Press Releases

Morris Journalism Excellence Awards 2013

General judges

Matt Mansfield is executive editor for digital content of National Geographic.  At the time of the judging, he was associate professor at Northwestern University and director and bureau chief of the Medill Washington bureau.  He is a past president of the Society for News Design and deputy managing editor of the San Jose Mercury News.

Mark Russell has been editor of the Orlando Sentinel since 2010.  Previously, he was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and an editor in various capacities at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Tommy Tomlinson has written a local column for the Charlotte Observer since 1997. A journalism graduate of the University of Georgia, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary in 2005 and was named best local columnist in America by The Week magazine in 2004. His newspaper work appears in “Best Newspaper Writing 2004” and “Best American Newspaper Writing.”

Visuals judge

Steve Dorsey is vice president / innovation and planning at the Austin American-Statesman, former vice president for R+D at the Detroit Media Partnership, former president of the Society for News Design, a design consultant and former deputy managing editor/presentation and innovation at the Detroit Free Press.

 

WILLIAM S. MORRIS III DEDICATION AWARD

Frank Denton

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Kevin Welch and Darci Heiskell, Amarillo Globe-News

After Amarillo Police Department officers shot Claudio Trujillo to death in his SUV during an altercation outside a Polk Street nightclub in 2011, the Globe-News investigated all 27 officer-involved shootings since 2000.  The result was amarillo.com/UnderTheGun, a Web page
devoted specifically to stories, videos and interactive features. The journalism addressed how the shootings were investigated, how officers train to use their service revolvers and what actions cause an officer to draw his or her weapon. Anchoring the page is a police-dashboard video of the Trujillo shooting. The page gives readers a database detailing every deadly APD shooting from 2000 through 2011, an interactive map showing readers exactly where those shootings happened and a gallery of Globe-News photos of those shootings since 2007.

Judges: We were impressed with the many different ways that readers could use to become engaged in the stories and other information – video, database, explanatory material. There were elements for different types of readers.  You got the sense of what training the police went through and issues after the shooting.  This entry had the strongest online element, with an interactive map of locations of officer-involved shootings, a photo gallery, a database of all the shootings.  The use of the landing page is very strong.

Honorable mention

The Augusta Chronicle, staff

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents rolled out a plan to merge eight colleges and universities, including Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities in Augusta.  The Chronicle reacted with full coverage, including background and history and an examination of how the controversial decision came about.  The paper repeatedly editorialized against leaving Augusta out of the new name, once atop the front page.

Judges:  The coverage and commentary conveyed a strong sense of community pride over the local universities. We were impressed with the strong background on how all this happened and what it meant to the city.  The paper held the decision-makers’ feet to the fire and brought out the community’s interest in keeping a piece of Augusta in its universities.  The paper’s activism was punctuated by the resignation of Publisher William S. Morris III from the Georgia Health Sciences University Board of Visitors.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Staff, Log Cabin Democrat of Conway

A five-hour standoff between emergency officials and a black bear perched in a tree ended with the animal being brought safely to the ground. The Log Cabin had some fun with the drama. “Through photos, tweets and video,’ the entry said, “we were able to engage our readers in a highly visual situation that proved we could be lighthearted and fun. We were able to highlight that characteristic as well in the brave officials who used a high-pressure water hose to blast the tranquilized bear out of the high tree and onto an inflated bouncy castle below. The fun continued as the hashtag #westconwaybear was cultivated, and a community member created the @westconwaybear twitter account. We engaged the ‘bear’ in real time, and it was a highly visible engagement. The next day, a local attorney came forward as the bear’s counsel with a press release. We shared the fun with our readers and felt truly connected.”

Judges:  This was playful coverage of something the community could rally around and have fun with.  So often, we are so serious and miss the fun things we can do.  This was water-cooler conversation! They paid attention to what was going on in social media — the Twitter campaign was inventive – and then they went back around and gave it to the print readers. We loved the slide show. It showed us what happened.

