Detroit Free Press Wins Top Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in News; Paul Anger Named Editor of the Year
The Detroit Free Press and its editor, Paul Anger, won Gannett’s top journalism awards for work in 2008.
The Free Press won the Outstanding Achievement Award for Best News Performance and Anger was named Editor of the Year.
In both cases, judges cited the sweeping breadth and depth of difficult topics that the news staff tackled, including work that led to the jailing of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Gold Medal and President’s Ring winners were announced today (Thursday, April 9, 2009) at Gannett headquarters in McLean, Va.
Two special citations also were announced:
A Silver Medal was presented to The Star Press of Muncie for extraordinary improvement in journalism.
Tom Callinan, editor and vice president/Content and Audience Development at The Cincinnati Enquirer, was presented the Signet Award, which marks an editor’s 10th President’s Ring. Tom is the third editor in Gannett’s history to have reached this mark.
Five other Information Centers were named Gold Medal winners:
The Arizona Republic at Phoenix
The other President’s Ring winners are:
First runner-up: Carolyn Washburn, vice president and editor, The Des Moines Register. This is her fourth President’s Ring.
Second runner-up: Jim Lewers, executive editor, Iowa City Press-Citizen. This is his first President’s Ring.
Eight other editors also received President’s Rings for 2008. They are (alphabetically):
Ronnie Agnew, executive editor, The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss. This is his fourth President’s Ring.
Tom Callinan, editor and vice president/content and audience development, The Cincinnati Enquirer. This is his 10th President’s Ring.
Randy Lovely, editor and vice president/News, The Arizona Republic. This is his second President’s Ring.
Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president/News, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. This is her fifth President’s Ring, earning her a Chairman’s Ring.
Dennis Ryerson, editor and vice president, The Indianapolis Star. This is his third President’s Ring.
Mark Silverman, editor and vice president/content and audience development, The Tennessean at Nashville. This is his ninth President’s Ring.
Bob Stover, executive editor, FLORIDA TODAY at Brevard. This is his first President’s Ring.
Gene Williams, executive editor, The Star Press at Muncie, Ind. This is his first President’s Ring.
The judges for President’s Rings were: Craig Dubow, chairman, president and CEO; Bob Dickey, president, U.S. Community Publishing; Kate Marymont, vice president/News; Ann Clark, News executive; and Anne Saul, News systems editor.
The Gold Medal awards recognize news staffs for performance in several categories: leadership; skillful targeting of content to serve key audiences; quality of content in print and online; performance in Best of Gannett and All-American; innovation; digital and print metrics; and success with Information Center execution.
Judges were Craig Dubow, Bob Dickey, Kate Marymont, Ann Clark and Anne Saul.
The Detroit Free Press receives a $5,000 prize; other Gold Medal newspapers receive $2,000.
Details of the Gold Medal winners:
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR BEST NEWS PERFORMANCE
The Detroit Free Press took top honors in Best of Gannett awards for work that judges called brilliant and compelling. The staff juggled numerous investigative projects while also creating a new approach to community news that was launched in March 2009. The journalism spanned many tough topics: skillful, sophisticated handling of the delicate story of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration built on lies and deceit; and public-records battles with public schools, the Airport Authority, the pension board, a Chrysler plant and the University of Michigan.
Judges said: “The Free Press revealed a pattern of lies by Mayor Kilpatrick that covered up egregious behavior. The story was handled with great finesse. Coverage was appropriate in tone at each step, moving into a call for community healing at just the right moment.
“Throughout a year filled with tough news stories, the staff also devoted months to envisioning the journalism of the future. The extensive outreach needed to recraft the Free Press was tremendous.
“The combination of projects would have brought some teams to their knees. The Free Press didn’t just manage to complete them. The Free Press mastered them, each and every one. It was a stunning year for the Free Press.”
OTHER GOLD MEDAL WINNERS
The Des Moines Register staff provided sweeping coverage of three stories that each stretched on for weeks: a tornado that wiped out much of the town of Parkersburg; flooding that rolled through half the state; and a federal immigration raid on the largest kosher meatpacking plant in the U.S.
