News MVP Winners Bring Passion to Their Jobs, Provide Leadership in a Difficult Year
Solutions-oriented. Passionate. Committed.
These were common traits in the winners of the Corporate News Department’s inaugural News MVP awards.
The winners showed strong commitment to excellent journalism, collaboration among departments and the launch of new initiatives.
Fifteen Gannett Information Center staffers were selected as News MVP winners. They played at an extraordinary level. They rallied their teammates. And they made the big play when necessary.
Each of the 51 nominees handled challenges in 2009 with superior results. And the judges – Vice President/News Kate Marymont, News Executive Ann Clark and Digital News Executive Maribel Perez Wadsworth – wrestled with the final decisions.
The News MVP awards recognized individual newsroom staffers or supervisors who led special efforts in readership, innovation, reorganization, multi-platform approaches or other efforts.
The winners are:
Enid Arbelo, Young Audience Editor, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Jay Jefferson Cooke, Associate Editor, Courier News, Bridgewater, and Home News Tribune, East Brunswick
Anjanette Delgado, Managing Editor, The Californian, Salinas
Tricia DeWall, Specialty Publications Manager/Features Editor, Iowa City Press-Citizen
Mary Dolan, Deputy Managing Editor/Features, The Journal News, Westchester
Meg Downey, Managing Editor, The Tennessean, Nashville
Michael Eckert, Assistant Managing Editor, Times Herald, Port Huron
Amy Goldberg, Deputy Director/News & Operations, The Cincinnati Enquirer
Dave Hennigan, News Editor, The Greenville News
Chris Joyner, City Hall Reporter, The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss.
Jim Kirchner, Operations News Manager, The Courier-Journal, Louisville
Chad Livengood, Local Reporter/News, News-Leader, Springfield
John Penney, Community Conversation Editor, Poughkeepsie Journal
Enid is recognized for her work to connect with Rochester’s young professional audience; efforts to serve the Hispanic community; and to bring efficiencies to the production of Insider, a young reader publication, and the Metromix Web site. As lead editor of the “Surviving and Climbing” guide for young professionals looking to succeed, Enid drew together a core group of young professionals to seed forums and blogs, offered expert advice through videos and shared compelling stories from those who were experiencing success. She applies those same approaches to the newspaper’s business coverage. Enid also contributes to the newspaper’s weekly ConXion e-newsletter, targeted to the Hispanic community.
The judges said: “Enid’s expertise and understanding of the important young adult audience has resulted in special enterprise reports, targeted niche Web sites and a smart, effective focus on the Sunday edition. Her fresh and innovative approach serves the Rochester audience well.”
Jay Jefferson Cooke
Jay is recognized for his work as lead floor editor for a team of nine reporters based in Bridgewater. The team refocused its local report on hard news, and Jay’s leadership assured that coverage was varied, robust and complete. He also took time to lead tours of scouts and other groups in the newspaper’s new location in Somerville. Jay’s guidance of newer reporters resulted in stronger work being produced overall, as well as a significant investigative report on a local landlord. Jay’s twice-a-week local column, Color in Black and White, addresses controversial local topics presented in a straightforward approach. Jay sits on the editorial boards of both newspapers. To balance the hard-news efforts, Jay launched a “Superior Sandwich Search,” a summer-long fun campaign that drew dozens of suggestions from readers and additional advertising revenue.
The judges said: “Jay understands the importance of local news, and he worked with his staff to bring strong results. His mentoring of younger reporters to strengthen their reporting and writing skills in daily and investigative efforts was significant. And he balanced his firm hand with a little fun through the sandwich search.”
Anjanette led initiatives in breaking news online, connected with community groups to bring new attention to the Californian’s leadership role in the community and coordinated the move of copy desk work to Visalia. Anjanette worked with her Information Center team to set a clear mission, strengthen the story development process and streamline various procedures. The result was a stronger strategic plan. Anjanette met with readers through regular coffee chats, which elevated the newspaper’s visibility in the community. And she shared what she learned with the staff and with readers through a regular column.
The judges said: “Anjanette’s commitment to setting a clear mission and communicating expectations to her staff resulted in a stronger newspaper. Her emphasis on a strategic approach is to be commended, especially in this difficult environment. The time she spends listening to readers results in stronger content by the staff.”
Tricia is editor of four quarterly magazines that reach niche audiences through strong local content. These include “room,” an upscale shelter magazine; BOOM* for Baby Boomer Women; Family Time; and Senior Living. Tricia developed a special “green” issue of “room,” a hit with advertisers. She also proposed that content from the magazines be used in a special Earth Day section of the newspaper and transitioned Boom* to strengthen its appeal to women, both advertising successes.