DEADLINE REPORTING

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Nick Kosmider, Brittany Hoover, Barrett Welch, Landon Wright, Don Williams, Terry Greenberg, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

The big story in West Texas is often football, and the single biggest story last year was the change in head coaches at Texas Tech.  The Red Raiders hadn’t performed up to expectations, and third-year Head Coach Tommy Tuberville and Lubbock weren’t very comfortable with each other.  Suddenly, on a Saturday, a few days after restating his loyalty to Tech and a few hours after hosting recruits, Tuberville resigned as head coach to become the head coach at the University of Cincinnati.  The A-J staff jumped to work, getting the breaking news online first then working all sports and news angles. The first day’s lead headline: “Cincinnati, Really?” Reporters talked to city leaders, used players’ Twitter remarks and got reaction from Tech officials and others. Then, Tech beat writers Don Williams and Nick Kosmider detailed the search for the next head coach and ended quickly, with the hiring of former star quarterback Kliff Kingsbury.

Judges: This is a huge story for that community.  It’s a big deal Texas Tech is a big deal — football matters in Texas.  The Avalanche-Journal’s handling of the story reflected that, with the drama of a big-name coach bolting suddenly after only three years.  The report reflected the scale of the news. The week’s package showed great reporting, storytelling, context and background. The tone was especially nice.  It was powerful news coverage, but the headline “Cincinnati, Really?” had a little attitude to it. The quality and excitement flowed into the digital components. For a solid week, the story dominated the A-J, and the A-J dominated the story.

Honorable mention

Amarillo Globe-News staff

A New York-based JetBlue flight declared an emergency and diverted to
the Amarillo airport. The Globe-News swarmed the story, avoiding official diversions and informed readers through a multimedia team effort.

Judges: The reporters did a good job very fast, getting a ton of detail quickly.  There was some really intrepid reporting here.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Sarah Nelson Katzenberger, Brainerd Dispatch

A rural Little Falls man was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two teenage cousins who allegedly broke into his home Thanksgiving Day.   Katzenberger covered the breaking story then followed up magnificently in the following days, with the story of the teenagers, the defendant, friends and the community, all the way through the funerals.

Judges: I would have been proud to have this in my publication and website. The reporting conveyed a real sense of tplace,  It described how the tragedy happened, almost in a clinical way, with the three people involved.  After reading package, I had a good sense of all three of those people and what they were like.  You could find the gory details in the story, but the reporter didn’t lead with them.  I’m sure community was gossiping about this, and the paper told the real story.  This was really well done.  The coverage didn’t put halos on these kids, which I really appreciated.

WATCHDOG REPORTING

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Matt Dixon, Morris News Service

The Tallahassee bureau reporter had a great year, with a set of stories exposing government malfeasance. He uncovered how tobacco lobbyists aggressively pushed a bill that drastically capped the amount four tobacco companies had to pay to appeal court judgments against them, saving nearly $400 million in legal costs.  Dixon reported that, in the big-money business of state-funded road projects, two powerful contractors have dominated Florida’s Panhandle for the past decade to a potentially illegal level. Internal analyses discussed bid-rigging, “sham” bids and collusion among road building contractors across the state, but they did not become public until Dixon’s reporting.

Judges: The big-tobacco story would win by itself, but the other couple of stories in the entry made Dixon the clear winner. We got a sense he was uncovering stuff people didn’t know before.  There are good newspapers in Florida, and Dixon was uncovering scandals others didn’t find.  He explains how things happen inside state government and in legislative thickets.  A great job, especially on the tobacco story. Overall, a very impressive package, in depth and breadth.

Honorable mentions

Tracey McManus, The Augusta Chronicle

Paine College, 130 years old, was beset with financial problems, and McManus dissected the income and the outgo, including inappropriate transfers of money and misuse of federal dollars.

Judges:  This work showed escalating financial improprieties in the local college. McManus used documents well and kept pulling the story back toward the impact on students – one who received a handwritten financial-aid check, which then bounced.  Readers got a complete picture of the crisis.

