All the news from the conference in St. Louis

Photos up from last day

As everyone heads home check out photos from the Innovator of the Year Awards, a talk on Social Media by Kurt Greenbaum and Jack Lail, a presentation of photos by Robert Cohen and the APME Member awards lunch.  Enjoy!


Photos by Kyle Spradley


Filed under: Awards, Workshops, , ,

APME member award winners named

FIRST AMENDMENT: For devotion to overcoming obstacles in the path of a free flow of information and thus contributing through extraordinary effort to the public’s right to know.

Under 40,000 — Iowa City Press Citizen for the University of Iowa sexual assault investigation.

Persistence in seeking through court orders relevant documents on the University of Iowa’s response to a sexual assault on campus unraveled the university’s clamp on informaiton that revealed many problems in the university’s response to the assault. E-mails among university staffers revealed inconsistencies in how the assault victim was treated, and indirectly led to an examination of how the university handles issues such as vacant dorm rooms and assault on campus. The newspaper showed strong commitment to use access law, even at great expense, to pry records and information loose.

40,000-149,000 — Rochester Democrat and Chronicle for “Court Records Not Made Public”

This entry is what the First Amendment category is about, reporting that paves the way to future access to public information by reporters and the general public. The Democrat and Chronicle exposed and helped correct a system of “that’s t he way we’ve always done it,” whereby officials were failing to file court documents in their proper place, effectively keeping the public in the dark on many legal cases, civil and criminal.

Over 150,000 — The Louisville Courier Journal for an examination of the University of Louisville Foundation.

The Courier Journal was persistent over several years and eventually successful in getting the Kentucky Supreme Court to rule that foundation donors should be public. The newspaper displayed exactly the kind of effort to defend and expand the reach of open records laws that this category is designed to recognize.

In defense of a free press, the APME presents the First Amendment Sweepstakes award to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

In addition, the judges awarded these APME First Amendment citations:

• The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch for an examination of how major colleges use a vague federal law to shield information about their big-time athletic departments.

• The Memphis (Tenn.) Commercial Appeal for stories and a searchable database of state handgun carry permit holders.

• The Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, S.D., for stories showing the consolidation of casino licenses into the hands of a few main players.

• The Victoria (Texas) Advocate for shedding light on a dysfunctional local judicial system.

• The Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro, Tenn., for stories, columns and editorials about a botched police investigation into a fatal traffic accident in which an on-duty officer struck and killed an 11-year-old girl, then allegedly tried to dispose of two bottles of liquor in his patrol cruiser.

INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE: For outstanding achievement in presenting international news to local readers.

Under40,000 — No winner

40,000-149,000 — Des Moines Register for “Hope at Any Cost..”

This ambitious series launched after a massive raid at a meatpacking factory, shed light on the conditions that prompted an influx of illegal immigration in an Iowa town. The reporter and photographer traveled to Guatemala to tell the stories of deported former residents who suffered through horrific conditions to pursue opportunity in the U.S.

Above 150,000 — The Boston Globe for “Worldly Boston”

Through his stories and blog, former Globe foreign editor James F. Smith demonstrated that newspapers can bring readers an international perspective without leaving honme. Whether it was showing local historic ties to Cape Verde or Bostonians’ assistance in the hunt for an AIDS vaccine, Smith provided his readers with an insightful connection to world events.

Honorable mentions in this category include:

• The Washington Post for gripping accounts showing the enormous burdens borne by women in West Africa and South Asia.

• The Boston Globe for four stories of Bostonians who shaped world events.

ONLINE CONVERGENCE: For excellence and innovation in presenting quality journalism both in print and online.

Under 40,000 — Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World for “Underground Kansas.”

This was an in-depth multimedia look at off-limits sites, valuable resources and fascinating features that exist beneath the surface of the Sunflower State. The project also is the result of several months of reporting, producing and organizing the information intended to be regarded as unusual, both in content and through its presentation. This is the newspaper’s third straight Online Convergence Award.

