First place: Maggie Clark, The Herald-Tribune

About this entry: Maggie Clark expertly used Facebook to connect with parents to learn about the issues they were experiencing with their children’s medical insurance. She was able to use a Facebook page and the information she obtained from it for her larger enterprise piece “2 Million Kids. $24 Billion Battle.” In addition to information gathering, Facebook also established itself as a useful way of creating a community of people interested in the stories she was telling with her reporting.

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Herald-Tribune reporter Maggie Clark used the community aspect of Facebook as the secret ingredient to her enterprise story on Medicaid. She sought out sources on Facebook and set up a Facebook group for her story and invited the public to share their stories. In doing so, the Herald-Tribune received help from the community and a deeper involvement in an important story.

Second place: Staff, Observer-Dispatch

About this entry:“Facebook is an important part of the Observer-Dispatch’s digital strategy, and has been for many years. Our editors and reporters use the O-D’s Facebook page ( not only to promote stories and photo galleries, but to interact with readers, answer questions and find sources for upcoming stories. The goal is to create a sense of community, and issues such as how to respond to reader complaints and how to make posts more engaging are regularly discussed not only among the web team, but among the rest of the staff as well.” Explained Ron Johns.

“One great example of how we’ve been able to use Facebook as a reporting tool came over the summer when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. We had two posts about that on Facebook — one from when the news originally broke and another promoting our editorial on the subject — and both reached thousands of people and drew dozens of comments from our readers. Reporter Phil Vanno was then able to use those raw comments in a larger enterprise piece he wrote for the Sunday paper, titled “Same-sex marriage: Legal, but is it accepted?”

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The Observer-Dispatch uses its Facebook page for more than just sharing news headlines – it is also a gathering place for the community and a chance for people to engage with the paper’s staff. The text posts above links are always sharp and inviting as well.

Third place: Staff, StarNews Media

About this entry: “Facebook was a tremendous asset to the StarNews in 2015. Our page likes jumped from 16,729 at the beginning of the year to 24,875 at the end of the year. That’s a nearly 49 percent increase. Although we’ve had a Facebook page for many years, it wasn’t until mid-2015 that we truly began to use it to reach out to readers and capitalize on its potential for reader engagement. In fact, in July, we had a dramatic shift in our approach. We went from having web managers post links here and there as they saw fit, to planning and budgeting our Facebook content on a daily basis. By the end of the year, we were posting one to two times an hour from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and we made use of the scheduling feature to ensure we had at least eight posts a day on weekends. From June to August alone, we saw a 21 percent increase in page likes. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. We’ve used Facebook dozens of times in the past year to solicit reader feedback and photos on news topics, such as severe weather, Target’s decision to drop gender labels on toys and an announcement about a new grocery store opening, as well as to get readers to share their stories about specific topics, including summer camp horror stories and memories from an all-black local high school. Facebook also provided us with story ideas, including one about dead ducks found in a local neighborhood. Finally, we’ve found great success in using Facebook for reader-generated photo contests, including Halloween costumes and holiday decorations.” — Sherry Jones

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The StarNews Facebook page is an excellent source of news, a place to engage people and gather community content. The editors choosing the content have an ear for what will engage the audience.