Washington, DC – “You Decide” KQED’s original monthly Web series that created a novel way to present multiple sides of a news story today won the $10,000 Grand Prize in the Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism.
“It talks ‘up’ to the readers, not ‘down’,” said the judges of the San Francisco public broadcasting initiative. “You Decide” dissects key national issues to core arguments, pro and con, then plays online devil’s advocate, challenging user opinions with points and counterpoints. “It’s an incredible model for the future of journalism,” the judges said. “A classic example of where public policy is a conversation and not a lecture.”
“We were struck by the simplicity of approach taken by KQED – they just didn’t take “No,” or “Yes,” for an answer. They pushed the reader to go deep,” said Bryan Monroe, chairman of the Batten Advisory board and assistant vice president/news of Knight Ridder. “They just proved that innovation doesn’t necessarily have to come with fancy bells and techno widgets. Simple can work.”
Top honors also went to $2,000 runner-up “P.O.V,‘s Borders” project, a Web-original series that the judges compared to “3-D chess – a different kind of metaphor for producing a story.” It explores choices for using air, water and land via non-linear storytelling, digital art and rich opportunities for people to participate in the learning.
The winners included three other fresh efforts that each received $1,000 Awards of Distinction. The awards were presented at a morning symposium at the National Press Club. To see these and other notable entries, visit http://www.j-lab.org.
Earning Awards of Distinction were:
* “The Nature of Things: The Investigation of Swissair 111,” CBC.ca
An online investigation that used animation and video to present a straightforward account of the crash that was both informational and welcomed by victims’ families. “Powerful storytelling, splendid navigation, innovative touches throughout,” the judges said.
* “Sing My Song,” USAToday.com
A tour of West Virginia’s NewSong Festival through participants’ eyes. Conceived
for the Web, it was extended to a full page inside the paper. Users could vote for their five favorite songs and compare their picks with the judges’ selections. “It embraced the aspirations and journeys of ordinary people aspiring to achieve their dreams,” the judges said. “An exciting template for interactive entertainment news.”
* “A Tribute to our Troops,” www.projo.com, Providence (R.I.) Journal
An intimate, interactive database that allowed readers to create a Web page for an individual soldier or troop and post messages or photos. It has attracted more than 80,000 messages posted to about 6,300 Web pages. “An extremely simple exercise in small-J journalism that was very community interactive,” the judges said. “It’s like the Civil War letters.”
Today’s symposium featured presentations from the winners and keynote remarks by online news innovator, Rob Curley, who has spearheaded some of the country’s edgiest Internet news sites for both the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World and Topeka Capital-Journal.
The Batten Awards pay tribute to news organizations that use new information ideas and technologies in innovative ways to engage people in important issues and events. They honor the late James K. Batten, former CEO of Knight Ridder and a pioneer in exploring ways journalism can better connect with citizens.
The awards are funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and administered by J-Lab, a center of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park.
Participating with Bryan Monroe in the judging were: Mark Hinojosa, associate
managing editor, electronic news, the Chicago Tribune; Dale Peskin, co-director, The Media Center; Mike McCurry. Partner, Public Strategies Washington Inc.; Jody Brannon, executive producer-news, USAToday.com; Chris Harvey, Director, Maryland Newsline, and Susan Moeller, assistant professor, both of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism; and Jan Schaffer, J-Lab executive director.