2013 Online Journalism Award Finalists Announced

Monday afternoon, the Online News Association (ONA) announced the finalists for this year’s installment of the professional journalism organization’s awards ceremony. To win one of these prized honors, you’ve got to be “pushing the envelope of innovation and excellence in digital storytelling and distribution,” the ONA says.

The topics of the news stories and commentary up for 2013 honors reflect much of the tragedy encountered by Americans over the past year, including Boston University News Service’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings in April, the wreckage Hurricane Sandy left behind according to the New York Times and Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s fantastic coverage of the three Ohio women found alive after years of imprisonment. Important reporting by the Texas Tribune, ESPN, Mother Jones and ProPublica found its way onto ONA’s list also, alongside lesser known niche projects like EarthFix, an environmental reporting venture based out of Oregon. And duh, the NYT’s “Snowfall” multimedia feature is in the running for an award, despite the semi-controversy surrounding what the legacy paper’s foray into experimental online storytelling meant, and implications for the future of Web journalism. Going to go ahead and call an early win for “Snowfall” under the large feature umbrella.

I was struck by the number of categories in this year’s award lineup — 29 — compared to the ONA’s first-year batch of finalists. In 2000, there were only 11 awards categories! My, how the awards themselves have changed. (It’s worth going back to see how many topical publishers, like the Nieman Journalism Lab, for example, have popped up over the years.) It will be interesting to see how the categories evolve even more as publishers continue to make sense of the possibilities for news presentation on the Web. I can’t imagine that the founders of the ONA could have conceived what social media would do to the news landscape 13 years ago, e.g. that Storify would be a way to comprise 140 character-or-less news briefs and be a legitimate source of information. But here we are.

There is cash up for grabs in this year’s OJAs, and the ONA has updated the student media categories, as well as added non-English entries into the pack.

We’ll find out who takes home the wins at the 2013 ONA Conference and Online Journalism Awards Banquet on Saturday, Oct. 19, in Atlanta. Good luck and congratulations to all the finalists!