Staff, Savannah Morning News

The Savannah city manager spent more than $19,000 on travel over 18 months and was reimbursed with inadequate receipts, often months later, violating city policies that governed the behavior of all her employees.  The revelations extended to other improprieties and mismanagement. As the stories and powerful editorials mounted, the city manager resigned.

Judges:   This journalism had impact.  It’s another good case of keeping pulling at threads until the larger story emerges.  It opened up from expense accounts to mismanagement of departments and bigger financial mistakes.  The small story became bigger, and the Morning News was on top of it all the way.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Emily Russo Miller and Klas Stolpe, Juneau Empire

A former Juneau police officer was charged with sexual abuse of a minor for assaulting his own biological daughter, but after a long delay, the charges were dropped in exchange for his pleading guilty to tampering with a witness. Miller and Stolpe took on the case from every angle, including a moving takeout on the daughter, complete with an interview with her about the impact on her life.

Judges: This was a pretty remarkable story, a major effort for a small newsroom.  There was clear, lucid writing on top of strong reporting.  They uncovered how official treatment of the daughter amounted to a perfect example of how not to treat young victims of  sexual violence.  The child was basically victimized twice.  The reporters did a really good job of explaining the issues around the defendant, made more complex because he was a former police officer.  This is a story for which people are going to be mad at the newspaper for exposing it, but they plowed through and did a really good job. They played fair with everybody, which was important. That’s difficult to do with a story like that.

WRITING

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Topher Sanders, The Florida Times-Union

Shauna Terrell tried to kill herself three times before she turned 13 but, at 14, decided that she really wanted to live. With the permission of her parents, Sanders told Shauna’s story from the dark days into the light.  He accompanied the story with sources of help for troubled young people, then followed it by working with experts to organize a discussion group for teenagers considering suicide and their parents.

Judges:  This was a gripping story of depression in a teenager.  The writing, superior storytelling and really excellent scene-sitting really gave reader an understanding of the pressure Shauna was under.  You can’t always tell when a kid is hurting. Sanders put it all in perfect context.  This was a fantastic writing entry, really strong, the best written story in this category. One judge worried about doing the story at all, giving the fragility of a troubled girl, but appreciated the quality of the work despite that.

Honorable mention

Austin Meek, Topeka Capital-Journal

“The Facts of Weis” was a profile of Charlie Weis, the controversial new football coach at the University of Kansas.

Judges:  I knew about Charlie Weiss, but this told me a lot more about him I didn’t know. Meek told the back story.  This is a sitting-down-around-the-bar kind of story.  It told me what this guy’s like and gave me fresh insights into someone who’s in the news a lot. A really robust package.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Rashah McChesney, Kenai Peninsula-Clarion

Cheechako – a collection of blogs on fishing, camping and the writer’s faithful truck.

Judges: McChesney is a really good natural storyteller with a quirky voice, who’s out there having adventures, on the river, making fun of herself a little bit.  Of all the stories I read, this felt most like what the voice of the community in Kenai, Alaska, is like. McChesney, who moved from Iowa, has captured the voice of the area.

Honorable mentions

Sheldon Gardner, St. Augustine Record

A triology of pieces about interesting and unusual people around town – a transient who died alone, a metal-detectorist and released prison inmates trying to rejoin society.

Judges: These are three quirky stories that got underneath daily life in St. Augustine and provided real flavor for the humanity of the community.

Jennifer Stockinger, Brainerd Dispatch

The story of Breann Corrow, a 23-year-old woman who was a drug addict and couldn’t escape, until she joined the women’s outpatient program through Minnesota Teen Challenge.

