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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Award Winners: Online Deadline Reporting


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Tuesday, July 14, 2009
SDX Award Winners: Online Deadline Reporting

St. Louis Post-Dispatch and WebMD

By Jim Poyser

Deadline Reporting (Affiliated)

WINNER: STAFF, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

“Kirkwood City Hall Shootings”

Shortly after 7 p.m. Feb. 7, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton burst into a city council meeting in Kirkwoord, Mo., pulled a handgun from his coat and began shooting. As people tried to take cover or flee, he moved swiftly across the room, firing. By the time police stormed in and shot Thornton dead, he had killed five and injured two.

One of the injured two, Mayor Mike Swoboda, died several months later of his wounds.

Fifteen miles away on that Feb. 7 night, the Post-Dispatch newsroom was alerted to the shootings, and concern turned instantly to their own reporter, Janet McNichols, who had been assigned to cover the meeting.

They soon learned McNichols was unharmed but had indeed witnessed the horrific event.

She became a key element in the immediate reporting of the story, as she was literally inside the crime scene. The Post-Dispatch moved quickly to begin posting stories to their Web site, STLtoday.com. Over the next few hours, the staff published numerous write-throughs to the story, a graphic that displayed how events unfolded inside the council chambers, a video of McNichols’ first-hand account, a slide show of images from around Kirkwood, and a condolence blog where users could share their grief.

While other media outlets were stuck behind the police barricade, the Post-Dispatch was heading toward an ultimate 2.5 million page views.

Judges lauded the stories as “tight, crisp and informative. The ethical decisions of what to publish and when were quite good, too.”

Post-Dispatch managing editor Pam Maples said, “The story was important to our readers, and we were able to offer the first and most complete information for our readers that night. Other media relied on us for details.”

Judges concluded: “This was a masterful winner in all three senses of the category: online, deadline and reporting.”

More online: http://tinyurl.com/dhfyvg



Deadline Reporting (Independent)

WINNER: STAFF, WEBMD

“Vaccine Decision Ignites Autism Debate”

When the news came in March 2008 that a federal court had decided to award money to 9-year-old Hannah Poling because vaccines may have contributed to her rare, autism-like symptoms, it was evident the years-old debate about vaccines and autism would take on a new and even more complex resurgence. The risk was that misinformation might created a confusing message about the importance of vaccines.

While working on an in-depth news story about the Poling case, WebMD also kept readers informed with a breaking news blog. Executive Editor Sean Swint said his team decided to try “something more transparent.” The breaking news blog “explained what we knew at the time, what coverage we had planned, and provided links to other relevant content such as reference material, blogs and boards, and autism organizations.”

This approach provided readers with breaking, up-to-date information in easy-to-read bullets, as well as a one-stop shop of autism resources. The blog was updated to “make sure everything was as fresh as possible,” Swint said.

In the process of researching this story, WebMD discovered that Hannah Poling’s father, Jon Poling, was a neurologist. Interviewing him, they learned he was not anti-vaccine — providing the story an essential, and poignant, point of view.

“We believe our coverage provided the best of both worlds in journalism,” Swint said. “The speed of the Internet enabled us to quickly gather helpful resources and get information out to readers. Our good old-fashioned reporting on the case, particularly with Jon Poling, brought readers in-depth information that added to their understanding of the issues. And, as is always true with WebMD’s news coverage, our medically reviewed information helped readers understand a complex story through balanced, responsible reporting.

“This is the kind of story where WebMD’s editorial team thrives. Helping our users interpret difficult information and inform them where conflicting messages exist is at the heart of what we do.”

More online: http://tinyurl.com/2ofvql



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