Posted on April 15, 2008
Best online reporting (SPJ), 2007
The Society of Professional Journalists has announced its annual awards for best online reporting. I think we should take a moment to consider how this great reporting is presented online.
Deadline Reporting (affiliated): Path of Destruction: Central Florida Storms, Clarisa Gerlach & staffs, TBO.com, WFLA and The Tampa Tribune. Is it just me, or is the layout of this thing totally confusing? And when I click the links at the top to “Map” and “About Tornados,” I feel lost, without any context. If this is the product of the most hyped “converged newsroom” in the U.S., it’s no wonder journalism is in trouble.
Deadline Reporting (independent): Fed Alert: Breaking Fed News, Staff, Bankrate.com, North Palm Beach, Fla. Like a radiant sunrise compared with the dark, foggy night of the previous example, this page lays out the news for you in a clear, no-nonsense way. Simple and clean.
Non-Deadline Reporting (affiliated): “Mormonism in America,” Jason Szep, Reuters, Boston. I couldn’t find anything with this exact title, but I did find Mormons in the Spotlight (June 11, 2007). The page layout is reasonable, and the supplemental content is easy to find in an inset box (video, Q&A, fact box) at the left, under the headline. You can see more articles by Szep on this topic here.
Non-Deadline Reporting (independent): Wasting Away: Superfund’s Toxic Legacy, Staff, The Center for Public Integrity, Washington, D.C. At the top of the page: “Toxic waste still plagues American communities 27 years after the U.S. government set up a program to identify and clean up the country’s worst sites. A one-year investigation by the Center for Public Integrity reveals the beleaguered state of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund effort, uncovers the companies and government agencies linked to the most sites and tracks progress of the clean up.” Is that great, or what? The biggest flaw on this page is that the awesome map of 1,623 Superfund sites is displayed too far down on the page. Instead of wasting space with an empty blue bar (top right), CPI ought to move that map up there, where it would really have an impact.
Investigative Reporting (affiliated): Cause for Alarm, Bill Dedman, MSNBC.com, Redmond, Wash. A big package with a clean layout and some neat add-ons, including an integrated multimedia package. See more investigative work from Dedman here.
Investigative Reporting (independent): Collateral Damage: Human Rights and U.S. Military Aid Before and After 9/11, Staff, The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists at The Center for Public Integrity, Washington, D.C. Like “Wasting Away” (linked above), this project cannot fail to impress. However, both of these landing pages will overwhelm most normal humans. Is this the best way to present such information? By showing a bewildering array of deep, serious stuff, CPI may send away far more people than it draws in. We need to think about this in our strategies for journalism. What good have we done if no one reads what we have written?
Public Service in Online Journalism (affiliated): Faces of TYC: Abuse and Scandal Plague the Texas Youth Commission, Staff, The Dallas Morning News. Even when you create attract graphic panels to promote or introduce the story, you have to consider the overall page layout. In this case, I think it’s hard to discern which are the ads and which are the editorial pieces — especially because DMN bucks online design convention and lays an ad column on the left rail:
(Click for a larger, unshaded screen capture.)
Public Service in Online Journalism (independent): States of Disclosure: Tracking the private interests of public officials, Staff, The Center for Public Integrity, Washington, D.C. Okay, so CPI ate everybody’s lunch this year — we need more investigative journalism online! In this case, the page layout is a little less intimidating than in the previous two examples (hooray!). The navigation in the green box on the left is nice and clear — even better, it makes the whole package appear to be manageable, instead of overwhelming. From this page, however, I can’t figure out what the difference is between “Document Warehouse” and “In Your State.” That ought to be made apparent here.
Complete list of 2007 SPJ/SDX awards here (without any links!).