Judges:  A fascinating story, with good storytelling and  writing. This was a risky subject, and Stockinger handled it well.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Kate Howard Perry and Adam Kealoha Causey, The Florida Times-Union

A months-long investigation into wasteful spending practices and mismanagement at Florida State College at Jacksonville, a major institution.  Using sources and many open-records requests, Perry and Causey laid out the college president’s lavish expense accounts, reported his expensing his own charitable contributions and pried loose a double-job arrangement with the president’s top aide.  Then the story turned systemic, when FSCJ fouled up federal Pell grants and had to tell students to return the money.  The reporters looked at records of the college board and found patterns of almost total compliance with whatever the president wanted.  Ultimately, several top executives resigned or were fired – including the president.  Then Perry and Causey reported on his million-dollar separation agreement. The governor ordered an audit of FSCJ and of community colleges statewide.

Judges: This was some tough, committed reporting that got results. Perry and Causey held these people’s feet to the fire. It was a terrific package of stories highlighting expense account spending and the opulence of the college president.  The work showed great watchdog ability.  We appreciate the excellent explanation, as well as the investigation.  There was no way of getting round this abuse.

Honorable mention

Kevin Welch, Jim McBride, Matthew Hutchison, Amarillo Globe-News

Intense reporting on financial and management problems at Panhandle Community Services, a nonprofit agency that provides utility bill assistance and weatherization programs for low-income residents in 26 counties. Barred from covering a crisis board meeting, the reporters acquired an audio recording of the meeting from a former employee. The recording revealed the Texas Department of Housing and Urban Affairs was investigating PCS over $400,000 officials said the nonprofit organization has spent but couldn’t account for and another $516,000 it spent after an allocation deadline passed. That started the digging, which uncovered lax accounting practices and poor leadership from the board and executive director. The information turned into a series of stories tracking the problems at PCS. Shortly after the first story broke, the executive director resigned and several board members stepped down.

Judges:  This project showed good digging to get information that officials weren’t making available. The work was grounded in real people who needed help.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Rashah McChesney and M. Scott Moon, Kenai Peninsula Clarion

Salmon is the big activity and industry for the Cook Inlet and Kenai Peninsula areas, and McChesney and Moon produced a series of in-depth reports on fishing issues, with solid reporting and powerful photojournalism, including slideshows. The reporting encompassed government, science and people issues.

Judges: This was a powerful, important collaboration between these two journalists on what must be the number one issue for the area. It was particularly impressive for a small newspaper.  I sure like that devotion to covering science as a big part of the story.  Readers got a lot of the background and the back and forth of the main players.  If you got a stake in that issue, you got a pretty good understanding for how people feel about it. This was really some deep reporting for a newspaper with limited staff.

COMMENTARY

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Mark Woods, The Florida Times-Union

Three columns about emotional situations – a disgraced college president, the murder of a beloved head of Episcopal Day School and a generational connection between Woods’ late mother and his young daughter.

Judges: Woods is a wonderful writer with a conversational style.  These are difficult issues, well presented in his able hands. Even when he’s being critical of someone in his column, Wood has got a good tone.  He doesn’t use writing tricks just for show, and his style increases readers’ understanding of what’s going on.  We were moved by his going back into his file to find a note the head of school once sent him.

Honorable mention

Mike Ryan, The Augusta Chronicle

Three editorials on the renaming of Augusta State University, a high-school “foot-brawl” and a county code-compliance officer who improperly invaded a private home then lied about it.

Judges:  This is pretty strong stuff.  The editorial on the “home invasion” by the code-compliance officer is especially good, holding the county accountable and making clear this should never happen. These editorials have a really strong sense of place and show a very activist tone to the newspaper.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Peter Ellis, St. Augustine Record

Three editorials on state Medicaid billing for a budget shortfall, the downsizing of the St. Augustine Beach Police Department and some community gardens.

Judges: These are strong editorials on issues that the writer makes much more interesting than they sound.  Ellis makes strong and contextual arguments.  These pieces are really good — clear, readable, interesting and funny.  When you finish reading, there was no doubt about the paper stands. This entry is a good example of a newspaper being in touch with community concerns and explicating those concerns, with solutions, and that’s what good editorials should do. Ellis provides a really good model for how to write editorials.

