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Washington Post Site Extends Winning Streak

Oct 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

After three consecutive wins of the RTNDA’s Murrow Award for best non-broadcast-affiliated Web site, a fourth win for WashingtonPost.com might not come as a surprise. The Web site has dominated the large-market category since the first time it was awarded in 2004.
“When you win something a couple of years in a row, it goes from the thrill of the first victory to just wanting to extend the winning streak. You kind of look at it and go, ‘Can we continue to win this year after year?’” said Jim Brady, executive editor of WashingtonPost.com. “In the past four years the amount of competition we have on the Web is probably tenfold what it was the first year. So the fact that we won it again, I can certainly make a case that it’s even more impressive than the first year we won it, when there were fewer people doing what we’re doing.”
According to Derrick Hinds, Region 4 director of the Radio-Television News Directors Association and one of the members who created the category, the award takes into account qualities including creativity, clarity and variety of storytelling techniques, along with exceptional news coverage and journalism. The same criteria are used for Web sites in the non-broadcast affiliated small-market category, where this year’s competition was won by www.PublicIntegrity.org.
“WashingtonPost.com has [made] an outstanding, far-reaching overall effort, and timely material is presented in the same sort of well-researched and thorough way they prepare material for the newspaper,” Mr. Hinds said. “They do the same thing online, and I think they set a very high standard.”
“The storytelling opportunities for all of us [on the Web] have completely changed,” Mr. Brady said. “At the newspaper, the options were text, photos and graphics, and they did amazing stuff with those options. But now the Web opens up video and audio and photo galleries and audio photo galleries and databases—all these other ways to communicate information. That’s what makes the Web so exciting for places like the Post. You can look at a story from a totally different dimension.”
Mr. Brady said the early decision to incorporate six- to seven-minute documentary videos on the site helped carve out a unique niche. “These shorter documentary pieces don’t have anybody in front of the camera. They’re very image-driven and not personality-driven. That’s always worked well for us, and that’s where we’ve gotten most of the kudos for our multimedia work.”
“I think we’ve enlarged the vision of what video journalism is on the Web from being totally derivative and imitative of conventional broadcast models,” said Tom Kennedy, managing editor of multimedia for WashingtonPost.com. “And we’ve brought in some of the discipline and ethos of documentary filmmaking—and even Hollywood filmmaking, in terms of the editing and visual styles—and we’ve tried to apply those to journalistic situations.”
WashingtonPost.com is an amalgam of still photos, video and audio. “It sort of all blends together,” Mr. Kennedy said, “but my team is who does all that creative work.”
In an era when newspapers are losing readers to other media, having a strong Web site is increasingly important. “But it’s not only that people are bypassing the newspaper for the Web site, it’s that 90 percent of the visitors to WashingtonPost.com are from outside Washington.
That’s an audience that can’t even buy the newspaper,” Mr. Brady said. “So it’s a huge opportunity for us. It gives us that national/international distribution that we didn’t have before.”
With an increasing number of younger people getting their news online, he added, Web sites are an important part of every newspaper’s future. “It’s just a matter of how many of them are really taking an aggressive path on it. Some are and some aren’t.”
“There’s a tremendous sense of pressure and responsibility to try to develop this area as fully as possible as an asset that our audience values as a means of helping contribute to the mission of the news organization as well as the business imperatives,” Mr. Kennedy said. “And I look at the Murrows as an indication that we’re on the right path.”

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