[Back to Online Journalism Awards]


Friday , December 01, 2000 05:31 p.m.

Salon.com Biggest Winner in First Online Journalism Awards
MSNBC.com, Oxygen.com and APBnews.com among other winners. Critics bemoan incestuous selection process.

by Chris Allbritton and Greg Lindsay


Salon.com was the biggest winner at the first Online Journalism Awards ceremony on Friday, earning two laurels -- one for general excellence for an original Web site, the other for enterprise journalism about how Barry McCaffrey, President Clinton's drug czar, insinuated anti-drug messages into television shows.

Other winners included MSNBC.com (general excellence for a site in collaboration with an established media outlet), Oxygen.com (online commentary) and BabyCenter.com (service journalism, original to the Web). The site that received the most nominations, the formerly bankrupt crime news site APBnews.com, captured one of the four awards it was in the running for: best creative use of the medium.

Like the Pulitzers, the online awards have been criticized for excessive insiderism and an emphasis on established (and establishment) sites among the finalists and winners.The awards program, launched in May 2000 by the Online News Association, is administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, which also handles the Pulitzer Prize, the National Magazine Awards and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for broadcast journalism. And like those more established awards, the new ones have been criticized for excessive insiderism and an emphasis on established (and establishment) sites among the finalists and winners. (Inside, like many sites, participated in the screening process, and co-chair Kurt Andersen was a judge.)

Even though judges and screeners couldn't vote in categories in which their own sites were nominated, one unsuccessful entrant, Joe Shea, the editor of the contrarian Web site the American Reporter, argues that the overall atmosphere was still pretty incestuous. ''If you've got this preponderance of people from a small number of organizations, can't they quietly trade off on the judging?'' asks Shea. ''Perhaps nobody did fix the contest, but perhaps it was fixed by the culture of cyberspace journalism that is now dominated by a few organizations.''

''That's a fair criticism, but we're all learning here and we're trying to establish how the process works,'' said Sreeenath Sreenivasan, a professor at the school and the administrator of the prizes. ''At the end of the day, all you've got is your integrity. My conscience and my standards were upheld.''

MSNBC.com editor in chief Merrill Brown, a judge, argues that he was certainly able to squelch his loyalties, or lack thereof. ''I literally voted for people I spend my days trying to beat the you-know-what-out-of,'' he said.

The complete list of winners:
* General excellence in online journalism, original to the Web
Salon.com

* General excellence in online journalism, in collaboration with another media outlet
MSNBC.com

* Breaking news, original to the Web
CNET News.com: Aftershocks from the Microsoft Breakup

* Breaking news, in collaboration with another media outlet
ABCNews.com: Chaos in Seattle

* Enterprise journalism, original to the Web
Salon.com: Drug Czar

* Enterprise journalism, in collaboration with another media outlet
Two winners:
The Associated Press: No Gun Ri
The New York Times: How Race is Lived in America

* Service journalism, original to the Web
BabyCenter.com: Your Baby's Health

* Service journalism, in collaboration with another media outlet
Cleveland Live: Choosing Nursing Homes

* Creative use of the medium, original to the Web
APBNews.com: The Great Basin Murders

* Creative use of the medium, in collaboration with another media outlet
TimesUnion.com: The Diallo Case

* Online commentary
Emily Prager: ''The Read,'' Oxygen.com (several essays
)

o o o o o

[Back to Online Journalism Awards]