2014 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Large Newsroom finalist


About the Project

The New York Times has long been the essential source of news and information in print and online. The Online News Association has honored The Times with the award for general excellence the past two years, and three of the past five, for its authority, creativity and ingenuity.

While it may seem covetous to seek another Online Journalism Award, the achievements The Times has made in the past year, the newsroom’s willingness to painfully examine its own work and to improve it, and the organization’s continued innovation deserve recognition.

Recent changes, many months in the making, have enabled The Times to build a platform for future achievement and helped lead the digital news industry by example. The newsroom has launched innovative new products while it continues to produce an incomparable multimedia news report and execute ambitious enterprise.

The Times redesigned its website to provide a fully responsive experience and better showcase immersive multimedia. The site’s architecture and technology upgrades allow journalists to better report breaking news on digital deadlines.

Fast Company said that readers get “a more refined experience” and the new interface allows them to explore topics in depth or browse, recreating some of the sense of exploration that earlier generations of readers had in print.

Slate suggested that the lack of reader outrage at the redesigned site was itself high praise, and Jeff Jarvis, writing for The Guardian said, “The Times does much right,” as he saluted the designers’ restraint and their focus “around the meat of the matter: the article.”

Additionally, the redesign enables multimedia specialists – photographers, videographers, graphics artists and developers – to have more powerful ways of engage readers who have greater influence over how they consume and share media on The Times’s platforms and social networks.

Recent examples include projects from Nairobi’s Westgate Mall siege in Kenya, and elections in Afghanistan and India; a multimedia road trip along I-35 to explore immigration in the United States and an up-to-date user guide for the modern health-conscious consumer.

See also comprehensive coverage of the New York City’s mayor’s race and recent reporting on the tumult in Ukraine.

These and other efforts were reported, produced and optimized for digital consumption. And The Times’s newsroom, from the masthead to the copy desks, prioritized the experience for readers on mobile platforms.

As with many of its peers, roughly half of The Times’s traffic comes from mobile platforms – smartphone and tablet apps, and mobile web. In a mobile-first world, where a reader may have only a few moments to spare, delivering content quickly is key. In 2013, The Times rebuilt its mobile website top-to-bottom, emphasizing the speed at which the newsroom can deliver the news to readers wherever they are, when they need it.

The technology powering The Times mobile site proved so successful in delivering news when it was most salient for readers, it was incorporated into the core website in the 2014 redesign – truly mobile-first.

The newsroom’s aggressive video efforts are fully accessible on mobile devices, and The Times’s most popular interactive features and game-changing graphics are equally resonant on smartphones and tablets as they are on laptops or desktops.

While continuing to report the most pressing news and pursue ambitious enterprise, The Times has launched new products that show, perhaps counterintuitively, that a traditional newsroom can be a fertile place to host a technology incubator.

The newsroom deployed its finest journalists and most talented technicians, many of whom are the same people, to build and edit the NYT Now smartphone app, and to staff The Upshot, a new site devoted to news, analysis and data visualization about politics and policy.

The editors of NYT Now reimagined The Times for mobile, establishing a new, 24-hour team to curate news for the reader on the go. They present articles to be more easily scanned and created special features – a morning briefing, a nighttime long read – synced to users’ iPhone clocks. The app also aggregates content from outside sources, so busy readers who don’t have time to find the best of the web can rely on Times editors to do so for them. NYT Now has won an audience because it’s the first mobile news experience that is truly tailored to mobile readers’ needs.

The Upshot extends The Times’s franchise in authoritative public policy reporting and capitalizes on opportunities created by the proliferation of digital data.

“One of our highest priorities will be unearthing data sets — and analyzing existing ones — in ways that illuminate and explain the news,” David Leonhardt, the editor of The Upshot wrote when the site launched in April.

The site aims to provide readers with a level of understanding of big, complicated stories by writing in a direct, plain-spoken way. “We’ll be conversational without being dumbed down,” Leonhardt promised. Examinations of the American middle class and the United States midterm elections, with unprecedented transparency, live up to that promise. Examinations of baseball fandom and the world lime shortage, complete with cocktail recipe, provide welcome serendipity.

The Times’s journalism, its willingness to experiment and its leadership make it consistently among the best news sites in the world.