Behind the DFMie: Journalists explain their winning enterprise works


In the fourth of our four-part series on December’s DFMie winners, we take a closer look at the winning enterprise entries. The DFMie winners here include Noel Lyn Smith of the Daily Times in Farmington, N.M., David S. Glasier and Michael Allen Blair of the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio and the Bay Area News Group for their examination of what makes content go viral.

David S. Glasier and Michael Allen Blair win for coverage of heroin addiction

Glasier’s text story and Blair’s video story about heroin addiction in the Northeast Ohio suburbs won the fourth straight Midwest DFMie for the News-Herald (others were shared with the Morning Journal).

This is the fourth DFMie for local coverage of heroin addiction, an issue recently underscored nationally by news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Here is what judges said about Glasier and Blair’s work:

Excellent use of video. Nice story about someone who seemed to be a normal person that took the wrong path with drugs. The story was real, about someone you might know that lived next door.

Another judge:

They covered the problem from all perspectives, including interviews with users, police, family members, and mental health professionals, and packaged it with several videos.

Blair’s reflection on the story:

This award got me thinking about that teamwork and how important it is to our success as a newsroom. You see, David and I are very green. I don’t mean green in the sense of being new to the business, I mean green in that we like to carpool to assignments. It seems that the best ideas arise from the time we spend in the car en route to our assignments. We’re constantly hashing a plan and strategizing how to best tackle the challenges before us in multiple platforms. It doesn’t hurt that we’re also saving our sources valuable time and the company mileage. Fact is, it’s a great way to brainstorm ideas.

We appreciate each other’s skill set and realize how much better we can tackle challenges as a team. Whether it’s David’s ability to ace a reporter standup for a video intro or my ability to provide an unexpected follow-up question during a subject interview, we keep the lines of communication open and it’s a very collaborative process right through the final edit. David’s background in TV and broadcasting is a real asset to our Digital First strategy. Our approach is simple: we trust and respect each other’s skills and relish all the new tools of the trade.

It’s often surprising how different our needs can be for the written story versus visuals for a video story. Our success as a team depends on our ability to recognize the different moving parts of the story and work together to get what we need for the project to come to life both in print and online.

Glasier added:

Every story offers its own journey. This journey was particularly harrowing as it took us into the worlds of law enforcement, heroin users, clinical professionals, coroners and families hit hard by this heroin epidemic.

From a structural point of view, Michael and I throughout the reporting process were diligent in combining the elements of written word, still photography and video to tell the story.

Noel Lyn Smith wins for breaking story of misused funds

Noel Lyn Smith

Noel Lyn Smith

Coverage of criminal indictments normally fits under breaking news, but we include this among the enterprise winners because the Daily Times broke the story.

Smith wins the Texas/New Mexico cluster DFMie for breaking the story and for excellence in her continuing coverage of the case.

She got the court record through sources and the Times posted it online, reporting the criminal indictments of bribery and conspiracy against members of the Navajo Nation Council, including Speaker Johnny Naize. The Navajo Times linked to the Daily Times story, and Smith stayed in front of the continuing story, which included an effort to depose Naize.

Here is what judges said about Smith’s reporting:

I give Noel credit for breaking the story through good reporting. I also see that the community responded well, judging by the nearly 2,000 in Facebook shares — a huge number for any newspaper in a place like Farmington. I also like how the newspaper made sure to put the criminal summons on the website. The story really shows the depth of alleged corruption in the Navajo Nation. It’s pretty incredible. It’s good for members to know what their leaders were up to. I also think it says a lot about the reporting that it was followed by AP, as well as his own newspaper’s editorials.

And another:

I’m really impressed with Noel’s work. I know how hard it can be to penetrate into tribal issues, and this is a great piece. As a reader from out of the area I appreciated the way the story was broken up, with subheads for the major players–made it very easy to follow.

Smith shares this advice:

Good record keeping helps, especially if the story involves an ongoing court case. If a law is cited in a motion filed in court or in a decision made by a judge, I find it helpful to research that citation in order to gain a better understanding and to pass that information onto readers.

Bay Area News Group wins for its examination of viral videos

The nomination explains “How Tech Redefines Us,” the creative project that won the Bay Area News Group’s DFMie:

How do you become famous in the Internet age? Go viral, of course. As part of our exploration of how technology is redefining everyday lives, we decided to see if we have what it takes. Our vehicle for possible fame: the iChicken! Bay Area News Group staffers wrote, starred in and recorded a parody of Apple’s product commercials, featuring chickens who are the object of their owners’ obsession, even as the world proceeds around them. We could describe it further, but it’s better to watch videographer LiPo Ching’s work (above): Reporter Patrick May wove the tale of the iChicken video, and our relentless efforts to boost its popularity, into an article examining the meaning of online fame: who gets it, who doesn’t, what it’s worth. Spoiler alert: We didn’t go viral. And, painfully, we examine why and what it tells us about the cruel, modern, digital world.

Judges praised the report:

They tackle this issue with humor and creativity. Their video was fun and they lost no overall credibility by doing so. A serious conversation about what goes viral, even with them leaving the conversation open ended (as it has to be), didn’t leave me feeling any less informed or entertained.

Another judge:

The videos were engaging, the story itself flowed, and the layout of the content was simple and effective. I really appreciated all the work that went into the moving parts. I thought the iChicken video, ridiculous as that idea was, was a brilliant concept. I think many of us wonder how videos go viral, so BANG’s attempt to make that happen, and then dissect the process for the story, was really interesting. The video was quite sophisticated, even if the subject was silly.

I liked the variety of tools used to display information. I liked the little info boxes, like “Big moments in FAME,” and “The viral stuff.” They really broke the information into manageable pieces, and that kept my attention as I moved through the content.

The digital layout was really easy to use, and kept my eye moving. Although I focused on evaluating the Fame section of the series, I thought the series as a whole was really awesome. There were so many click-able elements in a really sleek design. Great job.

Steve Buttry

By Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry is Digital Transformation Editor for Digital First Media. He oversees our efforts to transform newsroom operations and culture to more effectively pursue our digital goals. His duties include responsibility for social media and community engagement. He has visited most DFM newsrooms personally, leading workshops and coaching editors and other journalists in following the Digital First approach.

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