SDX 2002 Awards Gallery
Newspaper/Wire Service (Circ. over 100,000)
Newspaper/Wire Service (Circ. Under 100,000)
Spot News Photography
Breaking News Reporting: Radio
Television (Network/Top 25)
Television (All Other Markets)
Deadline is Difficult, fun
By Patricia Shevlin
It always happens when you least expect it. The phone call you get on the way to work: Theyve lost contact with the shuttle. Or as youre dropping your son off at a baseball game: We think theyve found Eric Rudolph. Or when youre still at home: A second planes gone into the World Trade Center. Get here fast.
Theres an avalanche of thoughts. How are we going to cover this? Whos going to Texas or North Carolina or downtown New York? How many angles can we cover? And most important: What do we know? Finding the facts thats the hard part.
A small army of people goes into action. Correspondents and crews are put in motion. Satellite trucks are found and deployed. Birds are ordered. Videotape of the incident begins to flood into the building and producers and editors start sorting through it looking for the best images, the survivor with the moving story, the press conference that gives you the latest facts.
Then its decision time. Which pieces do we include in the broadcast? Have we covered every angle of the story? Is the writing clear? Will the audience understand the complexities? Are we right about that? Are we being fair?
For an evening news broadcast, you only have a half-hour of airtime. What are you going to choose to tell? How are you going to present it so it has the most impact and the audience understands what has happened and why?
As you get closer to going on the air, the questions become more urgent. Is the piece done? Will it role out of the edit room? Will the graphics be ready? Is the bird up? Have they fed yet?
When youre done, when youre off the air, its hard to come down. Sometimes you worry: Will our people in the field be OK? Or you wonder: Were we right about the number of dead? Sometimes you cry, because the news affects you, too. Being here, covering the story, is your way of dealing with it.
Here are the rules: You have to be fast. You have to be first. You have to be right. And you have to be the best.
Its scary. But even under the worst circumstances, its fun. Youre in the middle of a breaking news story. Tomorrow it will be part of history. Today, its exhilarating. If theres a better job, I dont know what it is.
Patricia Shevlin is executive producer for the Weekend Editions of CBS Evening News.
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The Seattle Times
In an ongoing, high-profile story like the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings last year, news reports can start to look the same. Competition is high, and the saturation of journalists working on the story often prevents one organizations coverage from jumping too far ahead of the others.
But on the morning of Oct. 24, readers of The Seattle Times had more information about the arrested suspects in the sniper case than readers of any other paper in the United States. Times reporters had been able to confirm the names of the suspects, and they quickly dispatched 10 journalists to dig up background information and fill in the holes left by other papers.
This work was especially remarkable because The Times hadnt been covering the story at all until 4 p.m. on Oct. 23, when they learned that FBI agents were digging in the yard of a house in Tacoma, Wash. When the paper discovered that the FBI was looking for evidence in the sniper case, it immediately launched itself into the heart of one of the most celebrated murder cases last year.
Much of the reporting was the work of the papers new ‘spotlight or quick hit investigative projects team, which had been put together only a month earlier, said Jim Neff, investigations editor at The Times. Those five reporters, the I-Team reporters and the Metro staff worked together seamlessly, day after day. It was a thing of beauty.
In addition to being the first major paper in the country to report that John Muhammad and Lee Malvo had been arrested for the shootings, The Times Oct. 24 coverage included these exclusives: information about Muhammads past wives (including an interview with his first wife), the details surrounding Muhammads name change, a history of Muhammads military service, and details about Malvos background.
Even after their initial report on Oct. 24, The Times continued to beat other news outlets to the unfolding details of the sniper case.
Other entries that came close to this degree of detail did so in a package of stories all submitted as the entry, rather than separated into entry main story and sidebar support, wrote the judges. But The Seattle Times staff got all its great detail in the entry story and still submitted support.
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The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
The work of The Eagle-Tribune is evidence that newsroom preparation pays off when it matters most.
Last year, the paper won the SDX Award for Public Service for Building Bridges, a two-year series that examined the relationship between local white and Latino communities. While working on the series, Eagle-Tribune reporters made important contacts and built trust within the local Latino community.
That trust became an essential reporting tool in December, when seven Latino boys fell into the icy Merrimack River. Four of the boys drowned, making it the worst river tragedy the community had seen in almost a century.
As the paper mobilized its staff, it was able to draw on established relationships to quickly pull together the facts of the story.
