Nonprofits, CPB initiatives pick up Online News Association awards

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Online-news nonprofits and public broadcasters took home multiple awards from the annual Online News Association conference, held Oct. 17–19 in Atlanta.

NPR and the investigative nonprofit ProPublica won Planned News awards in the large and medium categories, respectively, for their coverage of the 2012 election. ProPublica also shared an award with WGBH’s Frontline and American Public Media’s Marketplace for “Big Money 2012,” a multiplatform series about campaign finance. The series won the Gannett Foundation Award for Innovative Investigative Journalism in the medium category.

Two CPB-backed projects took home awards. Black Gold Boom, independent producer Todd Melby’s reporting project covering the rise of North Dakota’s oil economy, won the Feature award in the medium category. The site is part of the Localore initiative spearheaded by the Association of Independents in Radio and is also supported by North Dakota’s Prairie Public statewide network.

EarthFix, an environmental-reporting project that started as a CPB-supported Local Journalism Center in 2011, split the Explanatory Reporting award in the small category with the investigative digital newsroom Honolulu Civil Beat. EarthFix, based at Oregon Public Broadcasting, was recognized for its reporting series “Coal in the Northwest.”

New York’s WNYC won the Breaking News award in the medium category for its online coverage of Superstorm Sandy., the online home of WNET’s Moyers & Company, won the Online Commentary award in the small category for “The Fight to Vote,” a series of commentaries focusing on suppression of voters. The site will continue to cover the issue, said Theresa Riley, director of digital content and strategy.

The nonprofits AxisPhilly and the Texas Tribune picked up General Excellence in Online Journalism awards in the categories of small- and medium-sized newsrooms, respectively. Each outlet will also receive $3,000 in prize money from the Gannett Foundation.

Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab, which covers innovations in news, won an award for Topical Reporting among small organizations. The Center for Investigative Reporting won the same award in the medium category for “Returning Home to Battle,” an in-depth series about the struggles veterans face upon returning home from deployment.

Steve Goldbloom, innovation and business development manager at the Independent Television Service, hosted the awards ceremony in place of longtime emcee Hari Sreenivasan due to Sreenivasan’s new role anchoring PBS NewsHour Weekend. Goldbloom, a former NewsHour employee, took the opportunity to mock the low viewership of NewsHour programs in his monologue, joking that the program’s website has such little traffic the Syrian Electronic Army didn’t bother to hack it this year.

The awards ceremony also featured a brief tribute to Jessica Lum, last year’s ONA student award winner for her reporting project “Slab City Stories.” After winning the award, Lum accepted a position with KPCC in Los Angeles. She died of a rare and inoperable form of cancer in January 2013, a few months after joining the station.

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