Salt Lake Tribune’s Kim McDaniel wins DFMie for special contribution

Kim McDaniel interviews hydrologist Brian McInerney at the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City for an article published last year. McDaniel was recognized in this year's DFMies for her contributions to the Salt Lake Tribune newsroom. (File/Salt Lake Tirbune)
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Journalist: Kim McDaniel
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Kim McDaniel

Kim McDaniel

Kim McDaniel wins the DFMie for special contribution for her digital leadership in the Salt Lake Tribune newsroom.

Editor Nancy Conway explained McDaniel’s value to the Tribune in her nomination:

Kim McDaniel is The Salt Lake Tribune’s early adopter. Whenever a new wave heads our way, Kim is the one who paddles out to catch it. She’s been doing it since was created in 1995 as one of the first 10 newspaper web sites in the country.

First as a clerk, then as a web producer and now as the leader of our web team, Kim has pushed the newsroom to embrace the speed and the interactivity of the new paradigm. She wrote’s first online-only column, and later she become our first blogger. She established The Tribune’s beachheads on Facebook and Twitter long before each was viewed as indispensible to journalism. We had our Pinterest page up while Pinterest was still in open beta.

More than just a social media addict, Kim truly understands the connective power of the Internet. She has been a steadfast proponent of a “persistent identity” comments format, which allows commenters to adopt pseudonyms as long as they stick with them for all comments. It’s not that radical an idea now, but it was a hard sell back in 2005. When we were getting hit with the usual comments backlash (“how can you allow such awful things on your site?”), Kim fought hard to preserve it. She argued, effectively, that the predominant culture in Utah made it trickier for individuals to attach their names to controversial positions. Now, we wouldn’t do it any other way. In 2012 our comments platform received more than one million comments from more than 42,000 separate commenters. Our site is the undisputed interactive leader among Utah news sites.

And Kim doesn’t just live it herself. She brings the rest of us along. Part advocate and all trainer, Kim has prodded the newsroom through emails, staff seminars and individual coaching sessions. She has used page-view data to drive discussions about what readers really want vs. what journalists think they should want. She celebrates the stories that people want to read.

More recently she’s taken her act on the road. She was invited to serve on a social media panel at the Associated Press Sports Editors annual meeting in Chicago last year, and she is currently running a weeklong workshop at DePauw University on all things social for journalists.

For Kim, it’s all about perpetual curiosity and not being encumbered by the past. She has become a crucial figure in The Salt Lake Tribune’s evolution and for that she is our nominee for the “Special Contribution” DFMie.

DFMie judges explained why they chose McDaniel for the award:

Kim’s commitment to The Salt Lake Tribune and keeping it ahead of the curve, always thinking about what’s next, deserves recognition. Her leadership to help the newsroom embrace speed and interactivity, as well as her interest in comments and reader interaction, have been significant contributions not just to the newsroom but the Salt Lake community. Her always-thinking-about-what’s-next mentality and embrace of technology is what more newsrooms need in the 21st century.

Other finalists for the special contribution DFMie were:

McDaniel joined The Salt Lake Tribune in 1994 as a newsroom assistant. Good timing and a natural curiosity for technology led to writing tech stories and a prominent spot on the small development team for The Tribune’s first web site. As the internet changed and grew, she became one of the key educators in the newsroom, arming print journalists with the tools to succeed online.

When social media emerged, she created and managed accounts for The Tribune, while helping newsroom journalists join and master those platforms, too. Deciding content play, updating layout and design, administrating mobile sites and apps, building SEO and contextual linking, managing social media and reader comments, leading ongoing newsroom education and analyzing analytics and stats are things she touches daily as The Tribune’s digital director.

In the few minutes a day Kim is not online, she’s traveling with her husband, photographing wildlife, or taking care of her many pets (including Facebook star Mr Fox the Dog).

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