In each case, the coverage broke spot news, developed deep enterprise, used innovative digital techniques and partnered with the community to aid in recovery.
Despite these demands on the staff, The Des Moines Register was also able to sustain its tradition of strong watchdog work. Stories exposed deadly lapses in care at a home for people with disabilities; assaults and abuses at assisted-living facilities; shady practices by professional fundraisers; and deplorable conditions and business practices at the meatpacking plant.
The team has adapted new tools for journalism, pushing live video, live blogging, text alerts and Twitter. Its mobile site, Metromix site and data work all set the standard for the quality. From 2007 to 2008, DesMoinesRegister.com saw a 34 percent increase in monthly unique visitors and a 79 percent increase in time spent on site.
Once again, The Des Moines Register set the bar for consistent quality in all that it does.
The Tennessean had a clear goal in 2008: Build journalism where it could provide unique content for precise audiences. This unwavering focus led it to top-quality content for readers of print and digital.
Public-service journalism focused on issues unique to middle Tennessee: technological threats to the music industry; questionable management of the Tennessee Valley Authority; the state’s infant mortality crisis.
Digital efforts produced intensely deep coverage of tornadoes that made use of every tool in the digital tool box, with each used appropriately and carefully.
To make these advances in journalism, the organization was reorganized into two teams, one for news and one for niches – an elastic new approach that allowed the journalism to constantly improve while innovation continued.
The Tennessean staff has exceptionally sophisticated understanding of its multi-layered audiences. And it delivers carefully honed content for each.
The Cincinnati Enquirer is a showcase for how a staff can understand its different audiences and tailor a portfolio to skillfully reach them. The Cincinnati Enquirer and Kentucky Enquirer served Boomer readers a steady diet of watchdog journalism and exclusive stories. Readers learned of dubious inspections of nursing homes, secret deals between political parties, sex predators in nursing homes, wasteful spending on jails and out-of-control schools.
A yearlong audience-first mission led to circulation gains; unprecedented retention of the daily newspaper; and audience focus in more than 250 niche Web sites, 27 weeklies and custom publishing.
The entire Cincinnati team thinks about, talks about and delivers the right content for the right audiences.
The Arizona Republic at Phoenix
The Arizona Republic’s efforts in 2008 meant that Sunday circulation is growing; time spent on Azcentral.com is up 25 percent, to almost 50 minutes per visitor; and readers’ satisfaction improved 9 percentage points in one year.
The Republic team did this by keeping its sights on top-quality content for the daily newspaper and the Web site.
Its watchdog work led to results. By fighting for hospital audits, the newspaper brought about changes in the health system. Reporting on deaths of children in Child Protective Services, the coverage changed state law. And coverage of the foreclosure crisis exposed misdeeds by lenders and developers.
The staff also produced compelling and sophisticated coverage of several mega-stories — John McCain’s run for the presidency, roundups of illegal immigrants, the foreclosure crisis that first erupted in Phoenix, and the Arizona Cardinals’ surprise trip to the Super Bowl. In each case, the print stories were supplemented with unique content tailored to digital readers’ interests.
Everything the staff at The Arizona Republic produces is polished and audience-focused.
FLORIDA TODAY emerged in 2008 as a leader in reaching new digital readers by using new digital tools. At the same time, the staff sustained the consistent quality that readers of the daily newspaper have come to expect.
The Information Center used Mogulus to track the effects of Tropical Storm Fay across the region, involving residents as “spotters” for the newspaper’s camera crews. Storm videos had more than 40,000 streams the first day and 1,170,000 live streaming minutes.
Staffers covered football games and surfing competitions. They provided live commentary during elections. A popular sports writer’s noon chat routinely drew 450 participants.
Then they ratcheted up their efforts. The staff produced long-form programs for the local PBS station. The station has just completed a deal to purchase video programming from FLORIDA TODAY for several thousand dollars.