Honorable mention

Klas Stolpe, Juneau Empire

A personal column about Stolpe and his relationship with his father.

Judges:  This was a nice, interesting column about the writer’s dad and the distance in his life.  It was haunting.

SOCIAL MEDIA

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Cate Mafera, Carl Lewis and Janay Kingsberry, Savannah Morning News

The Savannah newsroom ramped up its social media work, making social an integral part of its journalistic workflow and encouraging all staff members to engage with audiences on social media platforms.  They made major gains in audience on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Youtube and added a “Stay Connected” block on the savannahnow.com home page with links to all those social platforms.  They also got the entire newsroom on Twitter and added a widget that pulls in tweets from all of them.

Judges:  This was an impressive, comprehensive commitment that will pay off in audience, probably already is.  They included all primary social media channels, and they don’t just pepper them around.  They’ve got a real intense presence on each one.  They recognize that each platform has its own presence and strengths, and they use them.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Denton Newman, Brainerd Dispatch

The Brainerd Dispatch has been featured on David Letterman and Jay Leno specifically for interesting and humorous police-blotter items. Because the items are highly popular, Newman created a slide show version of the best of the best. While it does provide a service to the community, it mainly pokes fun at how silly some people really are when reporting a so-called crime or incident to law enforcement. The Best of Police Blotter slide show recorded 48,000+ page views in its first six days with daily promotion on Facebook, Twitter and a daily headlines email. Throughout the rest of 2012, total visits recorded to the Police Blotter Slide show were 224,133 — 14.5 percent of all slide show views.

Judges: The base of this impressive project was not social media; it was a slide show on the website.  But Newman deserves the award because of his aggressive use of social media to connect the audience to the online production.

GRAPHICS

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Stephen Nelson, The Florida Times-Union

On the morning of July 20, 1944, two Army P-51 Mustang fighter planes flew low over the Riverside neighborhood, buzzing the Post Street childhood home of one of the pilots. But things went horribly wrong as the planes clipped trees and crashed, killing both pilots and one civilian. Nelson’s graphic showed the path of the disaster, both on a schematic and on an aerial photograph, with many supportive details.

Judge: This is one of the entries that sought to tell me a story and explain something visually. It stands out as the best of its class. Hopefully this will inspire others. We need to see more examples like this — complex visual storytelling on a large canvas and a live deadline. Nice work.

Honorable mentions

Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle

A bold illustration accompanying an editorial on voter fraud.

Judge: This is an illustration, not an informational graphic. But given that there is no proper category for such work, I’m giving this honorable mention for its clear concept and high quality rendering. It stood out among the others.

Philip Ameling, Savannah Morning News

An almost-full-page supergraphic on the Tall Ships Challenge, with the visit of 13 majestic sailing ships – and one famous little tugboat – for a three-day festival.  The graphic showed what each ship looked like where it would be docked.

Judges: This took what could have been reduced to a schedule and tried hard to make it something visual. I give credit here for taking a simple idea, giving it space, and then going for  it.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Jan Finger, Brainerd Dispatch

Finger planned this front page centerpiece as a photo illustration. It began with the idea to photograph Santa and Mrs. Claus driving a team of horses through the Minnesota snowy landscape. Finger and friends arranged for the Clauses and for the team and sleigh and then realized the sleigh was too small to accommodate a driver and the couple. So since she trains and drives horses, she ended up being Mrs. Claus while also art directing the photoshoot. She then combined the best images via PhotoShop to create the photo illustration, complete with Christmas lights and glow.

Judge:  I credit Finger for having a big idea and going deep on it given limited resources and a tight schedule. I also have to tip my hat to anyone who can drive a horse team AND illustrate, so there’s that.

PHOTOGRAPHY

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Thad Allton, Topeka Capital-Journal

Hayden’s Grant Arnold sails over Shawnee Heights catcher TJ Perez – and was
safe at home.

