SDX 2002 Awards Gallery
Newspaper/Wire Service (Circ. Over 100,000)
Newspaper/Wire Service (Circ. Under 100,000)
Keep coverage relevant
By Buzz Conover
Covering any continuing story is a challenge because you have to balance the new with the necessary. You must give the newest information while also dealing with what I refer to as the living under a rock or when we last left our hero factor. That is the portion of the story where you review the basics for the members of your audience who are not familiar with the way the story has developed.
For Election 2000, I was a fledgling news director for WFSU-FM and The Florida Public Radio Network and about to learn some of the biggest lessons of my journalism career to that point. I had been a statehouse reporter for nearly 10 years, five years with the public radio system in Florida, but this was the first time that I was running election night on my own.
Early on during Election Day, the news director at WQCS-FM in Ft. Pierce, Fla., called in a story about some problems with the two-sided ballots in South Florida. People were claiming to have had trouble marking what we all came to know as the butterfly ballot. The report went out on our afternoon feed, and at 4 p.m. on election day I figured that was probably the last I would hear of that story. Lesson No. 1: You never know when a seemingly minor event will become history.
By that evening, the eyes of the world had turned to Tallahassee. No matter where you turned, the nationals were reporting the story, so what could we as a local station and state network do that was any different? The answer: do what we do best cover Florida. Lesson No. 2: Remember your audience and do not try to be something you are not. Who understood better the intricacies of Floridas judicial system than those of us who had covered it for years? Who better to explain why the Florida Legislature was contemplating appointing new delegates to the Electoral College than those of us who knew the players? Who better to run to the next critical location than someone who already knows where the next location will be?
Knowing the local ins and outs was our advantage, especially during the opening days. Sure, we covered the big news every day along with the national networks and publications, but we served our listeners by giving them the Florida angle. Using our skills as political beat reporters, we wrote the stories for Floridians, with details about what their leaders were doing, and we inserted the local context.
Buzz Conover is now the Radio-Television Coordinator for WFSU-TV/The Florida Channel. He won a 2000 Sigma Delta Chi Award for his coverage of the presidential election.
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Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post Gazette
When a breaking news story hits, it generates a lot of media attention. But once the initial story ends when the conflict is resolved most media pack up their notepads and head home.
It was at that point in the story, though, when the staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette really got going.
National headlines reported that nine coal miners were trapped underground after accidentally breaking through a wall and releasing a torrent of water from an adjacent abandoned mine. For five days, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and journalists from across the country followed the rescue operations. When the miners were finally pulled out safely, other journalists dropped the story.
But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette kept their momentum, and for the next four days they worked around the clock to pull together accounts of the incident from everyone involved.
The hidden story hidden below the ground and hidden by overzealous public officials wasnt yet known, said Madelyn Ross, managing editor of the Post-Gazette and editor of the winning project. It was the responsibility of the Post-Gazette to write the book on this near tragedy so that life-and-death lessons would not be forgotten.
Journalists interviewed the miners and members of the rescue crew, as they pieced together a timeline of the ordeal. Things had happened so quickly that it was difficult to line up different peoples memories of everything; the miners had a difficult time remembering exactly what happened when, and rescuers had few notes from which to pull their technical solutions for getting the miners out many of their notes had been rough sketches drawn on the palms of their hands.
The miners were initially reluctant to relive their time in the mine, and reporters had to be sensitive while collecting information for stories. But when the final account was assembled and printed, they were able to see in many ways, for the first time what had truly happened to them.
The papers stories were collected and printed in book form, with more than 30,000 copies sold.
The miners story was one of the few major breaking stories with a happy ending, said Ross. That may have accounted for the special thrill of this adrenalin rush, even for grizzled old news veterans.
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The Herald News, Joliet, IL
Catherine Ann Velasco had never written about teen suicide before.
She was assigned a story on the topic because of a controversial article that had been written by another reporter in her newsroom about a local suicide. The public was outraged at the details that the coverage of that incident had included, and the editor issued a public apology for the coverage but insisted that the topic of teen suicide was one that deserved more coverage.
To keep his promise, he gave Velasco a month to research and write on the topic. She was given no direction, no length requirements, and no place to start. So she approached the topic like any other story.
I always start an assignment by asking key sources what they havent seen in the media about the topic and why should that angle be addressed, she wrote in her entry letter. In this case, I had a wide array of sources and possible angles from police, the coroner, clergy, school counselors, psychiatrists, support groups, parents and teens.
