannahNow.com have it covered. It's one thing to say you have a social media presence, but it's quite another to show it. Savannah's social media effort isn't a one-and-done thing. This staff is relentless in connecting to its Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest audiences in real time, all the time.
Robust Facebook and Twitter sites that are well-designed and interactive (though it's interesting that the most comments on Facebook were generated by a picture of wolf cubs -- the new kittens?). Facebook likes increased by nearly 20 percent over the year, while the paper gained 9,581 new followers and its tweets earned well over 11 million impressions. Nice work.
Conversation is good, and the Morning News' efforts are aimed at creating conversation. It's nice to not see just a post-and-abandon strategy, but an actual effort to make journalism a two-way street.
Will Brown, St. Augustine Record
The right impression
Active, engaging Twitter feed by sportswriter Will Brown and the paper's sports staff. It looks good and has several thousand followers (with Brown having 400 more than the sports department.) Impressive work by a small newspaper.
Smart use of social media here to garner views and letting Twitter become the source of instant news.
Juneau Empire staff
Social media for transboundary mining
The Juneau Empire staff is to be commended for its consistent use of social media to explain complex transboundary issues to larger audiences.
Good use of questions in social media, rather than just pushing out stories.
Steve Nelson, Florida Times-Union
Well-traveled mayor and Jaxport
Great graphic, multiple levels of information in the same graphic really makes it engaging. Number of trips, trips over time, where he went, how much it cost. Could have been four routine charts, but this smart graphic layers it all cleanly.
Amber Guffey, Amarillo Globe-News
Cool idea to display some rather mundane (but useful) information. Simple and clean, and I'm sure it was well used.
James Brooks, Juneau Empire
This graphic is jam-packed with layers of information. I felt like I was pulling back layers of an onion as I spent time dissecting this infographic. At first glance, it's almost a bit overwhelming, but it is smartly crafted, with the weights of the lines, the sizes of the dots and the colors all adding to the detail.
James Brooks, Juneau Empire
Cost of Thanksgiving
Bob Self, Florida Times-Union
Awesome collection of images. This is the kind of mix of photography that I crave -- expansive overview, action and jaw-dropping moments. This is photography that you want to sit and study and just let sink in.
Josh Galemore, Savannah Morning News
Wonderful human story. Great mix of intimate moments, fun moments. Warm and well-told photo story.
Michael Penn, Juneau Empire
Alaska daily life.
What a wonderful, diverse collection of images, from the majestic to the mundane -- great beauty and great sadness. I feel that I walk away with a sense of what this community is like after clicking through these 14 photos by Penn. This collection beats the bigger papers, IMHO. Congrats.
Daron Dean, St. Augustine Record
Impressive variety of art by Daron Dean from an equally impressive event. I want to immerse myself in the pomp and the pageantry.
Bill Kirby, Mark Albertin and Noelle Wilder, Augusta Chronicle
Well-paced, informative. Bill Kirby has an authoritative presence, and his weekly pieces are engaging. I admire the production values of these videos ... great sound, light, transitions. Love the use of historic art, and I appreciate the time and effort involved in research and unearthing all these treasures. There is just the right touch of sentimentality that makes these videos even more engaging.
Jon Mark Beilue, Amarillo Globe-News
Out of the Beilue
I enjoy the folksy ramblings of Jon Mark Beilue. He is fun and familiar and has a friendly camera presence. I suspect he's a hometown favorite, with his wry observations and (sometimes) self-deprecating humor.
Michael Penn, Juneau Empire
Fun. This story really doesn't need many words ... just let the pictures (and the sound) tell the tale. Nice job capturing the joy that the kids are experiencing when creating all this "music."
Michael Penn, Juneau Empire
First National Bank demolition
Great little slice of life video. Very effective to view it through the eyes of the former branch manager, rather than just filming the demolition as a straight news story.
Phil Diokno, Florida Times-Union
High-impact, compelling centerpiece designs. Pages are well executed, top to bottom, from skybox/promos to the index. I found myself drawn into each page. By the time I finished reading the snippets on the 1915 mayor race centerpiece, I knew I was hooked. I am also a fan of the visual promos used here: bold and eye-catching yet not detracting from the centerpieces.
Ed Morales, Athens Banner-Herald
Great visual storytelling. In the pages here, the three topics have been hashed and rehashed, year after year, typically in long narrative story form. This approach is a fresh surprise.
Ty Hinton, St. Augustine Record
Designing some of 2015's biggest moments
Clean, sophisticated design. Use of color is smart and subtle. Bold headlines, strong use of art draw your eye in, secondary elements bring you around the page in a logical way. Like the kickers, like the deck treatments and the clean bullet breakout boxes. Solid newsy pages.
Christine Rodenbaugh, St. Augustine Record
A fresh face for community news
Christine Rodenbaugh adds a lot of life to her pages with some smart use of color, breakouts/multiple entry points. Her Photoshop work looks clean and adds an appropriate level of interest and excitement to her pages. Nice job.
Justin Barney, Florida Times-Union
Anchor of Alabama football, Heisman Trophy finalist Derrick Henry means even more to Yulee
Yulee, Fl. I feel like I've been there. I know the town and, more importantly, I know the people. And, of course, I know what Derrick Henry means to his hometown. Justin Barney showed the ability to tell a story, to do shoe-leather reporting, to turn a phrase and to explain complex situations. Most of all, Barney knows that good sports writing is about people, not just stats and scores.
