1. The Easterner, Eastern Washington Univ., Cheney, Wash.
2. Pipe Dream, Binghamton Univ., Vestal, N.Y.
3. The Daily Targum, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, N.J.
4. The Orion, California State Univ., Chico, Chico, Calif.
5. The State Hornet, Sacramento State Univ., Sacramento, Calif.
6. The Commuter, Linn-Benton CC, Albany, Ore.
7. Highlander, Univ. of California, Riverside, Riverside, Calif.
8. Mustang Daily, California Polytechnic State Univ., San Luis Obispo, Calif.
9. The Clipper, Everett CC, Everett, Wash.
10. The Oakland Post, Oakland Univ., Rochester, Mich.
The three newspaper websites that finished ahead of theorion.com were substantially different from one another, so it's reasonable to say the judges found different things to like about each. Here's my own take on what they appreciated about The Easterner, Pipe Dream and The Daily Targum.
The theme also makes use of photographic icons just below the rotator to provide easy-to-navigate pathways to content on the rest of the site.
The Easterner Online's homepage has very little text, letting visuals drive both content and navigation. Inside, what stands out is the amount and variety of staff-shot video stories.
While the site seems to be updated regularly, its strength is not breaking news. If this website has a weakness, that's it.
The Pipe Dream tells visitors how many hours ago its stories were updated, so clearly news is its strength and its calling card. Once visitors click the links that take them deeper into the site, the sheer volume of reporting is almost overwhelming, and the template reinforces that by providing a long list of stories and small photo icons to scroll through.
The Pipe Dream is unapologetically a print newspaper on the Web, which is also its biggest weakness. It does what it does very well, but I don't think that plays to the strengths of the Web as an information delivery system.
Just like theorion.com, the Daily Targum has a TownNews theme that crowds the top of the home page with ads. It has a module of rotating photos that teases the featured stories and a Twitter feed that puts the freshest news on the home page. It also uses the standard TownNews home page modules for each of its sections, which are topped with eye-catching photos followed by a list of four or five inside stories visitors can click to read.
The website makes excellent use of photo galleries but has work to do on its video effort. Its latest sports video, for example, was footage from a football game.
With a more visually appealing home page and template, more attention to keeping news content on the home page updated daily and a commitment to improving its photojournalism, theorion.com could claim a best-of-show trophy the next time it competes in a national contest.