FLORIDA TODAY’S Freedom of Information efforts focused on getting important, relevant documents into the hands of readers. Its use of public records put a spotlight on issues important to key audiences — homeowners’ insurance, consumer rip-offs, pyramid schemes and government budget woes.
FLORIDA TODAY did an excellent job in 2008 of finding just the right balance between shoe-leather journalism and cutting-edge innovation.
President’s Rings are given to recognize excellence in leadership. As journalism transforms, editors must understand the changes under way and guide staffs through the process. President’s Rings for 2008 placed special value on transformational leadership skills, motivation and inspiration during a tough economic cycle.
EDITOR OF THE YEAR
Paul Anger, vice president and editor, Detroit Free Press
Paul is cited for his leadership of major investigative and FOI work and strategic efforts that resulted in a new model for delivering content to multiple audiences. The Detroit Free Press coverage of the downfall of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick required a disciplined but tenacious approach, and Paul’s careful leadership was evident throughout the year-long reporting effort. Beyond the attention paid to the mayor’s story, Paul and the Free Press pressed forth on other significant and substantive watchdog work, provided extensive coverage of the auto industry’s challenges and addressed serious issues related to the newspaper’s future. Paul and his team’s strategic vision and work on how to reframe the Free Press offers the industry a new model of journalism.
The judges said: “Paul faced two overarching challenges in 2008 — directing the coverage of the mayor and developing a new way of delivering news in Detroit. He showed tremendous courage on all issues related to the mayor. The newspaper was tough and direct when it needed to be and offered a healing tone to the community at the appropriate time. His work on reshaping the Free Press was smart, strategic and visionary. Paul’s work was exceptional.”
This is Paul’s fifth President’s Ring, earning him a Chairman’s Ring.
Carolyn Washburn, vice president and editor, The Des Moines Register
Carolyn is cited for her leadership in coverage of three powerful stories in Iowa – a tornado that wiped out a third of a nearby town; a flood that hit central and eastern Iowa, displacing 35,000 people and half the state’s businesses; and a raid by federal immigration officials of the largest kosher meatpacking plant in the nation. The newspaper produced a consistent portfolio of exclusive enterprise. Carolyn and her team launched a project examining what kind of education would be needed to excel in the 21st century and what it would take for Iowa to provide that. On the digital front, Carolyn focused her team on opportunities with mobile content, partnered with the Data team and Advertising to launch a home improvement services section and led the launch of a High School Insider product online.
The judges said: “Carolyn balances a commitment to traditional strong and thoughtful exclusive journalism for a Boomer audience with bold leadership of digital initiatives. She continually works to transform the Register so that the staff is prepared to meet the challenges of the future. Whatever the challenge, Carolyn gets results.”
Jim Lewers, executive editor, Iowa City Press-Citizen
Jim is cited for his tenacious leadership in coverage of how the University of Iowa handled an alleged sexual assault involving Hawkeye football players. The newspaper fought to open records and break stories. And the results were strong, with the university taking numerous steps to correct its actions. When a major flood hit the Iowa City area, Jim led his team to provide more than a 100 pages of coverage and Web content and helped the city face recovery issues. He oversaw an extensive schools project, which examined issues related to poverty, mobility and growth.
The judges said: “Jim showed courage in 2008 when the Press-Citizen’s coverage of the university sexual assault case required a strong fight to access records. He worked with his small but close-knit staff to think big and produce big work. And the results are self-evident.”
OTHER RING WINNERS
Ronnie Agnew, executive editor, The Clarion-Ledger at Jackson, Miss.
Ronnie is cited for his leadership of coverage that focused on the reader and for enterprise work that resulted in stronger public records and open meetings laws, as well as legislation that required police agencies to provide incident reports to the public. He paid attention to the potential in new digital initiatives, used research to identify audience targets and helped launch a weekly product in an affluent area of the city. He is a strong partner with his Operating Committee colleagues and a frequent community speaker. In 2008, Ronnie was recognized as the national face of Mississippi journalism when the University of Mississippi presented to him the Silver Em Award. Ronnie worked with a corporate team to examine how ABC rules would affect Gannett circulation departments and led a highly attended workshop at the UNITY 2008 conference.
