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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Award Winners: Online Public Service Journalism


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Tuesday, July 14, 2009
SDX Award Winners: Online Public Service Journalism

The Oklahoman and The Center for Public Integrity

By Jim Poyser

Public Service in Online Journalism (Affiliated)

WINNER: THE OKLAHOMAN

“Your Right to Know/Know It Series”

"You have cancer.”

The words take your breath away, say those who have heard them. The shock seems surreal. Time stops and yet races by, they say. Some victims go into denial, but thoughts of death, of the unfairness, eventually flood in. At that point, the dread, the tears and the fear can overwhelm.

Few are prepared for the beast that has stepped from the shadows, the one they must come to know — mortality.

In 2008, The Oklahoman launched two major initiatives: the “Your Right to Know” site and “know it” projects. The interactive communities pool information-gathering resources about a topic with a profound impact on the everyday Oklahoman. The projects combine research, reporting and an aggregation of resources to help users navigate a given topic, such as cancer, addiction and end-of-life issues, along with other topics of interest to the community.

Readers have made it clear they are using the tips and information in their own lives. They’ve also helped each other in solving problems. For example, “One ‘Parenting’ blogger was able to potty-train her son after receiving tips from readers,” said Joe Hight, director of information and development at TheOklahoman/NewsOK.com. “We believe that these topical online communities give readers a voice about their common interests.”

When the “Your Right to Know” Web page debuted in March 2008, the Supreme Court passed a rule limiting the public’s online access to court filings. “Your Right to Know” played key roles in covering that story as well as providing the public with access to their open records and First Amendment rights.

One reader responded: “The Oklahoman is doing a great job on covering the mess our Supreme Court has now generated. PLEASE keep it up. I feel that one night I went to sleep in the United States and the next morning I woke up in the Soviet Union. I hope everyone continues to fight the good fight to get this mistake undone.”

Two weeks after its first decision, the Supreme Court rescinded its rule.

“We put the entire strength of our news and information center behind topics that can make a difference in people’s lives,” said Kelly Dyer Fry, vice president of the news and information center. “We’ve done the leg work for you. Forums will be added to connect people with other people seeking the same information. That’s the real home run, connecting people with people.”

More online: http://tinyurl.com/kr4hr3



Public Service in Online Journalism (Independent)

WINNER: THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY

“Perils of the New Pesticides”

Last June Diane Bromenschenkel applied a flea-and-tick product to her English pointer, Wings, so the dog wouldn’t get ticks while hunting pheasant in the tall grasslands of western Idaho. Wings, a healthy five-year-old with a sleek white coat and a chocolate brown mask, enjoyed long walks in the woods, bacon treats, and burying things in the yard. But three months after the pesticide was applied, the animal was dead.

A Center for Public Integrity investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s pesticide program revealed that pyrethrins — a class of chemicals increasingly used since the EPA phased out organophosphates in the past decade — are the leading source of poisoning incidents reported to the agency, according to an internal database obtained by the CPI under the Freedom of Information Act.

Pyrethrins and their synthetic cousins, pyrethroids, are broadly used in such consumer products as household bug spray, lice shampoo and pet products. This overlooked class of chemicals makes thousands of people sick each year. In fact, human health problems associated with pyrethrins and pyrethroids increased by about 300 percent over the past decade.

The “Perils of the New Pesticides” Web site features exclusive findings like these and makes public this previously inaccessible government database, complete with the ability to search it by household product or chemical name and type and location of exposure.

Judges said: “‘Perils of the New Pesticides’ was selected for its combination of enterprise reporting of information out of reach of consumers and its Web site design that included the display of complex information in an easy-to-understand database, podcasts, stories with strong personal impact, community building, graphics and external links. Where ‘Perils of the New Pesticides’ excelled above all others is in using the online medium better than other entrants, putting a human face on a serious problem and affecting change. [It] compelled the EPA to provide previously undisclosed information that affects everyone’s health.”

More online: http://tinyurl.com/lewym8



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