Velasco quickly realized that this story was going to be different from her other stories. When she sat down to write, she had eight notebooks and more than 300 inches of notes. She knew she couldnt fit everything into one story, so her news editor suggested a series and he promised he would get it all into the paper.
Readers reacted strongly to the four resulting stories.
I had several phone calls from people who recently lost a loved one to suicide and just wanted to talk and cry. They all said they wished my stories ran earlier because it may have helped save their loved one, Velasco wrote. I never realized that a story could have such an impact. Its an experience Ill never forget.
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Benjamin Grove, Las Vegas Sun
Benjamin Grove knows what makes a good Washington correspondent. Its not the coverage of national political debates. Its not following the politics of Congress or the White House.
For Grove, a good Washington correspondent asks questions that relate national news stories to the community hes covering. Grove is Washington correspondent for the Las Vegas Sun, and his community is the state of Nevada. And the biggest issue in Washington affecting Nevadans is the decision about what to do with Yucca Mountain.
Yucca Mountain is an area 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. For years, the government has been examining Yucca Mountain as a possible dumping ground for dangerous nuclear waste. Last year, a plan was approved by President George W. Bush that will begin storing such waste on the site by 2010.
Nevadans are often skeptical about the federal government in general, and I try to be their advocate by asking the questions they would ask about this controversial federal project if they were here, said Grove.
Grove covered the story constantly as it unfolded in Washington, and his coverage examined the issue from all sides. His reported drawbacks to the governments plan, such as the dangers the storage site could introduce to the state. Grove also explained why the plan is considered important in Washington; for one story, he visited a nuclear power plant in Minnesota that would be forced to close if the Yucca Mountain storage area wasnt completed.
Roadblocks by the state had slowed process, but now with presidential approval, the plan will likely move forward.
Its a classic feds vs. state showdown, with a sometimes bumbling agency (Energy Department) thrown in to make my job easier, said Grove.
Groves said he enjoyed following the story and is proud that hes been able to help educate readers of the Las Vegas Sun on this important issue. He also offered some advice to aspiring journalists:
Be open to developing a special area of interest, he said. No one grows up planning to be a nuclear waste junkie.
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The Associated Press
The Associated Press world-class team of photographers captured the essence of the 2002 Winter Olympics in its 19-photo submission for the Sigma Delta Chi Award.
Photo after photo, the team delivered an unequaled package that immortalized some of the greatest and most historic moments of the event.
From David Phillips photo of the American bobsledder Vonetta Flowers the first black athlete to win a gold medal at any Winter Olympics to Lionel Cironneus shot of American Apolo Anton Ohnos fall in the final stretch of the 1,000 meter short track speed skating race, the team demonstrated tremendous versatility. In just a few select photos, they convey the full drama, tense moments, jubilation, action and beauty of the competition.
Joe Cavarettas photo of the Japanese double luge crash froze time at the height of action as the men slid across the ice above the Salt Lake marker.
Stunning! wrote one judge. Every image is memorable, creative and of the highest quality. Each of them were excellent sports photos of sports in action and focused on important stories of the day. Highly professional and newsworthy work.
There is no denying the power of moments, and AP captured them with such singular images as Vonetta Flowers crying. AP also rounded it out with graphic composition. The tightly edited presentation honed the Olympics to a single effect story. Great job.
With elevated security at the event, fears and reflections of terrorism were not far from the minds of many. Roberto Boreas photo of Olympians holding open a tattered American flag that was recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center exemplified the resilience of a nation under alert.
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Walter Iooss Jr. & Steve Fine, Sports Illustrated
Walter Iooss Jr.s photo illustration of Charles Barkley, laden with symbolism, takes a daring departure from bland contrivance.
Shirtless, shoeless and held captive, the legendary basketball player and sports commentator is shown breaking free from the chains that bind him.
This is a simple but effective image of a black athlete who refuses to be bound by convention. The shackles and chains recall the slave trade and reflect Charles Barkleys comments about race in professional sports. The lighting and shadow contribute to the drama of the image, wrote the judges.
