In December 2007, Queens Courier (view site at www.queenscourier.com) went live with a redesign, just in time to be included in the judging for the New York Press Association’s (NYPA) 2007 Better Newspaper Contest (BNC) winners. It paid off. They took first place in the Best Newspaper Web Site category.

Awards were presented during the NYPA’s Spring Convention April 4 and 5, 2008. In total, 170 papers submitted 3,455 entries to the 60 BNC categories. Judging was held on January 31 and February 1, 2008 by the North Carolina Press Association.

“In your face web site that probably matches your print edition,” judges said of the site. “Lots of choices for visitors to view. Good calendar etc.”

The old site included a calendar, but the redesign invited residents of Bayside and the surrounding areas to interact more with the site. For instance, all articles welcome reader commenting, several blogs are posted, readers can submit photos to the gallery and video take the stories to a new level.

In fact, Queens Courier also received first place for Best Use of Multimedia, a new category for the contest.

“This staff really understands the power and versatility of online storytelling,” the judges said. “The multimedia pieces often were stronger than the stories they accompanied. The page load times were a little long and might be a turn-off for readers. The ads (pre-rolls) made some of the videos feel ‘sponsored.’”

Noah Rosenberg, online editor/reporter/videographer for Queens Courier, said they keep content fresh and add at least a video a week to the site. He also said they are one of the few weeklies in their market who offer video.

“I look at (video) as an investment,” said Josh Schneps, co-publisher of the newspaper. He realizes that bandwidth fees are associated with video display, but added that “it’s a new business model for us… every investment takes time to see a return.”

So far, Schneps is happy with what he sees.

“While we are a weekly our online entity has become a daily publication,” said Rosenberg.

Yet instead of acting as a supplement, the two news portals complement each other. Articles in print refer to articles online if the reader wants to see more photographs associated with the story. The online site refers back to the print publication by giving readers a glimpse of breaking news and top stories.

“The reporters (and photographers) appreciate being able to break stories and have the ability for their work to be viewed immediately,” explained Schneps.

The print and online partnership contributed to a third award for Queens Courier, first place for Community Leadership.

“This newspaper saw a problem in the community, investigated thoroughly, reported in an easy-to-read fashion, and called the community to action,” judges said. “Here’s hoping they will see positive results for their efforts.”

The paper also won awards for the following:

  • 1st place, Photographer of the Year – Christina Santucci
  • 1st place, Spot News Coverage – Division 4
  • 3rd place, Sports Writer of the Year – Dylan Butler
  • 3rd place, Best Use of Color – Division 3
  • 3rd place, Advertising Excellence – Division 4
  • 3rd place, News Story – Division 4
  • 3rd place, Best Special Section – Advertising – Division 4

(Kelly is the marketing coordinator at TownNews.com. She may be reached at khendershot@townnews.com.)