GCN Wins Online News Association Award 10/08/06
Washington - GulfCoastNews.com received a prestigious award during the Online News Association annual meeting held in Washington this past week.
During ceremonies Saturday evening, GCN received the ONA Excellence in Service Journalism Award for small websites for its GCN Survivor Connector Database.
GulfCoastNews.com is based in Biloxi, which was hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.
"This is truly a deep honor," said Keith Burton, GCN's owner and editor. "The GCN database was created to help people that were relocated from evacuations during Hurricane Katrina, but I never realized at the time how it would help so many people."
Even more than a year after Katrina, the GCN Survivor-Connector Database is still be used and names of missing and unknowns are being added.
The awards are determined by the Online News Association and the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communications.
"Immediately after the hurricane, GCN's message board was overwhelmed by people looking for displaced relatives throughout the Katrina Disaster Zone," said Burton. "And it quickly became apparent that another tool was needed to handle the inquiries."
Ken Burton, who is Keith Burton's brother living in Colorado Springs and a database expert, created the database program that became the GCN Katrina Survivor-Connector Database. Later, other databases appeared on websites, but the GCN database was considered the easiest to use. It was utilized by individuals and disaster centers around the region and its contents were eventually supplied to the Red Cross to help with their database.
Attending the Washington ONA conference were GCN contributing writers Perry Hicks and Mark Proulx. Hicks named the database and obtained additional help for the service after inquiries on the database overwhelmed GCN's servers. Hicks appeared on the Fox television network to appeal for help. Subsequently, some 50 national companies offered to help. Interland Inc. (now called Web.com) GCN's initial host donated additional services free of charge, which helped keep the database running despite enormous online traffic.
Mark Proulx, who's extended family lives in Hancock County, provided invaluable coverage of Hancock County for GCN. Mark lives in Deerfield Beach, FL. But through his contacts, provided information that was nearly impossible to get out of the county in the early weeks after Katrina. Mark continues to provide coverage for GCN.
Also receiving an ONA award was the Sun Herald, which won the organization's Excellence in Breaking News Award for Small Websites, for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. The Sun Herald also was a finalist for a Knight Foundation award for public service journalism, however Nola.com, a service of the New Orleans Times Picayune, won that award, and the large market breaking news award for coverage of Hurricane Katrina.