The illustration appeared on the cover of the March 11, 2002, issue of Sports Illustrated. Toward the end of the story, author Jack McCallum describes the scene as Barkley posed for the illustration:
There is a great differential between how youre treated when youre black and how youre treated when youre white, he said before climbing into his chains on a Miami rooftop. Any time something bad happens to a black person because of racism, I feel it in my soul. I really do. You take the Abner Louima case. That let me know one thing; If some white guys wanted to stick a plunger up a black guys butt, and Im the black guy who happened to be around, Id have a plunger up my butt ... .
The afternoon sun finally peeks out, and Barkleys oiled-up skin glistens with sweat. He grows quiet, looks down at his chains, and for a moment you forget how funny he is and remember how far he has come. Brought up poor and fatherless by a mother and a grandmother who worked as domestics, Barkley says he never would have made it out of Leeds if not for basketball, might have faced a fate like that of his younger brother, Darryl, a former drug addict who needs a heart transplant and needs it soon ... . Another glance and you remember that countless black men, loud and proud men, have been bound and silenced by racism and poverty.
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Karl Gelles, Frank Pompa, Joan Murphy, Larry Marshakl, USA TODAY
In four bonus sections each year, USA TODAY takes readers into the world of motor racing. Last year, a group of graphic illustrators decided to use visuals to take readers even further into the cars themselves.
In three full-page graphics, the USA TODAY team explained in detail the elements of different kinds of motor racing the inside of a NASCAR transporter, the structure of a Winston Cup race car, and the construction of an Indy car. Illustrators, reporters and photographers made on-site visits to Richmond Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to research the cars. They felt that additional work paid off.
One of the most difficult parts of any graphic is to make complex ideas or in this case automotives easy for the reader to understand without oversimplifying, said Joan Murphy, who does research for sports graphics at USA TODAY. We write and draw for both knowledgeable fans and readers new to racing. We felt we included something for every level of race fan last year.
Readers responded to the graphics, saying they appreciated the clarity.
The graphics struck a cord with readers who knew little or nothing about the sport, said illustrator Frank Pompa. Even my wifes first-grade class understood most of the principles of auto racing after reviewing the Indy car page.
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Sonia Nazario & Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times
Visit this site
In its nomination letter, latimes.com asked a question that any news Web site could ask: How does a newspaper Web site get its predominantly office-bound, short-attention-span users interested in devoting time to a six-chapter series? It also provided the answer: It looks for ways to pique their curiosities so theyll slow down and delve into the story just enough to get hooked.
In Enriques Journey, a six-part series that follows a Honduran teenager in his attempts to reunite with his mother in the United States, the staff of latimes.com used the power of multimedia to pull readers into their stories. Interactive photos and headlines on the front page showcased the content of each chapter and encouraged readers to find out more. Each of the chapters included a video introduction by the author, Sonia Nazario, which set up the story that followed.
The compelling photos of Don Bartletti helped drive the stories. Visitors to the site could view photo galleries, and a special multimedia presentation called Photographers View allowed users to see his photos while listening to Bartletti explain what the work meant to him.
The series contained other features that are only available on the Web. Maps and statistical charts gave context to the story. A series of sidebars, labeled Along the Tracks, told the stories of people Enrique met during his journey. A Spanish version of the series was posted online. And Nazario and Bartletti both answered questions from readers about the work that went into the series.
The execution of this story package resulted from close work and planning between the newspapers print and online staffs that began months before the publication date, read the entry letter. The Spanish version also would not have appeared if not for the commitment of the newspapers bilingual copy editors working with freelance translators.
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Visit this site
While reviewing their own work, the staff of WebMD noticed a rising problem that warranted further investigation.
The senior editors noted a trend in our coverage that wed been doing a lot of reports on the soaring numbers of children taking prescription medications, said Dan DeNoon, senior writer for WebMD. Wed also been hearing from parents who had been told by schools to put their children on medication. We decided to give the issue a closer look, and present it as a special report.
The result was a four-part series that examines childhood behaviors that are often being treated with medication. The stories ask whether medication is the best solution to many of these problems, and it looks at alternative ways of combating bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression in children. It also questions whether children are being over-diagnosed for these conditions and, as a result, over-medicated.
Instead of turning to the usual suspects for these types of stories clinicians who have written books on the topic and have growing practices that treat troubled children the staff of WebMD turned to leading researchers in adolescent psychology.
Special Report: Whats Happening to Our Kids provides solid facts, reassuring experts, and critically needed support for parents and children at a time of great confusion, wrote Marjorie L. Martin, WebMD vice president for content and programming, in her nomination letter. And that, we believe, is what the Web is all about.