May 15, 2023 • Web

Whose newscast was the best newscast in 1988? It’s never been easier to find out

For roughly 50 years, the Edward R. Murrow Awards have been one of those big-deal broadcast journalism awards that everybody in the industry knows about. And for close to 20 of those 50 years, or however long has been around, they’ve been posted to the website as a slapdash of HTML files that never shed that 1998 look despite the formatting changing seemingly every three years. Not great, but pretty standard stuff for stretched-too-thin non-profits that don’t have a better way that isn’t some annoying third party software that costs too much to lease every year.

As always, the best way is to build what you need yourself, or know a guy who can build it. Fortunately, RTDNA knows a guy, and so — similarly as I did with their Cameras in the Courts Guide — I took all those sloppy HTML leaf piles and funneled them into a database that’s searchable, sortable and most of all lovable.

Folks can visit the site and search for past award winners using a number of criteria, and the system designs a results page that tailors to that criteria. So rather than just a formless list of results that match what is put in the search box — which I think is all RTDNA actually was expecting when they asked me if I could do this — you get a pretty page, complete with smart titling, dynamically-generated subcategories, and a little box that lets you skip around those different subsections of the sorted awards. It’s as if a little person inside your internet-connected devise designed yet another page in HTML, except pretty this time.

Naturally, being the new home of all these prestigious award winners, it was imperative that the site, despite having a rather straightforward purpose, look pretty and premium. What once was a slop of pages, then a spreadsheet with designs on being a list, now is a classy little showcase that rather easily could morph into a little digital Murrow Awards museum if ever that idea came to light.

Also similarly to the Cameras guide, the site spells relief for RTDNA’s staff as well. On the administrative side, the site offers quick edit access to the entire 50-years-worth-of-awards database, as well as easy (and well-documented) tools for adding new entries one by one or all at once with a spreadsheet import. There’s even an embargo feature (so that staffers can enter names into the database but not make them public until they’re announced) and a link generator that builds a shareable URL — so, for instance, when RTDNA is ready to announce a new slate of winners, it can just build that link and link to that in a press release instead of copying, pasting and formatting the list for that press release. (And because you can set an “embargo” date/time for winners, the moment those winners will be visible is up to them — no spoilers ahead of time!)