Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, Florida

Read some of the Herald-Tribune’s major projects online: Bias on the Bench, Housing in Sarasota and What Happened to Mason?

Publisher: Pat Dorsey
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This newspaper sets the gold standard for community journalism. It has powerful design, smart reader engagement and killer enterprise. In one project, the Herald-Tribune attempts to “bridge the gap between collaboration and philanthropy” with The Patterson Foundation. This project is compelling and accomplishes their goal to “inspire, inform and empower communities to take action on relevant social issues.” Their investigatory journalism goes beyond the ordinary. In fact, there is nothing ordinary about the Herald-Tribune.

What new initiatives or projects did your newspaper launch in 2016?

After winning a Pulitzer Prize with the Tampa Bay Times in 2016, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune doubled down on its investigative and enterprise journalism and launched four major projects.

“Bias on the Bench” tackled an overlooked problem plaguing Florida’s court system, the disparate treatment between black and white defendants.

When a local man went missing in Texas in March 2013, the Herald-Tribune began investigating his disappearance in “What Happened to Mason?”

A series of stories on Medicaid, “2 Million lives, $24 Billion Battle,” produced more than a dozen Page 1 stories showing the gaping holes in the system meant to keep Florida’s children healthy.

Can You Afford to Live in Paradise?” examined how rental rates, availability and the conversation surround housing are shaping the future of local young professionals.

What did you do to engage audience, through social media or community involvement in 2016?

The Herald-Tribune launched three major community engagement initiatives in 2016. Spire is a collaboration with The Patterson Foundation to bridge the gap between journalism and philanthropy. The project aims to create compelling media that inspires, informs and empowers communities to take action on relevant social issues. The initiative has started with a focus on the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and will expand to cover more topics.

In a further effort to connect to Sarasota’s philanthropy community, the Herald-Tribune launched The Giving Report. The quarterly broadsheet section celebrates Sarasota and Manatee volunteers, organizations and non-profit sector.

As part of the Medicaid project, “2 Million lives, $24 Billion Battle,” Reporters Maggie Clark and Kim Doleatto reached out through numerous ways to engage the entire community surrounding Medicaid, from lawmakers, healthcare workers and families. They formed a private Facebook group, attended lawmaker sessions in Tallahassee, FL, worked with USC Annenberg Center for Health Reporting as a partner and coordinated with the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families to conduct a survey of Florida doctors regarding their interactions with medicaid.

How did you experiment with digital storytelling tools in 2016?

At the Herald-Tribune we understand that every story doesn’t fit a template, especially online. Although we seek to present alternative story formats on a daily basis, when appropriate, we devote extra attention and effort to special projects, seeking out tools, formats and visuals that will heighten the readers’ experience of the vital information we’re presenting.

With our award-winning Bias on the Bench series, we were faced with the problem of presenting data from tens of millions of documents from two public databases in a way that was accessible to readers. We focused on interactive maps that simplify the data for each county, an easy way to search individual judges’ records, and other ways to sort through the immense amount of information easily. We also created an animated introduction that condensed the main point of the story into a simple and engaging format.

Our investigation into a man who controls over 50 political action committees needed a way to visualize the web of dark money he is at the center of, which resulted in this visualization.

What Happened to Mason?” was a different type of story entirely, a serialized narrative with few opportunities for photography. Our response was graphic novel-style illustrations that highlight key points in the story, as well as embedded audio to bring the witnesses’ stories straight to the readers.

For our look at housing issues affecting millennials, we wanted to present the information in a more graphical and digestible format that highlighted the fact that these were personal stories we were telling, and to appeal to the different news consumption style of younger readers. We also included a public Slack channel that encouraged readers to tell us their own stories and give feedback on their experiences.
Honorable Mention: Register Star, Rockford, Illinois