Empire garners national award for new Web site

Posted: Monday, June 19, 2000

The Juneau Empire's new community Web site has won a top national award.

The Newspaper Association of America, at a ceremony today in San Francisco, honored the Juneau Empire and its parent company, Augusta, Ga.-based Morris Communications, with a 2000 Digital Edge Award for the Best Regional or City Guide for newspapers with circulation under 75,000. The site is JuneauAlaska.com.

Two other Morris Web sites also won in their circulation categories.

``We are extremely proud of the consistent creativity of our online teams and Morris Digital Works,'' said Morris Communications President Will Morris in a statement. Morris Digital Works is the corporate support arm for Morris' Internet efforts.

``Technology must be pushed to the limits in the service of our readers and advertisers,'' Morris said. ``In our company, we view innovation as a service to customers.''

The Empire launched JuneauAlaska.com a year ago and significantly upgraded it this winter. Users now look at about 6,400 site pages daily, up from 300 a day.

``We're no longer just a newspaper,'' said Empire Publisher John Winters. ``Our role is to help the community and advertisers as much as possible. We can do things on the Web you cannot in a newspaper.''

Prospective visitors, for example, can watch video tours of glaciers, learn about the state ferry system and link to its reservations system, look at fishing maps and link to the state to get a fishing license, and tap into a business directory.

``The community can now reach the world,'' Winters said. ``We have 600,000 visitors coming each year and they want to know about the place they're going to visit. And they have a wonderful way to do it.''

Locals can watch the weather at Eaglecrest Ski Area with a video cam, look at a Juneau man's home video of the Thane Road avalanche, listen to music, communicate with free e-mail, and contribute poems, stories and family photographs to an online community.

Rob Curley, Morris Communications' manager of Internet content development, said the Web sites aren't just the news. They have what people go to Web sites for, such as e-mail and links to other Web sites.

``We're trying to out-Yahoo! Yahoo! at its own game,'' Curley said. ``You can find every Web site in Juneau on JuneauAlaska.com.''

Yvonne Beasley, who heads a three-person Web staff at the Empire, said she wants to make the site more useful to Juneau students by adding Empire news articles about the area's history.

``We have the resources in this building to provide more information than anyone else in Juneau, including the state, because we can link people to the state Web sites as well,'' Beasley said.

Other goals are to add videos and photos of ferry trips, update trail conditions and add a state election guide, a gallery of works by local artists and a section on the University of Alaska Southeast.

Morris Communications has won Digital Edge Awards in four of the five years the awards have been given. Also winning this year were: Online Athens of the Athens (Ga.) Daily News and Athens Banner-Herald for Best News Site for circulation under 75,000, and Jacksonville.com of the Florida Times-Union for the Best News Site for circulation of 75,000 to 250,000.

``I hope the communities served by these Web sites understand what these awards mean,'' said Michael Romaner, director of Morris Digital Works. ``They're a powerful message that the best of the Web is right there in their backyards. Yahoo! and AOL may be great resources. But no one does `local' better than we do.''

The Newspaper Association of America represents more than 2,000 newspapers in the United States and Canada.

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