Nicholas Talbot, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
The Way Through: Grant uses his rough childhood as motivation to be devoted father, son
Nicholas Talbot did some excellent reporting to get Jakeem Grant and those around him to open up on some personal issues. Then he presented it all in deft fashion. A really nice job. Then Talbot took an isolated incident of a player having a heart attack and used it to explore a much larger theme. Again, with excellent results.
Scott Michaux, Augusta Chronicle
The stories of Erik Compton and Bubba Watson are well known. Scott Michaux was able to bring a freshness to their tales.
Parish Howard, The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter
Where there's a will/Fore the love of it/Manning up
Parish Howard can turn a phrase: "Bad breaks can tug at you, cling to your spirit like a linebacker with a fist locked in your facemask." But he also knows when he should stay out of the way of a good story. When combined with solid reporting, he had three solid entries, led by the wonderful tale of Will Jordan's bounce-back story.
Brent Woronoff, St. Augustine Record
A coach, a veteran and a blind sports journalist
Brent Woronoff finds interesting stories and brings the reader into those worlds with a breezy, clever style.
WILLIAM S. MORRIS IV INNOVATION AWARD
Savannah Morning News online staff
100 things to do in Savannah
A round of applause for the Savannah Morning News and its innovative slide show on the "100 Things to Do in Savannah." I read every single entry -- and Savannah is now on my bucket list! Great effort.
Giving readers suggestions about things to do -- and then asking them for their ideas -- is an idea that you intuitively think has to be successful. And this one was: 765,000 page views. There's a nice variety, ranging from state parks to free praline samples. Very nice work.
Wonderful and different guide to the city. All online, all with a fun spirit. Great service to residents and tourists alike.
Listicles always play well. Not sure how truly innovative this is, but it appears to have a lot of legs and be one of those indispensable city guides.
Talbot Nick, Krista Pirtle, Bryan Navarette and Michael LeBarre, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
The Lineman Challenge -- Lonestarvarsity.com
Great idea to create a spotlight for the unsung heroes of a high school football team: the linemen. Video was an important addition.
This is great. Innovation comes in a lot of forms, and sometimes it's a giant 17-year-old tackle. This got the A-J into a lot of hands and showed they cared about what they cover -- and what their audience apparently feeds on.
Mary Catherine Martin, Juneau Empire
Building audience one village at a time
Congratulations to Mary Catharine Martin, Juneau Empire and Capital City Weekly for finding a creative way to finance reporting trips to rural Alaskan villages. Every town should have its own paper and you're finding a way to make this happen. Great idea, great follow through.
Good thinking to get the trade deal with an advertiser to make it easier to get out and about for stories from remote locales. Stories were good reads and a nice mix of people, personalities and news.
There's no better way to engage small-town readers than to write about their towns. And Mary Catharine Martin is an engaging writer with a good eye for a story. I\'m not surprised the Facebook followers have increased by more than 15 percent since 2014.
I'm fairly certain this is the first time I've ever given an award due to a partnership with a seaplane company, but it works. The idea of trading space for X certainly isn't new. But the idea of trading ad lineage to increase coverage, especially in a far-flung area, is a great idea.
WILLIAM S. MORRIS III DEDICATION AWARD
Bill Kirby, Augusta Chronicle
Bill Kirby sounds like the reporter or editor you want with you in a newspaper war, an old-school, take-the-hill newsman. His dedication shines through, as does his love for newspapers and what they mean to a community.
The nomination letter from John Gogick, executive editor:
Every newspaper has a go-to-person. The one who does what is needed before he can be asked. That person for The Augusta Chronicle is Bill Kirby.
You have heard the tales and assumed them legends:
· That Kirby put together a special edition honoring The Chronicle’s 225th anniversary by developed four themes among time periods and writing 64 non-bylined stories on his weekends and vacation time to meet the deadline for the 184-page product.
· That Kirby spent all day and overnight in the February 2014 ice storm alone in the newsroom, pumping out updates on the web and social media. He kept the city updated by answering phone calls from readers without power and posting contributions from at-home reporters and photographers.
· That Kirby writes and stars in Kirby’s Augusta videos https://www.youtube.com/user/kirbyaugusta on our You Tube channel.
You have heard the legends and assumed them myths:
· That Kirby borrowed a van to ferry homeless people to an Easter service.
· That Kirby’s resemblance to Burt Reynolds makes him a house-packing speaker for our own events (Senior Expo, Empty Stocking Fund Concert, Best & Brightest awards) and those of organizations around the city (museums, libraries, civic clubs, church groups) clamoring for his time.
· That Kirby invented the genre of community-contributed content three decades ago when he started asking readers to send him their summer post cards for summer-long content.
All are true but what is oft missed is his skill in his craft and his day-to-day dedication to the enterprise:
Need a predawn update on a story. Kirby has posted it.
Need a Saturday night cops reporter. Kirby has the scanner.
Need evergreens for Masters Week. Kirby has written seven stories, provided art and filed three bonus columns.
Need a front page politician’s obit. Kirby is filling in the date, calculating the age and looking for fresh comment for the print version.
Need a role model for a young reporter. Kirby is out on rounds, introducing her to sources and embedding the next generation with a sense of past.
Need a recipient for the William S. Morris III Dedication Award. Kirby would be most deserving.