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Friday the Oklahoma Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) announced that Free Press has received the Best Website award in the online category for 2019.

We also received First Place in Breaking News Coverage and Third Place in Special Report/Enterprise categories in the organization’s annual contest.

It was the best year yet for Free Press, having won awards in several different contests every year since our founding in late 2016.

Congratulations to all publications and broadcast organizations that won awards this year for outstanding news reporting.

The awards

The contest and awards encourage quality journalism by recognizing professional quality in an annual contest of submitted entries from the year just completed.

Awards are given for a number of types of work in public relations, TV, radio, online digital print news, magazines, and two categories of physical print newspapers grouped by size.

Each year, state SPJ chapters across the U.S. agree to judge entries for another state’s chapter to ensure impartiality. This year the Florida chapter judged the Oklahoma chapter’s contest entries.

Normally given in a celebratory banquet each year in the spring for the year before, this year’s plans had to be cancelled after trying to reschedule for fall and then finding that fall would likely be just as bad to meet under the pandemic.

Instead, the Oklahoma chapter’s president, Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, made a video announcing and congratulating the award winners released along with the full list of winners.

Best Website

Judges chose Free Press as Best Website of all the entries this year.

The judges made comments on the first-place and overall winners.

“Site is full of engaging content that is easy to navigate and presented with clean design,” the judges’ comment read. “There are a lot of sub sections but it’s impressive to see they all have fresh content and creative tech elements. Great work.”

First place – Breaking News Coverage

awards
Screenshot of our first of seven SeeWorth reports as we followed the demise of a once highly regarded charter school.

Free Press was chosen as the first-place winner in Breaking News Coverage for being the publication to break and continue to update the many twists and turns of the failure and eventual closing of SeeWorth Academy, a charter school sponsored by Oklahoma City Public Schools.

By the time SeeWorth closed and turned over their assets to Oklahoma City Public Schools we had published seven articles showing the process of closing it down.

Judges comments read: “In depth and detailed, great work. Congratulations on breaking this story statewide — and then keeping a close eye on it…”

Third place – Special Report/Enterprise

awards
Screenshot of our first story where we broke the news that an intersection along the newly-opened Oklahoma City Boulevard was turning into a dangerous crash hotspot because of no signals. Due to our drawing attention to the perils of the intersection the City installed signals years earlier than they had planned.

Judges chose our initial and ongoing coverage of a dangerous intersection along the newly-opened Oklahoma City Boulevard for third place in the Special Report/Enterprise category.

Free Press exposed the crash numbers as they added up even over the first five days using police statistics and photos of crash scenes at the intersection shortly after two crashes days apart.

We then continued to report ongoing collisions at the two-way-stop intersection using detailed crash reports from the Oklahoma City Police Department and our City contacts to report the speeding-up of plans to signalize the intersection.

Eventually, the City of Oklahoma City installed signals at the intersection several months later but around three years before they had planned to.


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