40,000-149,000— The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla., for “Amazing Grace: A Dream Comes True”

The web site, news-press.com, and newspaper used the best of each medium to tell the story of a boy’s dying dream to build an orphanage for the childeren of Africa. This is excellent convergence with top-notch photograph, Flash multimedia and video combined with narrative storytelling. A young man’s dying wish is not a trip to Disney World or a visit from a popular athletic. This remarkable youth wants something completely unselfish — that an orphanage be built in Africa.

Over 150,000 — The Las Vegas Sun for “Quenching Las Vegas’ Thirst”

Las Vegas is undergoing a serious water shortage, which is only going to get worse with population growth and changes in global climate. The special feature uses a cutting-edge multimedia player and a Flash-driven special feature uses a cutting-edge multimedia player and a Flash-driven interactive databaswe to explain one of the most complex and politically charged issues in Nevada today, and certainly one of the most important.

Honorable mentions in this category include:

• The Seattle Times and seattletimes.com for a two-year investigation into the murky world of congressional earmarks.

• The Roanoke (Va.) Times and roanoke.com for an interactive tour of the new $66 million Taubman Museum of Art.
• Victoria (Texas) Advocate and victoriaadvocate.come for an interactive package complementing a 16-month investigation of illegal immigration.
PUBLIC SERVICE: For outstanding achievement in the field of public service.

Under 40,000 — The Virgin Islands Daily News for uncovering life-threatening corruption at the only cancer center in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. This is the third consecutive award and the sixth in 14 years for the Daily News.
At the same time the hospital awarded its CEO a record-setting $750,000 in salary and benefits, it wasn’t paying bills for drugs and equipment. Some patients couldn’t get chemotherapy treatments on time because drug companies had cut off supplies. The manufacturer of the radiation machine wouldn’t service it because the center was so far behind on payments.
The paper also revealed that the CEO had been court-martialed and given a bad conduct discharge by the U.S. Navy for stealing and hea had a criminal record for writing bad checks. The chief financial offricer had a criminal record of embezzlement and retail fraud. The center was unaware of this because it did not do background checks.
The three top hospital executives and the board chairman were arrested and charged with a combined 144 counts of fraud, conspiracy and theft. The CEO has been convicted.

40,000-149,000 — The Lexington Herald-Leader for a series of investigations — four and counting — into spending tax dollars by quasi-government groups. The first big story described the expense account of the executive director of the Blue Grass Airport. He charged more than $200,000 in two years on his airport credit card. The paper kept pushing and revealed that the director’s top four lieutenants had spent $332,000 over three years on electronic toys, tickets to sporting events, a visit to a strip club and more, including $2,2000 for six tickets to see Hannah Montana in concert. Other exposes examined the Lexington Public Library and the Kentucky League of Cities.
Above 150,000 — Seattle Times for “Culture of Resistance.”
This was an investigation into the MRSA epidemic at hospitals in Washington state. The Times uncovered 672 deaths from MRSA or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus that had been undisclosed to relatives and the public. The paper also revealed that the number of patients treated each year for MRSA had increased from 141 to 4,732 in just 10 years.
The 8th Annual Robert C. McGruder Awards for Diversity and Leadership.
* Troy Turner from the Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times
• Karen Magnuson from the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

Filed under: Awards, , ,

9 a.m.: Innovator of the Year Award

by Mary Poletti

The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City’s daily newspaper, won the third Innovator of the Year Award on the final day of this year’s APME conference for their integration of video into all aspects of their coverage and the duties of all of their reporters. Kelly Fry, the Oklahoman’s vice president of news and information, called the development a “culture change.”

“It’s been a lot of hard work to change the culture at the Oklahoman,” Fry said as she accepted the award. But, she said, “We owe it to the public.”

The APME Innovator of the Year Award goes out to the paper with the best print, digital, online, or other innovation of the year. Participants voted for the winner with paper ballots after watching a brief video about each paper’s innovation and taking part in a brief question-and-answer session with a representative from that paper.