The judges said: “Ronnie brings his passion for the newspaper’s watchdog role to all that he does. His guidance, expertise and vision are evident in the development of his staff and his partnership with Operating Committee colleagues. He works with his staff every day to make sure that the people of Jackson can count on the newspaper to set the community agenda with outstanding news coverage.”
Tom Callinan, editor and vice president/content and audience development, The Cincinnati Enquirer
Tom focused on the Enquirer’s audience-first mission in 2008 as he led the work related to a suite of products designed to reach a wide range of audiences. That sharp focus resulted in gains in digital products, print circulation and readership gains. The Enquirer maintained readership levels of the daily newspaper among the 50-plus reader and grew its digital audience using 24/7 coverage, social networking, multimedia, data and mobile strategies. Tom champions issues related to diversity, and the Enquirer was an All-American Diversity award recipient. A focus on watchdog journalism resulted in coverage of problems with local nursing home inspections and deals between local companies and the local utility.
The judges said: “Tom brings a passion for journalism and an interest in maximizing new digital tools to his work. The result is an effective lineup of products for the Cincinnati audience. This year, Tom wins a Signet Award, which symbolizes the 10th time he has won a President’s Ring. This award recognizes his consistent high-level leadership skills.”
Randy Lovely, editor and vice president/news, The Arizona Republic
Randy is cited for his drive for strong journalism, his understanding of audience issues in the market and his work to develop his staff. He led coverage of Phoenix’s first Super Bowl in a new stadium, the presidential candidacy of U.S. Sen. John McCain and issues related to immigration. Randy’s attention to watchdog work resulted in coverage of hospital audits, legislative efforts related to children under the protection of Child Protective Services and analysis of the foreclosure crisis. The Arizona Republic’s reader satisfaction scores were up nine percentage points from the prior year, and Sunday circulation was up over a year ago. Randy led a Gannett-wide team working on the 44-inch print web conversion.
The judges said: “Randy Lovely’s work reflects his passion for news and his ability to inspire innovation. He is the right leader at the right time for The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com and the Phoenix community.”
Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president/News, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Karen is cited for her development of a more audience-centric culture in the Information Center, using audience training techniques. She worked with her team to launch new digital initiatives, including Web sections for young professionals and local green efforts; and a mobile site, RocNow, which offers content on area events. The Democrat and Chronicle’s portfolio of products reaches 87 percent of adults in the market, matching Gannett’s high for seven-day reach. Karen brings strong leadership to issues related to diversity, watchdog journalism and community outreach. She organized a Gannett-New York Data Team designed to share database work on statewide projects. She is president of the APME Foundation.
The judges said: “Karen is a positive force at a time when the challenges in an Information Center are great. Her commitment to diversity is reflected in every initiative — new Web sites, special multimedia reports and staff development plans.
She works closely with her team to address audience needs. And the results are strong.”
Dennis Ryerson, editor and vice president, The Indianapolis Star
Dennis is cited for keeping The Indianapolis Star focused on substantive investigative journalism, giving Boomer readers a newspaper of significance each day. The newspaper reported on an array of substantive issues, including Indiana’s work in the area of child abuse, the lack of a system to track teachers’ criminal history and the disproportionate number of athletes at Division I schools who were admitted under special admission rules. At the same time, the staff accelerated its work on transforming various digital products to better serve specific niche audiences. A special Web site was built to serve Hoosier soldiers being deployed to Iraq and their families. Dennis continued to be a strong voice for the industry, sustaining a weekly column that helped readers – in his community and across the country – understand the rough waters we sail in right now.
The judges said: “Dennis has guided The Indianapolis Star through high-impact steps to reposition its portfolio of products for the future. He is strategic in all that he does, guided by a deep understanding of different platforms and different audiences.”
