When nominations for the Online Journalism Awards were announced on Monday, I found a fair amount in common between that list and the work we’ve done at Coats2Coats during the last couple of years.
A quick scan of the nominees showed several sites that I’ve gotten to know quite well through our work — all of them deserving of recognition for the strong journalism they provide:
- Current C2C client The St.Louis Beacon was nominated for general excellence in the small sites category.
- Voice of San Diego also was nominated along with The Beacon for small site general excellence. Voice of San Diego is one of the sites that we’ve worked with through the Community Journalism Executive Training program. That partnership with the Investigative News Network aims to help build business sustainability practices among independent news sites.
- EarthFix, a public media collaborative project in the Northwest, was nominated for general excellence in small sites as well. EarthFix also was recognized for explanatory journalism and topical journalism. We evaluated EarthFix’s content as part of a Corporation for Public Broadcasting project last year.
- Another of those public media collaborative projects we reviewed was nominated as well. Harvest Public Media, which focuses on food/fuel/field topics in the Midwest, was nominated for explanatory journalism.
- Finally, Southern California Public Radio, another site we evaluated for CPB, was nominated for explanatory journalism among medium-sized sites.
So what was my takeaway from this impressive showing, other than that we work with some really smart and dedicated people in our practice?
I think all of these sites have a few key elements in the way they work that I think help them to stand out in a crowded digital space:
- An openness to learning combined with the willingess to apply it. As a consultant, you find out pretty quickly that not every client is all that eager to challenge the ways they do things. All of these sites are run by people who not only are open to constructive criticism, they welcome it — and then they do something about it.
- A sense of community. All of these sites see themselves as part of a greater community, be it topical or geographic. There isn’t the sense that the community is something you add on after the journalism. There’s an awareness that, at core, the relationship with the community is the journalism.
- An appreciation for collaboration. Most of the folks at these sites would say that collaboration is hard for them, and something they want to do better. But having seen into a lot of newsrooms, both as an editor and as a consultant, I think these sites are a lot farther down the collaboration path than most. Building a collaborative approach — inside your organization, with external partners and most importantly with your community — is absolutely vital for organizations that want to extend the reach of their journalism.
When I was an editor, I always told my colleagues that awards weren’t the measure of our worth — the impact of our journalism in our community was that yardstick. Still, it was always nice to have others recognize that you are doing good things. It makes me smile to see the list of OJA nominees and to know the stories behind some of this very good work.
And it makes me proud of the company we’ve been keeping at C2C.