2018 judges Q&A

Sohail Al-Jamea, McClatchy

“ If you want to read more, if you want to dive in more — usually, at least for me, it puts entries in silver contention.”

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What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries?
The trends I am noticing are the vertical, full page, scrolling experiences. Where things are happening as you’re scrolling. I thought there was a lot of those, which I think is a good trend.

What are some trends you’re tired of seeing?
I noticed a lot of templates. It makes sense, you want it to look good and you want to turn it out, but from a judging perspective, if you just keep seeing pretty much the exact same thing, just with images and videos swapped out … that’s the challenging part, at least for me.

What really makes an entry stand out and go from a bronze medal to silver medal? A silver medal to a gold medal?
I think it has to have a little bit of that wow factor. I know it’s hard to articulate it, but you just kind of know, ‘This is like something special.’ If you want to read more, if you want to dive in more — usually, at least for me, it puts entries in silver contention.

Libby Bawcombe, NPR

“I think sometimes journalists make a lot of journalism for other journalists, so you know, what are the kinds of things that newsrooms are doing to reach consumers who don’t follow the news?”

head11What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries? What are you excited to see? 
This year, I’m excited to see just the range of entries, you know, I don’t get to keep up with what’s happening in storytelling and news on a day-to-day as much as I would like. So, it’s great to see the creativity that’s coming in all the entries.

What are some novel designs you’ve seen so far that are pushing the boundaries of design?
One of the projects that I really appreciated from a news organization that is known for outstanding photography and this was not a photography project. It was paintings that were done by the author and just really shed light on this patient and how he wanted to share that with this family. I thought that that was like such an unexpected move for that news organization, which has these resources for photography and travel. So like the idea of when an organization or a journalist does something really unexpected — they almost do the opposite when you would expect from them — that’s something that really shows their versatility and flexibility and whether they’re able to practice restraint and how they tell their story. That’s something that really grabs my attention.

What really makes an entry stand out and go from a bronze medal to silver medal? A silver medal to a gold medal?
I would add that there are 1,300 entries this year, and around, I think, a dozen judges or so. We have a few days to get through all the entries. As you’re going through entry after entry it’s like what really grabs your attention, what is something that you can tell pretty quickly, like this is something special and I should dig into it deeper or maybe this doesn’t quite fit the criteria of what we’re looking for.

How important is it for entries to load quickly?
I would say for a website that is heavy with multimedia features that might take a little while to download, like that’s on them. They need to make it accessible to people whether they’ve got a great connection or they’re in rural areas that don’t have a very good connection at all, you know, how do you make this accessible to sort of your average user who may have different circumstances. You could have the most beautiful, lovely, interactive graphic, but it takes a few minutes to load or if it seems like it’s not accessible as far as language or other accessible features like that’s going to be a problem.

What’s something you don’t see a lot of that you want people to incorporate for next year?
Something that I would be very curious to see next year and in the industry are just more experimental techniques of storytelling. I think sometimes journalists make a lot of journalism for other journalists … what are the kinds of things that newsrooms are doing to reach consumers who don’t follow the news?

Dawn Cai

“I see a lot of willingness to play up photography and incorporation of multimedia.”

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What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries?
In terms of page design, I see a lot of willingness to play up photography and incorporation of multimedia. I know it’s been going on for a very long time, but you see a lot of full bleed and giving them the space to show up and shine in their full glory and the design kind of becomes more muted — I think that’s a good trend.

How important is it for entries to load quickly?
I think we do keep user experience in mind because people don’t have that much patience. I personally give them the benefit of doubt. Even though I take into consideration it’s not loading well, if it’s amazing piece I will wait, but at the same time it’s a factor.

What really makes an entry stand out and go from a bronze medal to silver medal?
For me, I’m more looking for perfection and polish and how polished the piece is. Of course it has to have a strong story, it has to be well-designed, but how well-designed between bronze and silver. For silver, every detail has to be there.

Jason Chui, Globe and Mail

“We can’t assume that everyone is on the fastest computer and just doing one thing and looking at basically their experience or their news story.”

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What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries?
The standup comedy one, which takes entire standup comedy routine and dissects it and not necessarily in the typical way you’d think like documentaries have on comedians or comedy in general, but actually looks at the kind of cadence and the actual structure of a comedy routine and why that particular routine was interesting and why it resonated with the audience and it measured audience laughter. Then it measured the pacing of the whole piece and compared it to literature. I thought that was really fascinating and the visualizations for were very unique, so if you, if you think of it as a speech, I have not really seen anything like that before. I thought that was really effective

How important is it for entries to load quickly?
I think it’s super important, and I think organizations should be paying a lot attention to that because of the different devices people are on — different access to Internet. We can’t assume that everyone is on the fastest computer and just doing one thing and looking at basically their experience or their news story. [If] there’s any lag, you’re losing someone’s interest.

What are some differences between last year’s entries and this year’s entries?
I think there’s a lot more mapping. I’ve noticed people experimenting more with audio and not just like, ‘Oh, here’s a video with audio or here’s a podcast,’ but deliberate efforts to include snippets or recordings, just sort of atmospheric sort of material or like audio files with their experiences, which I think helped them make them more immersive.