Judge: What a tremendous moment!  The credit goes to Allton for staying alert and engaged and not missing a key play.  I also was impressed that the photo was displayed well.

Honorable mentions

Stephen Spillman, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Interaction between a young girl and a goat at a youth rodeo. Spillman’s work shows a look of horror on the animal while contrasting it with the look of excitement on the
young contestant’s face.

Judge: A great moment at what could have been a routine, cliche assignment. Well done.

Richard Burkhart, Savannah Morning News

SWAT team members swarm the scene of a standoff arrest, with bystanders hugging the grass in the foreground.

Judge: A pivotal moment in a scary situation. Way to stay alert and bring home a great storytelling image.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Michael Penn, Juneau Empire

Two exciting, bold images in the midst of firefighters attacking a blaze that destroyed the Gastineau Apartments in downtown Juneau.

Judge: This is a great combination of photos that tell the scope of the story but still find a smart way to capture the moment artfully. Then editors and designers gave important, broad photos proper room to display. Well done.

Honorable Mentions

AJ Reynolds, Athens Banner-Herald

Southern Cal’s Steve Johnson screams in celebration after winning the NCAA singles championship to make it 72 consecutive singles wins and two consecutive NCAA singles titles.

Judge: Nice emotional moments captured here.

Richard Hamm, Athens Banner-Herald

A police official helps two children light candles in honor of their father, Police Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian, who was killed in the line of duty a year earlier.

Judge: Great composition in a tough low-light situation.

VIDEOGRAPHY

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Zach Long, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Long followed the healing process for Patti Jones and her family after the loss of
their husband and father in a farming accident. Long documents a community and family coming together to harvest Steve Jones’ cotton crop. The work shows how a simple act of harvest became a catalyst for healing and reflection for the Jones family.

Judge: Nice establishing shots and use of first person comments to tell the story. I liked that Long kept this nice and tight but still managed to share the day and everyone’s motivation and emotion.

Honorable mentions

Michael Holahan, Augusta Chronicle

A series of video narratives by Vietnam veterans.

Judge: An ambitious effort to commemorate local veterans. I like that you took extra effort to create “sets” for the interviews. Good combination of media. The project made me slightly reminiscent of the Spielberg WWII bio pics.

Lisa Kaylor and Emily Rose Bennett, Augusta Chronicle

Inspiring stories of women affected by breast cancer and their families, as part of the Chronicle’s Think Pink project.

Judge: A very ambitious effort to include so many local voices.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Eric White, Log Cabin Democrat  of Conway

A series of videos for the football pre-season, with interviews of coaches and players for local teams, high school and college.

Judge: This project is an incredible dedication of time and resources to a topic that is severely local and (I would imagine) of high interest. Special credit given for incorporating local advertising as sponsors too.

Honorable Mentions

André Gallant, Athens Banner-Herald

In a weekly food series called Unique Eats, Gallant presents a local restaurant and its specialty Hangover Burger.

Judge: I enjoyed this segment — and not just because it was like a local edition of Bizarre Foods America. This video sought to tell — and show — a story visually. It then gave me a brief review. I walked away informed and entertained. And it wasn’t too long. Bingo. Well done.

Rashah McChesney, Kenai Peninsula Clarion

A video report on the opening of king salmon season.

Judge: I appreciated the insights of an expert angler, some compelling videography and the brevity of this piece.

PAGE DESIGN

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Phil Diokno,  Florida Times-Union

Two front pages, on the long election ballot and the anniversary of an infamous murder, and a feature front on summer movies.

Judge: Consistently inventive and communicating. Credit here for approaching stories in thoughtful ways and delivering new visual story telling.

Honorable Mentions

Heather Henley, Savannah Morning News

Front pages featuring meth makers, unidentified cold murder cases and top polluters.

Judge: Clear and direct design.

Monty Zickuhr, Florida Times-Union 

Money section fronts on online piracy, college loans and the CEO wage gap.