The victims and survivors were from the Spanish-speaking immigrant neighborhoods of Lawrence. Rumor swirled on every street corner, in every home, in every coffee shop. The neighborhood atmosphere was chaotic, wrote Editor in Chief Bill Ketter in his nomination letter. We not only had to separate truth from scuttlebutt on deadline, we had to win the trust of the Dominican, Puerto Rican and Haitian communities to talk directly to the survivors and to the victims families. And we had to talk to them in their language, not through translators. That was critical to the storys timeliness and accuracy.
The Eagle-Tribunes coverage provided more factual details than accounts from other media; while others were reporting that the boys had been playing on the ice, The Eagle-Tribune reported that one boy had fallen in and the others had tried to rescue him. As the paper began to emerge as the leader in coverage of the tragedy, other media outlets including The Boston Globe began to rely on The Eagle-Tribune for their coverage.
Reporters arrived at the rescue scene within 30 minutes of when the first boy fell through the ice, and their coverage reflected their quick presence. Dramatic photos showed the boys being pulled out, and the graphic images led to internal newsroom debates over which art was appropriate to use.
Despite the pressure of deadline, we took the time to discuss the sensibilities of our readers and the consequences of running the pictures, including the dramatic front-page picture showing a boy who later died being hauled from the river by a firefighter, wrote Ketter. We knew it would anger many readers and it did but we ran it anyway because it was a significant part of our journalism on this difficult day, telling the story in a single image.
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Spot News Photography
Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times, "Church of the Nativity: In the center of Sige" Series
Carolyn Cole may have known the risks when she ran into the besieged Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, but she didnt think about them.
As a photographer covering the Middle East, Cole understood the dangers around the church. She knew the area was surrounded by Israeli snipers. But when a small group of aid workers carrying food to the church began to run toward the doors, Cole found herself running with them and her last-minute decision to enter the church led to a series of photos that told the stories of the Palestinians trapped inside the church during the siege.
During her nine days in the church, Cole was the only photographer. She was entirely on her own; members of the aid group that she had followed were hostile, because she had no food to help those inside.
In fact, Cole had no food, water, or extra clothing for herself. But her biggest concern was her photo equipment she was low on battery power for her digital camera, and she knew she had to get the most out of the battery she had left. She kept the battery inside her jacket when she wasnt using it, because she knew that cold batteries lost their charge more quickly.
Cole found an ally in a priest who was able to freely come and go from the church. He smuggled out digital cards containing her photos, and he eventually brought back a new battery. Before she left the church, Cole convinced a Palestinian negotiator to take her remaining digital cards a move that proved to be warranted when Israelis searched her after she left the church.
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Minnesota Public Radio, St. Paul, Minn.
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When U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash 11 days before the election, reporters for Minnesota Public Radio knew they had a lot of work to do.
Wellstone, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, had been nearing the end of a difficult re-election campaign, and the outcome of the election had large repercussions for which party would take control of the U.S. Senate. After his death, the Democratic Party quickly put forth a replacement candidate former Vice President Walter Mondale and the days leading up to the election amounted to an entirely new campaign for the office.
It was rewarding to cover a race that had such a national significance, said Linda McCallum, capitol bureau chief for MPR. There was a sense that the nation was watching Minnesota, and the balance of the U.S. Senate was at stake. We felt it was vital for MPR to provide fair, accurate and ongoing coverage of the race.
Reporters covered several large stories, almost at once: the death of Wellstone, a dynamic and controversial political leader; the scrambling of Democrats to find another candidate to take his place; and the intense campaigning in the final days leading up to the election itself.
One minute youre covering an election battle involving a sitting senator, said MPR reporter Tom Scheck. The next minute youre covering his funeral and the reaction to his death. You then have to cover a supercharged election.
Besides the fatigue of following such a fast-paced story, most of the reporters also had to deal with the grief of losing someone they had come to know through years of coverage.
But MPR stuck with the story, airing more than 12 hours of live coverage in the wake of Wellstones death. Most of the organizations programming between the accident and the election was consumed by the story, and MPR sponsored the only debate between Mondale and the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman, a day before the election.
The amount of live coverage was almost unprecedented for MPR, and with many events happening throughout the state it required planning and execution to be done simultaneously, said Managing Editor Mike Mulcahy.
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KSTP-TV Eyewitness News, St. Paul, Minn.
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The staff of KSTP-TV Eyewitness News in St. Paul, Minn., used their experience as well as the immediacy of television to break important developments in the death of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Wellstone, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, was killed in a plane crash 11 days before an election that might determine which party would control the U.S. Senate.
The KSTP-TV crews were the first on the scene of the crash, and their live news coverage captured all the ensuing events: the investigation, the memorial, and the campaign leading up to the eventual election of Republican Norm Coleman, who had been running against Wellstone before the senators death.
