WNYC, EarthFix lead pubmedia’s award winners at ONA 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — Public media continues to earn accolades for its online innovations, as multiple outlets racked up trophies at the Online News Association’s awards ceremony Sept. 22. Hosted by PBS NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan, the gala banquet sought to honor the year’s best work in online journalism across all media outlets. Award categories reflect the size of the operation: small sites, with fewer than 25 full-time employees; medium, more than 25 but fewer than 100; and large, more than 100. With two trophies each, public broadcasting’s big winners were WNYC in New York and EarthFix, the CPB-backed Local Journalism Center focusing on environment issues in the Pacific Northwest.

Local, online, news, profitable, sustainable — Which word does not belong with the others?

“The big opportunity — and where the most disruption is — is in local media.”—Vivian Schiller, president, NPR

“I have little doubt in my mind that, whether it’s us or somebody else, [local news] is going to be a very big space in the future.”—Tim Armstrong, chair and c.e.o., AOL

In the front of the room, NPR President Vivian Schiller and AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong are laying out their corporate strategies to almost a thousand online journalists. It’s the lunchtime general session of the Online News Association (ONA) Conference, and the topic is one of the principal challenges for American journalism: how to provide and sustain local news. The distinction between national and local news often gets lost among the gloomy statistics that surface in so many discussions of the news business. Local newspapers have been folding, probably at a faster rate than many people realize. According to Paper Cuts, 171 local newspapers have closed in the three years 2008-2010, resulting in the loss of 2,800 jobs, not counting early retirements. Locally is where disruptive technology has been the most profoundly disruptive.