True, this election-coverage week has cast television network and local-station Web sites as superb conveyors of news and voter results too localized for broader-interest, on-air coverage.
Yet, as the distinguished, 11-person nominating committee of the Online News Association has just attested, television-related Web sites aren't just for brand extension anymore. Competing against Web-based iterations of respected print publications such as
The New York Times
The Wall Street Journal, television URLs are gaining acceptance in the nascent field of online journalism on their own merits.
This is not hyperbole, but fact. Last week, the Online News Association (http://www.journalists.org) and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism announced the finalists for the first Online Journalism Awards. In several categories, television-related news entries stand proudly among distinguished competition. Let's look at categories where broadcast-media contestants have placed among the finalists.
MSNBC.com is one of five entrants in the General Excellence in Online Journalism: In Collaboration awards. "This category," the ONA says on its Web site, "honors a Web site that successfully fulfills its editorial mission, effectively serves its audiences, maximizes the unique abilities of the Web and represents the highest journalistic standards."
More specifically, nominees were picked based on their content excellence, interactive features, design, navigation, community tools (such as chat), and multimedia features.
To see the kind of respect in which the judges held this site, note the other finalists: Atlantic Unbound (
Atlantic Monthly's site), Business Week Online, FT.com (the
site) and WSJ.com, which is
The Wall Street Journal
In the Breaking News: Original to the Web category, one of the finalists is Richmond.com. The independently owned Virginia-based news portal incorporates a significant amount of news content from WTVR-TV in that city. Its competitors are the technology-oriented Web site CNET News.com and Rediff.com, a general-interest news and features portal based in India.
MSNBC.com is also a finalist in Enterprise Journalism: In Collaboration for its five-part "Terminal Planet" series. The category, which encompasses breaking news and original analyses, also has as a finalist entry Minnesota Public Radio's American Radio Works. The site was chosen for its Web-based "Massacre at Cuska" piece.
They face heady competition from no less than the Web sites of the Associated Press,
The New York Times
In the Breaking News: Collaboration category, finalists were chosen "to honor the coverage of a spot or breaking-news event or development that displays exceptional reporting." As do most other awards categories, this one honors individual pieces rather than the overall quality of the Web site.
ABCNews.com's "Chaos In Seattle" is one of the finalists. Its competitors are the
Albuquerque Tribune, Business Week Online and WSJ.com.
The Service Journalism: In Collaboration finalists were picked for "coverage of a single topic that helps users improve the quality of their lives." One of the three finalists was The Weather Channel's Weather.com for its "Tornado!" information package. Jousting for this award are ConsumerReports.org and Cleveland Live, the
Cleveland Plain Dealer-affiliated site that includes content from WKYC-TV and WKNR-AM in that city.
Most impressively, both sites selected to compete for the Online Commentary award have direct television tie-ins. Online Commentary is intended to honor "a body of work by a single writer for commentary that appears only on the Web." ONA states that, to be selected, "the writer should display an original voice, freshness of insight and clear writing."
Finalists are ABCNews.com's Diane Lynch, whose biweekly "Wired Women" column explores issues related to women and technology, and Oxygen. com's Emily Prager. whose humor-tinged columns appear in "The Read" every five weeks.
The Online Journalism Award winners were picked Oct. 27 but won't be announced until Dec. 1 at the first-ever Online News Association convention, to be held at Columbia University in New York. For information, e-mail meeting coordinator Rob Seitz at robseitz@ ix.netcom.com, or call (212) 951-7113.
Speaking of contests, I'd like to hear how the online version of your election-night coverage went? Let me know what worked well, what didn't and what lessons were learned. Road Tales are a
here at Common Ground. Write me at email@example.com.
Russell Shaw's column about Internet and interactive issues appears regularly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.