As features editor, she strengthened an overall entertainment strategy, which doubled page views to photo galleries and drew new revenue. Keeping her hand in writing, she profiled a 4-year-old’s battle with cancer in a powerful report.
The judges said: “Tricia has her hands in many products of the Press-Citizen. We acknowledge that important work, but we also (and especially) salute her willingness to handle any type of assignment, including work shifts at the switchboard for several months. Tricia clearly is someone who will do and does do anything that needs to be done.”
Mary reinvented the roles of everyone in her department as The Journal News went through a significant reengineering and move to a much smaller newsroom. She introduced a “freelancer” concept in which writers report once but write many times, producing content for whatever platform was necessary. She pioneered the concept of brand managers and content producers, with brand managers working across departments to maximize coverage in specialty areas. She transitioned the publication of the newspaper’s magazine lineup to the Universal Desk. And she taught the calendar team to work on multiple platforms. She also strengthened content for zoned editions, worked with the Metromix team to seek growth opportunities and launched a Moms Like Me monthly newsletter, one of several steps to grow Moms traffic 15 times the average.
The judges said: “At a time when resources were being significantly reduced, Mary showed her team how to work creatively and differently to maximize their efforts. She played a key role in the reengineering that occurred at The Journal News in 2009. Beyond excelling at her direct responsibilities, Mary does little things that bolster everyone else’s work. She engages readers on Sports blogs. She offers micro-local story ideas. She networks with staff members in other departments.”
Meg is recognized for her leadership of The Tennessean’s First Amendment efforts, including reports on how schools and city and county governments were wasteful. She helped the newspaper extend its audience reach of young professionals with a project, “Life on Hold,” that explored how five Nashvillians in their 20s were coping with the economy. It resulted in an ongoing digital home for young professionals to share their experiences. Meg led digital efforts related to sports, shopping and social media. She collaborated with market development and circulation departments to grow Sunday readership.
The judges said: “Meg’s imprint is seen throughout the Tennessean Information Center, and her work brought results. In a stressful year, Meg kept editors and staffers focused on The Tennessean’s strategic objectives. And she helped her team understand the need to be essential to the audiences the newspaper considered most critical.”
Michael is recognized for his leadership in the merger of the Battle Creek Enquirer and Times Herald’s copy desks into one location. The work, done early in the year, included partnering with IT to resolve technical issues, determining how the work would move through the system and establishing best practices to assure that work for both sites was done at a high standard. In the final stages before the project launch, Michael was seriously injured while riding his bike home from work. With a doctor’s clearance, he quickly returned to the critical final stages of the project.
The judges said: “Michael’s leadership on this project was evident in the professionalism, courtesy and patience he showed as he collaborated with both the Port Huron and Battle Creek staffs to address content and design issues. This approach resulted in a transition almost invisible to readers.”
Amy is recognized for her strong planning and problem-solving skills applied to projects throughout the Enquirer newsroom. The dayside production team, which she supervises, handles content and design of the Enquirer’s daily features pages and niche features products. She revamped the Metromix Cincinnati print product, working with a new team to understand the entertainment mission of the section, which resulted in stronger advertising support. She brought a fresh approach to the Saturday HomeStyle section. She easily reaches across the newspaper’s entire organization to engage various stakeholders in projects, as needed.
The judges said: “Amy’s positive influence in the Enquirer newsroom is evident as she takes on new assignments constantly. She brings a great attitude to the work environment and her colleagues. Her ability to foster a strong esprit-de-corps is notable in this difficult economic environment.”
Dave is recognized for his leadership in two key areas for The Greenville News in 2009 – the conversion to the CCI NewsGate system and the shift of pagination work to a pagination hub based at The Courier-Journal in Louisville. Dave worked closely with CCI on technical and operational issues and led around-the-clock training sessions for all staffers, focusing on the message that the new system would result in stronger journalism. He then took on the assignment of determining the steps needed to move the newspaper’s pagination work to Louisville. His conversion planning was critical in the assessment of the staff’s strengths and opportunities related to the move.
The judges said: “Dave’s hand is evident in two major projects undertaken by The Greenville News in 2009. Dave balanced his deep pagination knowledge, online expertise and background as a reporter to maximize the newspaper’s performance in a multi-platform environment. Dave clearly brings an infectious can-do attitude that balances the adjustments for the staff with the needs of readers.”