This year, the Oklahoman won by instituting what they call a “total approach to video” into their Web site, NewsOK.com, that senior staff claim puts them on the same level as TV. All reporters are equipped with small video cameras and are trained to search for a possible video component in every story. The Oklahoman uses a tiered system of training for the creation of video; all reporters are trained to generate what’s called Tier 1 video. Autoplay videos are embedded in every story online where video has been shot, and many beats feature recurring video segments set up as talk shows with reporters.

“Any way we can tell stories effectively and immediately is what we’re doing now,” said sports reporter Darnell Mayberry, who covers the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, in the Oklahoman’s video. He cited not only video as part of this effort, but also blogs and social networking.

The Oklahoman also uses video and social networking to flesh out their breaking news coverage. For coverage of a crippling ice storm, NewsOK.com ran live streaming video of the highways throughout the day alongside a reader-staff chat forum through CoverItLive.

In conversation with moderator Bob Heisse after their video, Fry said the Oklahoman’s initial video investment had been about $1 million. In return, the paper is on track to best 10 million video views in 2009 – up from 1 million in 2008.

Fry said three key reasons the Oklahoman transitioned to video as such an integral part of their news operation were to extend their journalism (“If you have a tool, why not use it?”), to spend more time being intentional about their Web site, and to generate revenue. Among other revenue sources that have stemmed from their use of video, outside businesses use the Oklahoman’s studio for their own video needs.

Three newspapers competed for the Innovator of the Year Award. Heisse said the competition was the closest it had ever been.

“No seconds or thirds. These are all winners,” Heisse told the audience.

The News-Press of Fort Myers, Fla., was nominated for a focus on “journalism shaped by community.” The newspaper orchestrated several community information and improvement efforts, using its status as a community leader to go above and beyond simply presenting information to actively better the community.

The News-Press’s “Dear Mr. President” project collected the opinions of readers to present to President Obama in print and online multimedia form. “Summer of Hunger” brought together local services to feed area residents who would otherwise have gone hungry during the summer months and to connect them with social services for a lasting effect on their quality of life. More than 20,000 people were served, and 6,000 families were connected with social services. And a macroeconomic project brought together business and community leaders to distribute information on job-seeking, cost-cutting, and other means of coping with the economic crisis, which hit the construction- and real estate-based Fort Myers economy particularly hard.

Senior managing editor Cindy McCurry-Ross told Heisse the projects and similar work “let the readers really come in as the foundation of our journalism and help us forge solutions for our community.”

“Knowing from our journalism that there was going to be a problem…we needed to use our ability as community leaders to get [people] at the table and facilitate the conversation,” McCurry-Ross said. “We wanted to play a leadership role, but we also wanted to cede some of that leadership back to the community and say, ‘We’ve got to fix this together.’”

At the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal, the paper built on its strong tradition of environmental reporting to launch the Web site AllGreentoMe.com, a portal for information about the environment. Aggregating the best of environmental content on the Web through automated search functions, the site also includes community contributions from area environmental scientists and university professors. The site connected with citizens to advance the idea of “a green economy” while fulfilling a watchdog function to keep the agriculturally rich area aware of and safe from threats like rising rivers.

“We’re trying to use technology to tell stories in a really deep and sophisticated way,” said vice president of news and executive editor David Ledford.

The integration of science-oriented community content helped, too, Ledford said: “That gives it credibility. That kind of science really brings it a level up.”

Both the News-Press and the News Journal spoke to the need for solid management skills to launch new innovations in a changing newspaper environment.

McCurry-Ross said the paper’s four principles in looking at new endeavors could be summed up in the acronym POTS, which stands for planning, ownership, teamwork, sustainability.

The News Journal’s video said the paper, which has experienced downsizing, relied on multitasking to ensure the success of AllGreentoMe.com. Many newsroom staff members took on site-related responsibilities in addition to their full-time duties at the paper.

The APME began the Innovator of the Year competition in 2007. The News-Press won that year for their series of integrated efforts to solicit reader news tips.

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