In Depth

Web Becoming Bigger Factor

Awards Competitions Are Increasingly Recognizing Nontraditional News Outlets—And Those Organizations Are Rising to the Challenge

And the Emmy Award goes to … Minyanville.com.

The profile of the little-known financial infotainment Web site was instantly elevated when staffers picked up their golden trophy at the recent Business and Financial Emmy Awards in New York, in the category of New Approaches to Business and Financial Reporting.

It’s part of an emerging trend that has swept the legacy broadcasting awards competitions in the past few years. Kudos that once were awarded only to traditional broadcasters now are within reach of online entities, including the Internet platforms of television networks.

The eight categories of the Business and Financial Emmys were all open to broadband entries for the second year in 2008. “All of the categories are open to Web-based programming, over-the-air, satellite and cable,” said David Winn, director of news and documentary awards for the National Television Academy, which administers the awards. “The entrants range from CNBC to Bloomberg to ‘60 Minutes’ and PBS.”

Mr. Winn said broadband entries, like that submitted by Minyanville, have done quite well in the New Approaches categories.

“These categories recognize new approaches to the practice, presentation and delivery of news and documentary programming,” Mr. Winn explained. “They are intended to recognize new ways of doing documentaries and broadcast journalism, from new approaches to traditional broadcasts, to the use of new media, to other creative and innovative means of practicing these crafts and presenting programming to the viewer.”

The prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards have included online categories since 2003. “It primarily started as broadcast-affiliated, and then expanded to non-broadcast,” said Edward Esposito, chairman of the board of directors of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, which oversees the Murrows. “The Web sites of the Washington Post and the Dallas Morning News have both won awards recently. It’s exposed the Murrow Awards to places it wouldn’t have been otherwise.”

The Murrow Awards have an overall excellence category in each of several market sizes that now requires entries to include examples of a robust Web presence. “The judges felt it was important to highlight a digital component, thus making it a requirement for the overall excellence award,” Mr. Esposito said.

Last year, the Murrows had 3,200 entries for radio, TV and non-broadcast categories. “It’s important to showcase your excellence across all platforms,” said Mr. Esposito. “If anything, it’s good to try to reinforce your brand with viewers with recognition by peers that you’re doing excellent work.”

The broadband entries are judged on depth and quality, content, innovation, use of audio and video, visual design, functionality and interactivity, usability and storytelling techniques. Entrants must submit at least five examples of functioning, cached or active URLs that demonstrate exceptional news coverage and journalistic skill, and one of these must be the home page.

Another prominent awards contest, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, will open a category to online entries for the first time in 2009—the winner to be revealed when the prestigious Silver Batons are awarded on Jan. 22 at a ceremony at Columbia University in New York.

“The jury will be looking for the best example of a Web-based news presentation that primarily uses video and audio. It will be open to all,” said Abi Wright, director of the awards program. “The dedicated Web-based broadcast journalism category means an audiovisual story that was posted online will compete with other Web-based pieces.”

The George Foster Peabody Awards, founded in 1941, do not have separate online categories, but began accepting broadband entries in 2001, with excellence being the only criterion. Each year, there are more than 1,000 entries from electronic media, and the number of awards—which are not category-specific—varies, with 36 being the maximum that have been awarded.

“Three awards have been made to Web sites—to transom.org; the Washington Post site for a special feature, ‘Being a Black Man’; and Britain’s Channel 4 site ‘4 Docs,’ where user-generated documentaries, four minutes or shorter, are programmed and archived,” said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards.

In addition to the time-honored group of awards competitions, Internet journalists also can vie for the Online Journalism Awards, which began handing out kudos in 2000 in categories including investigative journalism, general excellence, breaking news, online commentary and video journalism. The awards are sponsored by the Online News Association and given out at its annual conference.