The veteran talent of the KSTP-TV staff added depth to the stations coverage. Political reporter Tom Hauser covered the political fallout from the crash, including an exclusive interview with Coleman and the first news that Wellstones family had asked former Vice President Walter Mondale to run as Wellstones replacement. Bob McNaney, a veteran aviation reporter, broke information about the crash scene that other journalism organizations were unable to obtain.
Judges were impressed by the immediacy and depth of KSTP-TVs coverage.
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KSL-TV, Salt Lake City
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For television reporters covering a breaking story, the temptation is to take the easy way out to get a reporter on the scene and do live, from the scene shots whenever a new development breaks.
But when 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her home, the staff of KSL-TV took their coverage of the breaking story to another level. Roughly half of the reporters assigned to cover the story produced packages that examined different aspects of the kidnapping, providing background and perspective.
The coverage, and its subsequent recognition by SPJ, demonstrates the value of our approach to breaking news coverage, which requires us to concentrate on providing context to the coverage, as opposed to a random stream of developing elements, said Assistant News Director and Managing Editor Con Psarras.
After such a high-profile news event, a lot of information came through the newsroom. Reporters were challenged to sift through all the misinformation and hone in on the relevant facts of the case. But they managed to put the information together in a comprehensive set of stories for their readers and all while under the pressure of a deadline. Psarras said these planned packages are what set them apart from other stations.
Our coverage included nearly a dozen package stories with context and detail, as opposed to the coverage of our three competitors, which produced not a single reporter package on the abduction the day it occurred, said Psarras. It is our firm belief that our audience appreciates a calm and thorough approach to breaking news that offers a variety of perspective.
The stations coverage also went beyond the kidnapping itself, covering the search for the child and the eventual arrest and prosecution of her alleged abductors. The KSL-TV Web site was regularly updated with stories and additional information about the case.
This is the second SDX Award the KSL-TV news team has received in four years. The first award given in the same category as this years honor was for their breaking coverage of a tornado in 1999. The tornado was the only one ever recorded in Salt Lake City.
Judges said the stations thoughtful approach to breaking news showed in its coverage of the Smart case.
KSLs reporting was dramatic, but not breathless, they wrote. The stations work was thorough, but not excessive. The reporting was compelling, but not sensational. From the beginning, KSL tried to put the story in context, and its reporting was not only informative, but helpful.
This was a difficult story to cover, they said, and KSL-TV did it right. [ Back to Top ]
Staff, KGW.com, Mt. Hood Chopper Crash
The Web counterparts of many local news outlets are content to simply reproduce on the Internet the work of their parent organizations. But the staff of KGW.com, the online counterpart of KGW-TV in Portland Ore., went beyond that when a military helicopter crashed into a mountain.
Initially, the Web site tapped into the resources of its broadcast partner, streaming live video coverage from the television station. A KGW helicopter had been right behind the Air Force chopper when it crashed, and the site was able to post incredible streaming video of the crash itself.
But the staff of KGW.com expanded the sites coverage beyond what was possible on television. A graphics artist quickly put together interactive illustrations of the event. Detailed stories and pictures soon emerged from the rescue scene. Reporters working exclusively for the Web site regularly called in or posted updates from the center of the rescue operation. It wasnt long before the site had accumulated an online archive that followed the crash coverage and subsequent rescue efforts.
Other news outlets including The Associated Press, USA Today and The New York Times used photos from the site to run on their front pages. One local AP editor referred to KGW.com as the wire to the wire.
With only eight full-time staff members, KGW.com provided reporting that incorporated all media detailed written reports, dramatic still photos, immediate streaming video and interactive graphics. Its breaking coverage took advantage of everything the Web makes possible.
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Staff, CNET News.com, Excite@Home
The pressure of covering a breaking news story makes it a difficult task, but that pressure increases exponentially when the story is difficult to explain.
For CNET News.com, technical writing is not new. The site was created six years ago and has become the go-to source for daily technology news. But when Excite@Home went out of business last year, reporters at News.com found themselves covering a deadline story about more than technology it was about the complex and confusing relationship between @Home and its owner, AT&T.
Though @Home was a start-up venture of AT&T and the latter was a majority shareholder in the former AT&T offered services that directly competed with those of @Home. In its analysis of what led to @Homes demise, News.coms reporters had to untangle the relationship of these two companies and how that relationship impacted @Homes performance.
News.com also covered the impacts of the companys shut-down. Millions of customers were left wondering what would happen to their service.
Investors in the company lost billions. Thousands of employees lost their jobs. In a few short years, @Home went from being a well-respected rival to America Online to going out of existence, and the News.com staff used detailed reporting and clear writing to explain the downfall.