During the murder trial of Joseph P. Smith, HeraldTribune.com kept the city of Sarasota, Fla., connected.
“HeraldTribune.com became a place for the community to learn about the case and discuss what they discovered,” said Lucas Grindley, content manager of HeraldTribune.com. “A prominent tease on the home page asked readers to participate in a message board that grew to more than 500 posts. Each day, we used an online poll to ask readers about the latest developments.”
While browsing the Web site, visitors had access to several critical pieces of evidence in the trial, including a 10-second car wash surveillance video showing Smith taking away 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, the young girl he was accused of abducting, raping and murdering.
When the trial commenced, Sarasota residents could watch the proceedings in their entirety on the local paper’s affiliated site. The multimedia component of the Herald Tribune’s coverage alone accounted for nearly 600,000 hits during the monthlong trial.
“This series of stories and supplemental materials is deadline reporting in its truest sense,” said the judges.
Photos, letters, documents and a live blog from the Sarasota County courthouse accompanied all of the hours of video footage on the Web site. Visitors received information that was clear, timely and economical from the blogger’s 153 entries.
“Too often blogs become about the writer and not about the event,” the judges said. “In this case this media technology was used in combination with high journalistic standards to provide another layer of coverage to readers who have become accustomed to 24/7 news.”
Grindley saw the blog’s benefits in a similar light.
“Blogging is a fairly new verb in the journalism vocabulary,” said Grindley, “and its applications are still being discovered. Our goal with the trial was to maintain our high journalism standards with providing instantaneous news.”
Even though it was a new approach to news coverage, Grindley believes it should in time become the industry standard.
“The trial set the standard for how we cover high-profile cases,” Grindley said. “It was the most comprehensive and most converged coverage of a trial ever seen at this news organization. And it should be a model to others.
“The innovate use of video and blog format is noteworthy, but HeraldTribune.com’s core belief in quality, immediate news is at the root of what sets us apart.”