There’s no sugar-coating it: Monday was a great day.
I had the honor of representing The Times Leader’s newsroom at the 2014 America East newspaper and technology convention held at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center this week. One of the first sessions was an award ceremony for the annual Digital Quality Awards.
I wasn’t sure how we’d fare. The awards are judged by peers in the news and digital industry, and there’s no differentiating between news organizations of our size and much larger organizations. And we in fact went up against national digital companies, such as Gannett, and some of the largest newspapers in the country.
We ended up winning the first category — Best Homepage. I got my picture taken with our plaque, and was about to return to my seat when the presenter told me I should “just stay up here.”
I laughed and started walking away, until I was told, “No, seriously. Stay up here.”
The Times Leader went on to win awards in nine of 10 categories. In addition to taking first in Best Homepage, we earned first in “Best Use of Technology,” “Best Community Website” and “Best Overall Use of Social Media.” Second-place awards were won for “Best Interaction with Readers” and “Best Use of Video,” with third place awards won for “Best Website Design,” “Best Multimedia” and “Best Overall Website.”
The awards are an acknowledgement that so much of what we now do happens digitally, not only in print.
In the past, everything we printed in the newspaper was rerun on timesleader.com. Then, slowly, we started updating our website with incremental news updates. Now, we frequently post local news updates only online. So much of our journalism — interactions with readers, weather and traffic updates, and those incremental breaking news updates — happens on timesleader.com and not in print.
We produce more journalism than we can fit in our newspaper, and I believe the Digital Quality Award judges recognize that.
On the print side, of course, we continue producing content that no one else does. And that was recognized last week when the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association doled out its annual Keystone Awards.
The Times Leader’s newsroom had two first-place winners: Mark Jones, our opinion editor, and Mary Therese Biebel, a features reporter.
Mark won first in the “Editorials” category for a series of local opinion pieces titled “Foster safe area for LGBT people,” “Violent crime calls for wide response” and “Election bureau errs with its ‘smart’ deal.”
Mary Therese won in the “Feature Beat Reporting” category for her theater beat coverage. Additionally, she got an honorable mention in that same category for her weddings coverage.
Sports reporter Tom Venesky received an honorable mention in the “Sports/Outdoor Column” category.
What’s great about those awards is that they recognize our “non-traditional” reporting. Sure, people come to us for local news and local sports, but our newsroom produces so much more content than that — content such as local editorials, local coverage of the arts, local coverage of the outdoors.
Acknowledgement of those efforts doesn’t define what we do, but it sure does feel good.