Hannah Fairfield, The New York Times

“We were looking for inspiration. We were looking for the kinds of projects that we would want to take back to our teams.”

: 01/24/2017 : New York, NY : Employee portrait, Hannah Fairfield : NYTCREDIT:Tony Cenicola/The New York TimesWhat have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries?
What we saw were sort of new form for new pieces that we are now going to see in the next few years.

How do you judge the World’s-Best Designed entries?
We were looking for inspiration. We were looking for the kinds of projects that we would want to take back to our teams. Emulate them, hold up as ‘This is an example of what we and our teams and want to strive for and we want to be able to see the field grow in that direction.’ I think that’s really what we’re looking for. We were also looking for consistency, we were looking for high level of excellence.

How important is it for entries to load quickly?
Judges are readers and when these are designed, you have to have the reader as the first line, that’s your bar. If that person is having to wait for images or video to load, there could be problems.

Ryan Murphy, Texas Tribune

“The entries that I like the most are the ones where even during judging, I was thinking, ‘I want to keep going with this one.'”

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What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries?
I think the baseline of what everyone’s able to do and what everyone’s comfortable doing has risen.

What are some trends you’re tired of seeing?
Everyone has nailed election dashboards. We’re now doing just the slightest of variations on dashboard, and I think there was the other extreme where some organizations try to just really push the boundaries of that in terms of kind of complexity and analysis and trying to weave that in. For me, what I’m hoping to see is like what the contraction of that looks like. There’s this there’s this middle ground there … I’m curious to see where people land with some of the experimentation they did in the midterms and then trying to reconcile what worked and didn’t work for the next election.

What really makes an entry stand out and go from a bronze medal to silver medal?
It’s definitely storytelling I mean that that is always one of the key drivers. The entries that I like the most are the ones where even during judging, I was thinking, ‘I want to keep going with this one.’ But also, I look for a lot of the little things that you can tell someone thought about.

Shazna Nessa, Wall Street Journal

“One thing I’m super excited about is increasingly visual journalists having a much bigger role in the reporting and the news gathering.”

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What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries?
I guess I haven’t been following all of the categories in SND in the last few years, but I’ve been really delighted to see some of the newer categories like social media thread. One thing I’m super excited about is increasingly visual journalists having a much bigger role in the reporting and the news gathering and not that that doesn’t happen, but I think we’re at this moment where it can happen and it’s happening in much bigger ways.

How important is it for entries to load quickly?
Performance is very important. To me it’s an editorial flaw. It’s not just a technical flaw if something isn’t loading, especially when you’re doing breaking news or something that people need to get to quickly.

How do you judge the World’s-Best Designed entries?
I think we were super open as well, like open in terms of discussing different approaches to who should be represented or not. That was, to me, one of the wonderful surprises I’ve found. This is first time I’ve done this and one might think, ‘Oh, it’s going to always be the same top U.S. news organizations,’ but actually what I saw in our discussions was so varied, so thoughtful, so open and people were bringing in ideas around organizations that we might not have thought of that were quite different. There was a lot of very nuanced discussion that went into this.

Yue Qiu, Bloomberg

“I personally look for really innovative, creative design details that kind of makes me smile.”

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What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries? What are you excited to see?
It is definitely how well the local newsroom has done compared to last year. I was also a judge  last year and the the kind of projects that they put out this year gave me a really pleasant surprise. Take the midterm election for example. I think after covering all these elections the bigger newsrooms election page, especially the results page, kind of start to look very similar to each other. I actually see more interesting stuff that’s produced by local newsrooms that take advantage of the publicly available data and those stories that’s more relevant to the audience that they serve.

What are some trends you’re tired of seeing?
I don’t know how many more scroll telling stories, I can stand seeing. I mean, don’t get me wrong — there are great scroll telling stories taking advantage of maps and 3D graphics and all of that. But, a lot of the time, I see organizations do scroll telling, especially those penning, doing the maps, just because the technology is there. For me scroll telling should only be used when every single step reviews important information and provides significant insights into the data sets to give you this ‘aha’ moment in your reading experience.

What really makes an entry stand out and go from a bronze medal to silver medal?
I think there are two things. One is in the medal description and the other one is more personal. In the medal discussions, we really want to see something that stretches the medium. I personally look for really innovative, creative design details that kind of makes me smile like from those moments either like a nice UI or a nice data visualization design detail that really makes me appreciate the extra effort that goes into the project.

Renate Rognan, NRK

“If you think mobile-first, it really has to go. When we use third-party platforms like Facebook, YouTube, whatever we’re used to having really fast loading.”

Screen Shot 2019-02-13 at 6.26.04 PMWhat are some trends you’re tired of seeing?
To see animation just for the sake of animation tires me. I want to see the story go on — just give me the information. But, if the animation and the emotion part is done correctly, it really adds to the story.