Judge: Simple and clean use of strong visuals.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Rachel Bowers, Athens Banner-Herald

Three bold Sports covers about the University of Georgia – a pre-season report, a pre-game report and the big victory over Georgia Tech.

Judge: The Game Day page really put this collection of page designs over the top. Nice photo editing and overall energy portrayed with the typography and editing.

Honorable Mention

Abigail Lowell, Juneau Empire

A full-page collage about outdoor hanging baskets, with Lowell doing the writing, photography and page design.

Judge: Credit is given for trying something a little out of the ordinary here.

SPORTS

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Austin Meek, Topeka Capital-Journal

A trio of big, emotional stories about the departure of the Kansas State coach, the Jayhawks’ overtime victory over Missouri and the salvation of a poor urban kid to become a redshirt freshman in Lawrence.

Judges:  These stories showed good storytelling, with a lot of new information.  I may have been familiar with these subjects and topics, but I wanted something new from them. Meek got inside the moment on the Kansas-Missouri game, how the players and coaches dealt with the tribulation of the game.  The coach admitting he over-emoting because he was showing off for a recruit.  Meek’s work is deeply sourced.

Honorable mentions

Jim Schoettler, The Florida Times-Union

Derrick Henry Jr. went from being a troubled street kid into a high-school football star that now can write his own ticket to college success.

Judges: A single story, with really good control of the material.  This story has really good reporting and writing.  Schoettler went back and forth in time, from one big play, back in history, like chaptering in the story, back and forth narrative and quote.  A great kicker, with a bittersweet goodbye.

Lance Lahnert, Amarillo Globe-News

How a family copes with the serious head injury to their son, who was struck by a pitched ball during a high school baseball game.

Judges:  An effective, haunting story. A fabulous story in which the writing really stands out. Very sensitive, compelling storteelling, with a nice sblend of sports and human interest.  You don’t often see that sort of story in the sports pages.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald

Two passionate football coaches square off on the gridiron, UGA basketballers upset ranked Florida, and some of the most expensive talent working for UGA football are wearing pinstripes and sitting in law offices.

Judges:  These three stories surprised the reader.  Weiszer shows superior writing and has a knack for storytelling.  He used FOI on the outside lawyer UGA hired to help investigate their own program.  It was a fascinating view inside big-time college athletics.  Good digging behind how athletics works, the money, the requests for raises.  It’s really laudable for Weiszer to use open-records requestd to go after all this stuff.

Honorable mentions

Chris White, Athens Banner-Herald

A female UGA swimmer goes to the Olympics, Liz Murphey was a pioneer in UGA women’s athletics, and Bubba Watson was Bubba the Brash at UGA.

Judges:  There’s a lot of sweep and scope in the stories White wrote.  He tackled subjects big and important to readers.   I learned quite a bit I didn’t know about Bubba Watson, who won the Master’s last year.  The story was emotional but not overwritten.  White, the sports editor, punches above his weight in doing deep reporting.

Danny Klein, St. Augustine Record

The death of Elisabeth Rosenfeld, a former High school basketball star in a boating accident, how a bashful Melissa Coggins became a basketball star, and the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind fields a team especially worth cheering for.

Judges: Klein really does a nice job at getting the human element on subjects people take for granted or think they don’t care about.

INNOVATION

A (circulation 40,000 and above)

Don Williams, Nick Kosmider and Zach Long, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Terry Greenberg: Every year we sit down and review how we cover Texas Tech football. The last couple of years, the competition has been tougher as the university itself has hired staff to write stories, do video and more. Multimedia Editor Zach Long wanted us to do more, too. He came up with the idea to do a pregame show for all Texas Tech football games at home and on the road. The goal was to do a video show that could run online in the days before the game to engage our audience.

