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Canadian paper wins ‘Innovator’; Springfield photo project garners monthly ‘Great Ideas'

Friday, May 25, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jack Lail
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The Winnipeg Free Press is the first newspaper from Canada to win the Associated Press Media Editors’ Innovator of the Month.

APME also awarded its Great Idea of the Month to the photo editor of the State-Journal Register in Springfield, Ill.

The Free Press created a monthly special section called "Our City, Our World” to highlight its different ethic communities in Manitoba, which is in central Canada. Judges were impressed with the quality and depth of the innovative project.

"The Winnipeg project is impressively ambitious,” said judge Gary Graham, editor of The Spokesman-Review. "The variety of topics gave readers a comprehensive view of how their community has changed and why it has changed.”

As for the Great Idea of the Month, Rich Saal won it for a two-year project in which he digitized glass plate negatives taken between 1929 and 1935 and then created an exhibit for his community library. The State-Journal Register also created a website for the photographs.

Judge Bill Church, executive editor of Statesman Journal Media in Salem, Ore., said he thought the project was compelling.

"The State Journal-Register found an innovative and unique way to build on its asset — historical knowledge — while reaching out to the community across platforms,” Church said. "Rich Saal’s dedication and passion for the project led to a public exhibit.”

Judges also gave strong consideration to the Columbia Missourian for its development of a Community Outreach Team.

"This was a very, very tough choice,” said judge Kathy Best, managing editor of the Seattle Times. "All of the submissions were innovative, and all were great ideas. I wish they weren’t competing against each other!”

The monthly "Innovator of the Month” and "Great Idea of the Month” are a project of the Innovator/Great Ideas Committee. Joe Hight, director ofinformation and development for The Oklahoman/, and David Arkin, vice president of content & audience forGateHouse Media Inc., are co-chairs of the committee.

News organizations are encouraged to continue submitting their innovations and ideas for APME’s popular Great Ideas book. It’s easy and takes only a few minutes to submit one by going to

You can see question-and-answers and links to this month’s winners by going to ….


WINNER: Winnipeg Free Press, Manitoba, Canada.

REPRESENTATIVE: Julie Carl, Deputy Editor

WHY THIS PAPER WON: The Free Press created an innovative monthly section that focuses on ethic communities.





1. What prompted you to create this innovation?

A community member who is active in helping immigrants from Africa settle into life in our province told us how many newcomers come here from Africa. He suggested we publish a theme paper on the issue. Manitoba relies heavily on immigration for development so we decided to look at all our immigrant communities, starting with the theme issue on Africa in the entire paper. Once a month, we dedicate our weekend features section to an ethnic community. The project is called Our City, Our World.

2. What were the steps in creating it?

We let the immigration numbers guide us in choosing which groups we highlight, but generally the groups have come from countries where daily newspapers are valued more than in North America. The newspaper extinction timeline pegs newspapers disappearing in Canada by 2020, in the U.S. by 2017. But in parts of Africa, they are expected to be going strong beyond 2040, parts of the Middle East into 2035. We are hopeful not only that our longtime readers will learn new things about their community, but that the newcomers will realize the Winnipeg Free Press is their paper, too. We believe that is working. Emails from newcomers have said they feel part of the community now that their story has been told in the paper.

3. How did you introduce or promoteit to your audience?

We started by publishing a couple of columns outlining the project for readers, written by the paper’s editor, Margo Goodhand. We received many, many emails from readers suggesting story ideas or people who should be profiled. That proved very handy when it came to our lists and thumbnail sketches of prominent citizens in each of the ethnic communities. Those pages are very popular with readers.

4. Any results thus far?

Readers are still enthusiastic, still sending us story ideas and asking when their community will be highlighted.

5. What would you recommend to other media wanted to do a similar project?

Tell readers what you are doing. The process has been quite collaborative because of Margo’s columns.

GREAT IDEA OF THE MONTH: Springfield photographs: Images from the Illinois State Journal glass plate negatives 1929-35

WINNER: Photo Editor Rich Saal.

NEWSPAPER: State Journal-Register, Springfield, IL
WHY THIS PAPER WON: Saal spent two years reviewing glass negatives to create a special exhibit now on display through Aug. 3 at the Lincoln Library.



1. What prompted you to create this innovation?

The digitization of glass plate negatives taken between 1929 and 1935 for one of our predecessor newspapers, the Illinois State Journal, came while studying American history for a Master's degree. Awareness of the plates, which our newspaper had donated to a local historical collection in 1989, came during research for a class. The plates had not been digitized, so the project seemed like a logical step to take.

2. What were the steps in creating it?

Over a period of two years, I digitized all 1,340 plates, and then viewed the Illinois State Journalon microfilm covering the six-year span to find caption information from the published images. Once I had those two steps completed, I put together the exhibition and produced a 64-page catalog from the collection. The exhibit is at our community library and open to the public. The project also included development of a website,, where viewers can see close to 70 images and comment on them individually. More images from the collection will be added to the site over the coming months. I raised $11,000 in grant funds to cover expenses, the highest being construction of display walls for the exhibit. They will be donated to the library when the exhibition ends, creating a new venue for community art exhibits.

3. How did you introduce or promoteit to your audience?

For months leading up to the exhibit, I used our department's blog to write about individual images from the collection and those entries were shared on our Facebook page. Three weeks before the exhibit, we used images in a Picturing the Past feature we publish weekly in our print edition to promote the exhibit's opening. I shared information with the local historical society, which sent it to their members, and I used direct mail to reach approximately 300 others. We wrote about the exhibit in a story spread over two pages in our Sunday feature section the weekend before it opened. Finally, house ads in our print edition will continue to promote the exhibition, which runs through August 3, and alert readers to a 20 percent discount we are offering on reprints from the collection until it ends.

4. Any results thus far?

On the opening night of the exhibit, I gave a presentation on the project and the images to a standing-room-only crowd. It has generated lots of positive feedback from community members, many of whom I've heard from directly. In its first 15 days, the website had nearly 30,000 page views.

5. What would you recommend to other media wanted to do a similar project?

The historical record created by American newspapers is unparalleled in its depth and scale. The perishable nature of negatives from 20th century technology means they won't last forever. I would encourage newspapers that have photographs and/or negatives from the early to mid-20th century to seek options for proper storage and digitization. Grant funding for digitization projects is out there if you are persistent in searching and put together a solid proposal. If your company is not in a position to do this, check with local or state historical organizations that may be interested in taking your collection and will have more experience writing grant proposals. Turning over your collection doesn't mean you have to relinquish ownership or copyright, but those issues need to be addressed and clearly stated if you begin discussions with someone. You might also find community volunteers who you can train and have them work a few hours a week on your collection. Digitization will allow you to enter the files into your own digital archive and possibly bring revenue in from reprint sales. Your newspaper's visual legacy is interesting to your community and important to historians and researchers. Bringing them into the 21st century can benefit everyone.

Associated Press Media Editors

APME is a professional network, a resource for helping editors and broadcasters improve their news coverage and newsroom operations.

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