Winners announced in the 2011 Inland Press Digital Journalism Awards

Des Plaines, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee and the Victoria (Texas) Advocate took top honors in the fourth annual Inland Press Digital Journalism Awards. The contest, judged by industry experts, honors the best in newspaper online initiatives. It consists of three categories that recognize newspapers’ achievement in producing and disseminating news content using online and new media platforms. Entries are judged on creativity and results, along with category-specific areas. The contest is open to all Web sites run by U.S. newspapers and online-only sites that produce original community news content.

The Inland Press Digital Journalism Awards was coordinated by Janice Castro, senior director of graduate education and teaching excellence at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Castro also serves as Inland’s New Media Committee co-chair.

Category: General Excellence in Online News Service
(Circulation 20,000 and over)

First Place: Sacramento (Calif.) Bee
The Bee combines outstanding user tools (e.g. a lineup of useful databases with friendly front ends; the photo-sharing utility from Meebo); a good sense of hierarchy that isn’t overwhelmed by breaking news of dubious lasting value; clear navigation that rewards instinctive choices; and strong classified-related sites with good utility.

Second Place: Knoxville News Sentinel, Knoxville, Tenn.
The News Sentinel’s approach focuses on delivering a sense of place through careful curation of the most important stories, but the site also rewards longer user sessions with depth and breadth. User participation is unabashedly encouraged on all stories; features and breaking stories all can create hubs of activity.

(Circulation less than 20,000)
First Place: Victoria Advocate, Victoria, Texas
The site is aggressively trying all the angles for interactivity and connectivity, in other words, playing to the medium. There are multiple points of entry to user engagement, including a rolling chat board on the front page. The site seems to be very aggressive and committed to social networking, with 1,300 Likes on Facebook (with regular user participation and comments) and 1,200 Twitter followers (and a steady stream of breaking news and other updates). The site is rich with photos and shoots its own video (for the site and its own YouTube channel, which has 199 clips). How local is it? There’s even an app that lets you see the county jail roster—and it’s  updated twice an hour. Now that’s local.
Second Place: (Tie)
Kearney Hub, Kearney, Neb.
Seemed to be among the most content-rich of the entrants, although it’s hard to say how much comes from print and how much is created for, or starts on, the Web. Big focus on sports; not surprising given the locale. Strong on the visual side, with plentiful photo galleries (that could be sized larger) and video, including features and packages done for the Web (e.g., a sports news mini “show.”) Active on social media platforms, but sometimes hard to find integration and promotion of social extensions  on the main site.
Second Place: (Tie)
Mountain Democrat, Placerville, Calif. 
Among the cleanest, most accessible presentation and design of all entrants and rich in content—and gets top marks for its system of using the Web platform as the main Content Management System to feed print AND online. Might have scored higher had there been more social network integration and visible signs of the fruits of user interaction and participation touted in the nomination letter.

Category: Creative Use of Multimedia Storytelling

First Place: The Victoria Advocate, Victoria, Texas
The Victoria Advocate’s “A Father’s Strength” combines several methods of multimedia storytelling for a remarkably thorough look at ALS through several lenses. The carefully reported six-part series and documentary could each stand easily on its own, and yet the ambitious online package lends informative context to the central story and provides its audience with many different entry points into the material. The Advocate’s use of free online tools to build and host portions of its content increases the visibility of the story in the community, as well as promotes the easy sharing of its content.

Second Place: The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, Calif.
“Inside the Crocker” provides readers with a rich, interactive experience of the newly renovated Crocker Museum. Plunging into the building with a 3-D animation, the piece invites users to peruse the new space and galleries with 360-degree photography, which is fully interactive. Pulling the camera to every possible angle, users gain a real sense of what it’s like to be inside the new building.

Category: Best Online Innovation

First Place: Shaw Suburban Media, Dixon, Ill.
Tablet Website. (To view the tablet site, visit in Safari or via a tablet device.)
Usually a new medium is introduced years before publications make serious efforts to create something designed for it, so it is very impressive that Shaw Media is out ahead of thinking about tablet design. I thought the design was clean and effective and sensitive to the attributes of the tablet as a news delivery platform.

Second Place: Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento Connect, from the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, aggregates a great collection of regional blogs, websites, social media links and other content. This services that “hunter/gatherer” function essential in local news media, making it easier for local audiences to find content relevant to their interests.

The Inland Press Digital Journalism Awards was formerly known as the New Frontier Awards.

Founded in 1885, Inland Press Association is a not-for-profit newspaper association and foundation. Inland is dedicated to advancing the welfare of its 1,100 member newspapers across all 50 states, Canada and Bermuda. Inland’s goal is to enable newspapers to continue serving the people as a free, strong and responsible press. For further information, please visit