’s “Big Picture” series took the grand prize Monday in a competition that honored the online news site for “cutting-edge storytelling that connected users to journalism with an array of new media tools.”

The $10,000 top prize in the inaugural Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism was awarded in recognition of a series of interactive news features on the site covering the 2002 midterm elections, the war in Iraq and the Academy Awards.

The packages integrated video, audio, text, quizzes, interactive polls and games to give a “big-picture” overview of each topic.

“’s efforts set the high-water mark for fresh, interactive storytelling in American journalism,” said Bryan Monroe, chair of the judging panel and assistant vice president for news at newspaper publisher Knight Ridder.

“They are setting the pace,” said Monroe. “Now the rest of us have to catch up.”

Dean Wright, editor in chief at, said proceeds from the award probably would be used to purchase additional editing equipment.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the hard-working, imaginative journalists at,” he said. “This award is continuing evidence that online news is now an exciting — and essential — part of the mainstream media.”

The award was accepted at a symposium in Washington by senior interactive producer Ashley Wells.

The Batten awards are funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and administered by the University of Maryland journalism school’s J-Lab.

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