NJ Spotlight has been honored with a prestigious international award for General Excellence in Online Journalism from the Online News Association, the world largest association of online journalists.
Although NJ Spotlight, which launched 16 months ago, was recognized in the “micro” category because of the size of its online community, it was in major company. Al Jazeera, the BBC News, the Los Angeles Times, Pro Publica, and the Washington Post were among other winners.
“This is huge,” said John Mooney, NJ Spotlight’s cofounder and education editor.
“It’s a wonderful compliment, and a testament to the power and value of in-depth and substantive journalism in these hectic times,” Mooney continued. “And it’s a wonderful tribute to the role that nonprofits and foundations can play in sustaining quality journalism. We certainly could not have done this without the support of funders.”
The Online News Association (ONA) is a nonprofit organization that covers the entire digital spectrum, including reporters, editors, producers, designers, bloggers, and technologists. The judges for this year’s awards comprised some of the leading creative thinkers in the new media industry. They included representatives from AP, Bloomberg News, CNN International, ITN, NPR, the NY Times, Philly.com, and the Vancouver Sun, as well as the Knight Foundation and the University of Miami.
General Excellence in Online Journalism honors a news site that successfully fulfills its editorial mission, effectively serves its audience, maximizes the use of digital tools, and represents the highest journalistic standards. Sites are be judged on quality of journalism, use of social tools, creative use of the medium, user interface, and interactivity.
In accepting the award for NJ Spotlight, Mooney expressed thanks to the association, while crediting the staff of the organization and Dunstan McNichol, who came up with idea of a website devoted to substantively covering state issues.
General Excellence in Online Journalism is one of only six awards by the ONA that come with a cash prize of $3,000.
Mooney said the prize money associated with the award will be donated to a scholarship fund set up by friends of McNichol, who died unexpectedly at the beginning of the year. McNichol was a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the highest award in journalism.
NJ Spotlight partner WNYC was also honored by the ONA in the Breaking News category for its coverage of the massive snowstorm that buried New York this winter.
The association also awarded the Knight Award for Public Service to the another New Jersey organization, the Asbury Park Press, for a special report, “Barnegat Bay Under Stress.”
NJ Spotlight is funded by grants from the Community Foundation of New Jersey, William Penn Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and JLab.