Long went to sports writers Don Williams and Nick Kosmider to get them on board with the idea. They chose to make the show something more than a quick five-minute video that many other newspapers are doing. The show would be a documentary-based format with a variety of features and expert analysis. They set a goal of doing a 30-minute show every week including commercials purchased by advertisers. Each week the team set down and selected segments.  Their analysis of the upcoming game with lighthearted features aimed at bringing in a broader audience. The first episode featured analysis, a feature on what it takes to travel with the equipment for Tech football and a piece on all three of our staff taking on the task of conquering an all-you-can-eat chicken restaurant.

The crew then learned the challenges of filming the show on the road when Tech traveled. We ended having a show outside of each opponent’s stadium during the season. Response was immediate from fans and advertisers. We sold a title sponsorship in excess of $21,000. By week three the trio found themselves being recognized at local coffee shops. They grew the show through aggressive social-media marketing. Twitter became a crucial tool in letting our audience know when each show arrived.

The task was not one of ease. The show added a wealth of responsibility to the staff involved. They left earlier for each road game and often worked 15-hour days to complete the task. The moment one show aired, the next one was being planned. The year ended with 10 days straight of video coverage from the bowl game Texas Tech attended in Houston. The team also did a short post-game show from the field. Sixteen of the top 50 videos from September 1 to the end of November were pre- or post-game shows.

Judges:  We liked the initiative and the focus on revenue.  The plan was much more ambitious than I would have okayed — 30 minutes!  I like they pulled it off, did good journalism and got revenue for it.  The fact that they became personalities in the community made it more powerful.  The program has a lot of elements, very strongly done.  I watch lot of these crappy coaches’ shows, and this one was as well as done as some that are professionally produced.  These guys are naturals on camera.  Thirty minutes is hard to fill, and they did it without making me feel like they were padding.  This is as good as shows where much more money and time are spent.  This was a bold move in Lubbock.

B (circulation under 40,000)

Chris White, Athens Banner-Herald

The UGA football game-day app for the iPad offers stunning visuals, and the ABH packed each issue with plenty of its own art, from action photos to portraits. Readers often commented on the visual aspect but also found the stories and their packaging easy to manipulate and read. In the case of most stories, the background was a static image while the text and
supplemental material — from videos, stat boxes, additional images, slideshows and pull-
quotes — scrolled from top to bottom as the reader swiped a finger across the screen. Many of the images, particularly those used to supplement the main art, could be enlarged by tapping them. Downloads of the app grow throughout the season, and the advertising department estimated first-year revenue at $10,000-$15,000.

Judges: This is a great use of the complementary platform.  Not many downloaded the app in the first year, but more will in succeeding years. It’s really well done and showed a newsroom trying to build new skills.  Learning that kind of digital capacity will help build institutional power to do these things.  The app is beautifully designed.  As someone who went to UGA, I’m going to download that app.

Honorable mention

Staff, Brainerd Dispatch

The Dispatch was a pretty typically designed newspaper, until Jan Finger, a magazine graphic designer, was hired to develop an entirely new look, opening up the front page to a more art-directed, graphically striking layout. As part of the digital first goal, the bold and eye-catching redesign made the paper’s iPad application spring to life.
In addition to hitting the top 10 on Newseum three consecutive months, the Dispatch increased circulation and attracted advertisers that had grown weary of the same old layouts of the old Dispatch. Vice President of Revenue Development Sam Swanson: “We set out to beat 2011’s revenue and active accounts, and we accomplished both in tremendous fashion. There seems to be a wave of success floating around our building, and it sure is fun to be a part of it.”

Judges:  This is very bold. The folks in Brainerd just blew up the design of the whole newspaper. We really liked they were trying hard to do something new and make it look very different.  We like their ambitions and really applaud them for breaking out of the norm.

About Morris Communications

Morris Communications Company, LLC is part of a privately held media company with diversified holdings that include newspaper, magazine, and cable television. Morris’ holdings include 11 daily newspapers, numerous nondaily and free community papers, magazines and specialized publications, visitor (travel and tourism) publications, including Where® Magazine, Wheretraveler.com, and Where® Guestbooks and provides cable television, internet, broadband, and telephone services.

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