Chris is recognized for his willingness to take on new and special assignments. A devoted First Amendment journalist, Chris produces a First Amendment blog, helping people throughout the state better understand issues with government openness and accountability. As part of that effort, he led a statewide reporting project that found gaping holes in the state’s open-records laws. His deft handling of the trial of Jackson’s controversial mayor, as well as the mayor’s death before the trial concluded, reflected his ability to handle a sensitive story. Chris also broke multiple stories on city government, a responsibility added in 2009.
The judges said: “Chris’s ability to focus on different types of reporting reinforces his value in The Clarion-Ledger’s newsroom. His passion for First Amendment work helps readers understand the openness of government. He understands how to use new platforms to expand his reporting and delivery of information to an audience. This is a first-rate effort.”
Jim is recognized for his leadership in the development of a consolidated pagination hub serving The Courier-Journal, The Greenville News and the Asheville Citizen-Times. While this wasn’t the first consolidated hub in the company, it involved one of our largest sites and significant distance between the locations. Jim envisioned how the staff for the hub would be structured, moved people into the right positions and constructed master plans and timelines that worked. At critical points along the way, he visited Greenville and Asheville editors to better understand the needs of both sites.
The judges said: “The scale of the Louisville project and the capabilities of the new CCI NewsGate system called for fresh thinking in the development of the hub. Jim developed an approach, adjusted it countless times and then put the plan in place. He worked closely with editors in all three locations to make sure the hub would meet their demands. He was unflappable, as well, with the hub staffers, helping them adjust to a new way of doing things.”
Chad is recognized for his work in explaining the importance of state and federal government issues to readers. He uncovered problems with high levels of e.coli bacteria at the Lake of the Ozarks, which resulted in the governor suspending the Department of Natural Resources director. His report on the disparity between what politicians were saying about creation of jobs from federal stimulus spending funds and the actual results drew national attention. An investigation into how the state awarded lucrative motor vehicle license bureau contracts showed discrepancies in the process and resulted in the state pulling 10 local contracts. In each case, Chad used blogs and social networks to expand his sourcing and reporting techniques.
The judges said: “Chad is a leader among reporters. His willingness to step in wherever needed shows discipline, a commitment to quality and support of his colleagues. The work that Chad has produced has given taxpayers the information they need to hold leaders accountable.”
John brings an insightful perspective to the range of work he produces for the Journal’s editorial page. The well-researched editorials he produces set the agenda on local and state issues and reinforce the newspaper’s First Amendment priorities. When Hillary Clinton was named Secretary of State, John coordinated a statewide 13-newspaper editorial project spelling out the regional and economic priorities for the next senator. He used community engagement techniques on several projects, one focused on reviving the economy and another, a 13-column op-ed healthcare reform series, drew strong response from readers. To develop strong editorials on issues such as a school referendum and local elections, John meets with local groups to gain a broad array of positions.
The judges said: “John’s ability to bring innovative thinking to editorial page work has resulted in multiple special reports and strong recognition for the newspaper. His outreach to groups in the community and maintenance of a Reader Advisory Board results in an engaged community. His commitment to excellence is evident throughout his work.”
Gary is recognized for his calm approach to problem solving that helped to move the Asbury Park Press and its New Jersey partner sites forward in 2009. Gary worked with other key executives to craft a regional approach to producing four of the newspapers. He dealt with staffing adjustments, IT issues, and other factors to maximize the regional approach while balancing the content priorities of the individual sites. Each day, he recognizes opportunities to make the Asbury Park Press stronger.
The judges said: “All day, every day Gary is an MVP in the Asbury Park Information Center. He is in the middle of everything and moves quickly to make things happen. He solves problems. He cares about the newspaper, its employees and its future, and that is reflected in his work.”
Matthew is recognized for his columns devoted to the problems and possibilities at Manual High School, a large, troubled high school in Indianapolis. Matthew investigated conditions at the school, where only 39 percent of the students graduated, and wrote columns that captivated the community. Community leaders donated thousands of dollars and other gifts to the school and to students and forced change in school and district policies. When Matthew wrote about the struggling choir’s inability to draw an audience to its annual winter concert, several thousand residents showed up. In addition, Matthew also uses his columns to hold elected officials accountable. He readily offers guidance to his colleagues.
The judges said: “Matthew’s work in 2009 reinforces the notion that a newspaper is a leader in its community. And his columns on Manual High School, his blogs and other outreach efforts show how a community will engage to solve a problem. By itself, the column urging the community to attend the school’s annual concert reinforces the power of what newspapers do.”
To all of our inaugural News MVP winners, we salute their commitment to their journalism and celebrate their successes.
Last Modified: January 2010