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May 28, 2001

Online News Sites Fewer But Awards Program Grows
By Ryan Naraine

The administrator of the second annual Online Journalism Awards, Sreenath Sreenivasan, believes quality journalism on the Internet has not been affected by the widespread retrenchment in the industry.

"It's a genuine concern but I'm very bullish on where we are in terms of new media. This is here to stay. No one can say there is no future in this. Even if there is retrenchment, people are confusing the Web crash with the quality of journalism," Sreenivasan said.

Nonetheless, there's little doubt that with the death of such quality journalism sites as APBNews -- not to mention a general retrenchment of Internet divisions by traditional media outlets -- will deeply affect the pool of candidates for this year's awards.

The Online Journalism Awards program -- which is run by the Online News Association and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism -- found itself in a tight spot last year when a few of the winners, including crime news site APBNews, were eventually forced out of business by the collapse of the private equity market.

"Last year, we didn't give out the awards until December and the crash was upon us. It was indeed discomforting for us to see that some of the winners had already gone out of business but that didn't dilute the award in my mind," he told atNewYork.

"The fact is APBNews went down despite the quality of the content. It's like blaming chess players for the death of the XFL. Online media has to answer to the Nasdaq and venture capitalists and, in my mind, venture capitalists are no judge of quality journalism," Sreenivasan said.

"Newspapers are shrinking but does that mean the Pulitzer Prize should be discontinued?"

Sreenivasan, an associate professor of professional practice at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, said the contest this year has been expanded with the addition of new categories for Feature Journalism and Innovative Presentation of Information.

The other categories are Breaking News, Enterprise Journalism, Service Journalism, Creative Use of the Medium and Commentary. A total of 15 prizes will be awarded.

Deadline for submission of entries is Monday, July 16 for English-language content sites from around the world for work first published online between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001.

Sreenivasan expects submissions from international Web sites to increase this year. "The response has been terrific. Last year, we had submissions from 12 countries and I'm expecting about 25 this year so that is exciting."

A two-step process will determine winners. Screeners in each category will first nominate five proposed finalists. Then, the entries will be submitted to judges, a select group of leading journalists, who will meet in New York to choose the official finalists and winners for each category.

The organizers will announce the finalists on Monday, October 1. The winners will be announced at the second national conference of the Online News Association, which will be held at the University of California at Berkeley on October 26-27. > quotes > atNewYork