Monday, May 12, 2008

Best Multimedia Presentation of an Obit

Gayle Ronan Sims of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who has given workshop presentations on how to use audio, video, slideshows, etc., to enhance an obituary, has won the Society of Professional Obituary Writers 2008 Award for Best multimedia presentation of an obit or life story.

Her winning entry about Master Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas Formosa included:
1. The obituary and its jump page;
2. A photo slide show accompanied by the voices of Formosa's wife and a fellow Marine;
3. A Marine Corps training video in which Formosa was the instructor.

Gayle Ronan Sims has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She worked at the Denver Post for 12 years as news editor, features editor and editor of the Sunday lifestyle magazine.

She has been with The Philadelphia Inquirer since 1987. Gayle has been a news editor, a features editor, graphics editor and chief obituary writer for six years.

She is making the big push to awaken the online giant in the obituary section of The Inquirer.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Powerful stuff. How was this done on deadline? This story of Mastery Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas Formosa was real --- the emotions, family, raw emotions and lingering agony.
The focus was on how one man's life impacted so many...forever.
Multimedia adds power to obituaries. There is a peek into the deceased's life that is more powerful than the written word.

Gayle Ronan Sims said...

Master Gunnery Sgt. Formosa, 55, was killed by a drunk driver while stationed at Twentynine Palms Marine Base in California. A veteran of Vietnam, the first Gulf War and two tours in Iraq made him the highest ranking enlisted and longest serving combat Marine. A native of South Philadelphia, his death impacted thousands in his hometown. This was first a news story that evolved into an obituary and begged for online presence in the form of still photography with voice-over from his family and the funeral. We also posted the CNN news interview of Master Gunnery Sgt. Formosa training young Marines at Twentynine Palms to get out of vehicles that may have been blown up or on fire. Marines never leave another Marine. Along with the package was a guest book where hundreds expressed their feelings.
The Marines who accompanied Formosa's body from California to Philadelphia were heartbroken. They choked back tears for days. At the burial, they let loose. Formosa loved his Marines and his family. It was an honor for me and Inquirer photographer Barbara L. Johnston to portray the human side of the story of a Marine who dedicated his life to his country. This took place over several days and nights. Barbara and I probably put in at least 60 hours to finish the project. Many long hours on deadline. We learned as we fumbled and finally produced. Formosa, the Marines and his family deserved this.