By Keith Burton - GCN Filed 8/29/06
GulfCoastNews.com has been selected as a finalist for an award for from the Online News Association (ONA), the nation's premiere organization dedicated to online journalism. GCN was selected as a finalist in the Service Category, small markets, for the website's service efforts, which includes the Katrina Survivor-Connector Database and news.
GCN was the first online media to provide a way for people to find relatives and friends displaced after Hurricane Katrina. The GCN database was online the day after the hurricane when the GCN message board was overwhelmed by people looking for relatives that had evacuated the Coast or were in shelters. In the weeks following the hurricane, millions of visitors accessed the database and tens of thousands of people registered names and contact information on the service. Later, other organizations provided similar databases, but GCN was acknowledged as the easiest to use and most comprehensive.
The GCN Survivor-Connector Database received worldwide news coverage after the hurricane and was a featured link on hundreds of websites across the nation. The Red Cross also used the database and eventually was provided a copy. Twelve months after Katrina, the GCN Survivor-Connector Database is still being used.
GulfCoastNews.com provides a comprehensive look at news and information regarding the Mississippi Coast and provides links to important governmental services and agencies in an easy-to-navigate form. GCN also provides original reporting on a wide variety of subjects with a view toward making complex subjects easy to understand.
The Online Journalism Awards will be awarded at the OJA Awards Banquet during the upcoming 7th annual national conference Oct. 6-7 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. The awards are sponsored by the Online News Association and USC Annenberg School of Communication. A team of distinguished journalists judged the contest, which honors excellence in digital journalism, during a two-day event on the USC campus on August 24-25.
"I’ve been involved with the OJAs since 2001, for four years as awards chair and this year as a judge, and each year I’ve seen impressive quality and innovation from the finalist sites. This year is no exception,” said Michael Silberman, President of the Online News Association. “Journalism is thriving online at sites large and small, on blogs, with audio, video, animation and of course text, and in conversations between editors and readers.”
"What the Pulitzers have done in setting high standards for newspapers," said Michael Parks, director of the Annenberg School of Journalism. "we hope the Online News Association awards will do in new media. Each year, we have seen tremendous growth and improvement in online journalism."
The finalists and the winners were selected through a two-step process. First, a group of about 100 journalists screened entries in each category and narrowed them to a set of five to ten nominees. The OJA judges, a group of nine journalists with extensive experience in new and old media, met at USC to pick the finalists and the winners, then reviewed these nominees.
The Sun Herald has also been nominated, in two categories for awards. The Sun Herald is a finalist in breaking news for small markets and for the Knight Foundation Award for Public Service, all markets.
Readers of the Sun Herald will note that GulfCoastNews.com was not mentioned as a nominee in their story regarding the nominations.