Mark Silverman, editor and vice president/content and audience development, The Tennessean at Nashville
Mark is cited for his work to strengthen the entire Information Center organization, his development of staffers and his leadership of journalism addressing significant community issues. He worked with his staff to serve targeted audiences in print and digitally. The Tennessean made significant progress on issues related to diversity, winning the top award in the All-American Diversity Awards program. Its coverage of a tornado that hit middle Tennessee on Super Tuesday won top honors from the Online News Association and a First Place Best of Gannett award in Breaking News. Nashville’s suite of niche sites provided coverage of the local entertainment/music scene, the Tennessee Titans, immigration issues, the health-care industry and issues related to the economy. Mark uses his weekly Sunday column to provide transparency about The Tennessean and how it works to serve the community.
The judges said: “During a year of significant changes to The Tennessean structure, Mark kept the focus on producing high-quality enterprise journalism to meet community needs and addressing the needs of a number of niche audiences. His leadership skills created a more efficient and stronger news organization and his work to develop key staffers was significant.”
Bob Stover, executive editor, FLORIDA TODAY at Brevard
Bob Stover is cited for taking the well-oiled FLORIDA TODAY and heightening its commitment to digital innovation, elevating its watchdog journalism and finding creative new opportunities for revenue.
Under Bob’s guidance, the FLORIDA TODAY team negotiated a contract with the local PBS station to produce programming, in return for several thousand dollars. The Information Center has boldly experimented with tying revenue to content, with great success.
Bob also directed a full-out push to expand watchdog work, especially data-driven enterprise. The watchdog team has emerged as a high-profile and key component of the journalism being done in Brevard.
The judges said: “Bob strikes just the right balance between serving long-time, loyal readers and innovating for the readers of the future. In his first year as a top editor, he has shown he has what it takes — not just to be a good editor, but one of the best.”
Gene Williams, executive editor, The Star Press at Muncie, Ind.
Gene was cited for providing leadership to the Star Press Information Center and taking it to unprecedented levels of quality and the development of new products to meet audience needs. He led the development of M magazine, a high-end city magazine, and a weekly serving an affluent suburb, both of which resulted in $500,000 in revenue. He led enterprise coverage on poverty and a monthly report on issues in the home county. He identified and produced new digital initiatives with a Munciegreen.com side, a Cardinal Greenway.com site, a weekly movie pod cast, streaming video, as well as other Web components. His work on issues related to diversity elevated the newspaper’s performance in the All-American Review.
The judges said: “It’s clear that Gene is a strong leader, both in how he shapes news coverage and how he brings innovative thinking to the organization. He successfully balances reasoned decisions with a quickness necessary in today’s business environment. He challenges his staff to “reach beyond your grasp.” The result of that challenge is evident in a stronger product.”
The Gold Medal judges chose this year to create a special award because one staff stood out in its spunky drive to improve.
The Star Press at Muncie isn’t a Gold Medal newspaper (although it may well be in a year or two). However, its significant strides merit commendation. Because the “Most Improved Newspaper” contest was stopped a few years ago, we made this one-time decision to grant a “Silver Medal” for extraordinary improvement in journalism.
Publisher Juli Metzger wrote that the Information Center achieved “unprecedented levels of quality and the rapid-fire development of new products in 2008 that crossed platforms and placed this newspaper among the top performers in the company in 2008.” And we agree.
The staff took on important watchdog journalism, exposing issues of blight that led to changes in city policy and conducting a yearlong look at the city’s core problems.
Digital innovations spanned many topics and tools, showing the staff’s willingness to experiment. Staffers created some sites to be expected – an environmental site, sports niches – but mixed it up with a weekly movie podcast, a digital weekend guide and experimental uses of streaming video.
The Newspaper showed a renewed commitment to diversity in coverage, and the workforce saw the All-American score soar 37 points in one year, making The Star Press one of the strongest performers in the company.
For its hard work to improve in so many areas, we honor The Star Press with this “Silver Medal” award for extraordinary improvement to journalism.
Last Modified: April 2009