How important is it for entries to load quickly?
I really want to see that smooth. If you think mobile-first, it really has to go. When we use third-party platforms like Facebook, YouTube, whatever we’re used to having really fast loading. So, whenever I see something, at least when something is visibly lagging, when we’re scrolling and something happens … as a user I don’t have that patience. I think of that when I judge but that doesn’t affect the judging because I don’t know why it’s not loading.

Simon Scarr, Reuters

“Some organizations deliberately didn’t try to do everything and cover everything. They knew what their audience was and came up with ways … to deliver that news .”

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What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries? What are you excited to see?
There was a body of work that we’ve talked about a lot that we all appreciated, where these investigations or reconstructions, use graphics, pictures, video and incredible research to deliver really powerful stories. That was something that we’d seen them almost perfect this year. It’s almost like a new way of delivering the news.  It’s using the video format, but it’s combining all of the other tools that are available and the amount of reporting and research that goes into these videos, we were all kind of blown away by it. The videos that can last 10 minutes, but you sit and you watch all of it because you’re unpacking all of that stuff.

Some organizations deliberately didn’t try to do everything and cover everything. They knew what their audience was and came up with ways … to deliver that news like Axios, with their newsletter.

What are some trends you’re tired of seeing?
I think asking to see if something is not necessarily the thing to ask for. It’s really just tighter editing and a finer polish of the methods that are already out there as we kind of evolve and get used to using them a bit more.

Emmet Smith, National Geographic

“You’ve got to tell a great story, an important story, a revelatory story in a sophisticated way, and that can be the simplest technology and the best editing.”

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What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries? What are you excited to see?
I think one of the things that’s impressed me the most is the way the work has sort of leveled out, like we sort of have this moment of a high tide — raising all boats. There seem to be less technology issues. It’s been great to see that people seem to be a little bit less obsessed with technology and doing the new, cool 3D thing, or whatever, and more focused on the stories and the editing and the journalism pieces of the projects.

How important is it for entries to load quickly?
When you’re judging, you’re keeping in mind, ‘What’s the reader experience?’ I’m not sitting there thinking of, ‘OK, I’m going to wait for this to load, and then let’s see if we can find all the wonderful ways in which it’s cool.’ It’s, ‘All right. I’m on the metro on my way to work. I have 15 seconds of signal before the train goes again. Did this thing load? Am I interested in it? Does the story pull me in? Does the packaging pull me in? Does the design pull me in?’ If that doesn’t load quickly, then no, it doesn’t, and I’m off to whatever is next in the queue.

What makes an entry stand out and go from a bronze medal to silver medal? A silver medal to a gold medal?
To get up into medal ranges, you’ve got to tell a great story, an important story, a revelatory story in a sophisticated way, and that can be the simplest technology and the best editing.

For the silver awards you have given out, what are some entries that stood out? Why?
My favorite silver awards were the ones where I didn’t notice the UX [user experience]. I didn’t notice the platform. I didn’t notice anything about it. It was just effortless and seamless in a way that print can’t deliver, in a way that television can’t deliver. It was just completely immersive and you’re right into the story.

Moiz Syed, The Intercept

“I feel like the way that this work gets made without extravagant resources kind of indicates how we can push the boundaries of … being better at making this sort of work and making visual journalism.”

head6What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries? What are you excited to see?
It’s almost like at this time you get an entire, year-long timeline of what happened in journalism. How did we cover stories? How did we approach all the horrible things that have happened in the world? And all the good things, too. You get to see all the best work in a very concentrated amount of time. So, I think that’s an incredible thing.

What are some trends you’re tired of seeing?
I think some of the entries that I have been seeing this year, very much remind me of the entries that I saw last year … because they are using the same template or a template that was slightly improved upon. That kind of impacts how we, how we judge it against another piece that … is novel, something that is, pushing the boundaries of design, of how you think about experiences on the internet, how we tell stories on the internet.

What’s something you don’t see a lot of that you want people to incorporate for next year?
I would love to see more entries from smaller newsrooms, from smaller schools and from other parts of the world. I think there is a lot of incredible work that gets made in smaller newsrooms and in smaller teams across the schools without many resources. I feel like the way that this work gets made without extravagant resources kind of indicates how we can push the boundaries of … being better at making this sort of work and making visual journalism.

Monica Ulmanu, The Washington Post

“When you see something that creates delights … it makes you see things differently from then on.”

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What have you found to be new, novel or different about this year’s entries?
I think our craft is both technology and narrative, and I think that sparked some  interesting discussions about: ‘Are we looking to judge innovation only?’ or Are we looking beyond the normal story that we’re used to?’ What’s pushing our craft even more? I think that shows a little bit of the battle that’s going on in the newsrooms too and our internal fight of how can we can we keep what we do to move forward? Just keep it going.

What are some trends you’re tired of seeing?
Another thing that I noticed is I think using templates too much, which is understandable because the news still needs to be reported. We need to publish quickly, but seeing all the pieces from an organization together, you can see how they use the template over and over and over.

What makes an entry standout and go from a bronze medal to silver medal? A silver medal to a gold medal?
When you see something that creates delights … it makes you see things differently from then on. It’s just something that empowers you to be creative.