Now Reading named among top local news websites in U.S.; finalist for 3 top awards

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From the editor named among top local news websites in U.S.; finalist for 3 top awards

Local Independent Online News Publishers recognizes Sentinel's journalism & tech innovation is a finalist for three national journalism awards, the Local Independent Online News Publishers group announced, including LION Publisher of the Year — recognizing the Sentinel among the top local news websites in the United States.

Those awards are: LION Publisher of the Year, with the Sentinel vying with Madison365 and Racine County Eye as the best small online news operation in the nation; Best Breaking News Coverage, with Madison365 and ThisIsReno also among the small news sites selected as finalists; and Technology Innovation of the Year, with CT News Junkie and Richland Source (Ohio) also picked from among all entrants in the LION Publishers Awards as finalists for the Facebook-presented award.

The Sentinel is among just five local news organizations across the country that were named as finalists in three or more categories by LION Publishers.

We were honored for the hard — and successful — work of the Sentinel reporting team, but we couldn't accomplish that deep digging into otherwise untold stories without the steadfast support of our sponsors and donors: readers just like you. Thank you for helping become a recognized national leader in fixing the local news business! You can make sure we continue to broaden our reporting by donating to our nonprofit, mission-driven newsroom today.

The inaugural year of the LION Publishers Awards recognize excellence in journalism, business and technology at local independent online news publishers around the country. An independent group of judges reviewed the award applicants in detail over the past month. The winners will be announced at the annual LION Summit, being held in October in Nashville, Tenn.

LION named 45 publishers as finalists for its inaugural awards across 15 categories, with picked among three finalists in three of those categories. It's quite an honor to be listed among so many excellent local journalism organizations, doing vital reporting in their own communities. The Sentinel is ranked among such leaders of the renaissance of local news as Berkeleyside, Richland Source, The Batavian (NY), Noozhawk (Santa Barbara), VTDigger, and Charlottesville Tomorrow (VA).

We were among the grassroots local news sites that in 2011-12 helped start the national nonprofit Local Independent Online News Publishers — LION Publishers. I'm proud to be the founding chairman of that group, which now serves the heads of more than 250 local indie news sites like ours around the country.

Not only are we helping to tell the story of what's going on in Southern Arizona to the rest of the world, with reporters who know the territory — we're putting Tucson on the map as a place that's supporting innovation in local news.

Working on a tiny budget, we've attracted local respect and national attention for our solid work over the past decade.

The Sentinel's entry in LION's Technology Innovation category was our project to add more context to social sharing of news stories. Inspired in part by our journalist colleagues at the Guardian, we're more prominently flagging archival stories on our site — and we're one of the very first online news outlets anywhere to make this move. We've always included clear publication dates and times on our stories — including noting when the last major update was made, and original publication timestamps. Now, stories older than a year include a label atop the headline; stories older than two years and those published more than three years ago are also labeled.

Additionally, we've added two bits of context to the previews of our work that appear on social media.

To make it more clear when reports are older, we're adding the year to a watermark on images on Facebook and Twitter when stories were published before the current year. Plus, as studies have shown that many people don't correctly attribute the source of information they get on social media, we're augmenting the URL and source info natively displayed by those platforms with a watermark of our logo on those images.

We were also named a finalist for our Breaking News Coverage of the U.S. Senate race between Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally — namely for being the first news organization in the country to call the razor-edged race, a week after Election Day. Based on our analysis of the vote tally, and the trend among the 172,000 ballots that still remained to be reviewed and counted, we definitively declared Sinema the winner of the race immediately following an update by election officials the Monday after the election. The Associated Press followed hours later.

The recognition from LION Publishers joins other journalism awards the Sentinel has recently received, including senior reporter Paul Ingram being named the Community Journalist of the Year by the Arizona Press Club. swept the Arizona Press Club awards for Breaking News in its division: Editor and Publisher Dylan Smith won first place and Ingram second place.Ingram also won a second-place award for Non-Metro News photojournalism, as judged by the Associated Press photo staff.

The LION Publishers Awards were judged by a group of independent journalism experts, including: Amara Aguilar, USC Annenberg; Christine Schmidt, Nieman Lab; Courtney Cowgill, University of Montana; Craig Silverman, BuzzFeed; Dana Coester, West Virginia University; Dawn Garcia, JSK Fellowships; Doug Mitchell, Next Generation Radio; Eve Pearlman, Spaceship Media; Jane Elizabeth, Charlotte News & Observer; Jessica Pucci, Arizona State University; Jim Rutenberg, New York Times; Julia B. Chan, Mother Jones; Ken Doctor, Newsonomics; Kristen Hare, Poynter; Laura Owen, Nieman Lab; Reuben Stern, University of Missouri.

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