03 October 2008

Newspapers Win Emmys With Multimedia

Two regional American newspapers have received Emmy awards for online documentary projects.

Journalists, videographers and production staff at the online arm of the Detroit Free Press won two Emmys in the New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming section.

The first was in the Arts, Lifestyle & Culture category for its multimedia feature celebrating 40 years of Aretha Franklin’s recording of Respect.

And it was a return visit to the winners’ podium after freep.com also took home the award in the same section for regional news coverage for “Pit Bulls: Companions or Killers?”

Meanwhile, the San Jose Mercury News was the winner in the Documentaries strand for News & Documentary Programming for its online video series Uprooted.



“40 Years of Respect” represents a true labour of love from staff at freep.com as it tells the story of the song, of Aretha Franklin and of the links to the civil rights movement.

The project comprises text and video narratives, photo galleries (with some great archive images) and video interviews with artists from the time and contemporary musicians talking about its influence on them.

Users are also given their chance to get involved through the dedicated discussion forum and the song section where people can sing their own version of Respect with the best made available on the website.

The feature has some fun trivial aspects such as an interactive quiz, but the team also brings depth to the subject through video interviews with a sociology professor and with Franklin’s son.

“Nearly anyone will learn something about ‘Respect’ by watching this video,” said Nancy Andrews, managing editor for digital media and the project overseer.

Pit Bulls

Andrews also oversaw the Pit Bulls documentary, which outlines the potential downsides and upsides of owning one of the dogs.

The feature comprises interactive graphics explaining different dog breeds and video packages looking at issues such as dogfighting and abandoned dogs.

It also has an extensive images gallery with photos showing animal rescue officers at work.

Like “40 Years of Respect”, the pit bulls project has a long list of contributors and among them is reporter Ben Schmitt.

“You know, when you get into the print business, you don’t really think about the Emmys and that’s what makes this award so special,” he said.

Schmitt added: “It just shows that the Free Press is really on the cutting edge when it comes to telling stories in different ways and different mediums.”


Uprooted is a six-part video series showing the effects upon residents of a Californian mobile home park when they are forced to move when the park owners decide to sell to developers.

It took a relatively small team of four people (two executive producers, a producer/photographer and a reporter) to create the engaging and sympathetic videos.

Dai Sugano, Mercury News photographer and the project’s producer, said: “It’s a great honor to win for this new way of storytelling, and I hope to serve the community even better with this new approach.”

(Hat tip – The Digital Edge Blog.)

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