Las Vegas Sun

April 23, 2014

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SUN AWARDS:

Series on gambling addiction recognized nationally

Sun project wins first-place honor in multimedia storytelling

Bottoming Out

Tony McDew not only recognized that he had a gambling problem, but set out to document it with his own video camera, hoping that sharing his experience could help others. When the jackpot hits, "It feels like you're getting high." And when it doesn't? "You want to crucify yourself."

A three-part series that examines gambling addictions — through stories, videos and interactive graphics and a live, online chat — has won a first-place award in the Excellence in Feature Writing competition sponsored by the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors.

The project, “Bottoming Out: Gambling Addiction in Las Vegas” — was honored as the best multimedia storytelling among newspapers with circulation from 90,001 to 199,999 in the country. No other Nevada newspaper won a first-place award in the competition.

The Des Moines Register finished second, and The Virginian-Pilot finished third. Honorable mentions in the multimedia category were awarded to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, The Baltimore Sun and the Austin American-Statesman.

The Sun’s project, published in November, explores problem gambling through the experience of an addict who videotaped himself during gambling binges and later discussed his feelings about it; by examining the chemical reactions of the brain when an addict gambles; and by exploring how the design of a slot machine can feed the addiction.

In addition to the documentary video, the online presentation includes a virtual slot machine that allows a reader to play the device to see how the odds work against him. Readers also participated in an online chat with a Las Vegas-based gambling addiction expert.

The package also contains resources for recovering from gambling addiction and readers’ own stories of dealing with their addictions.

The gambling project also was named this year the best online enterprise feature for its size category by Editor & Publisher magazine and placed second in the National Headliner Awards in the “Journalistic Innovation” category.

Reporters Liz Benston and J. Patrick Coolican, videographer Scott Den Herder, Flash developer Tyson Anderson, website developers and designers Levi Chronister and Danny DeBelius, photographer Leila Navidi and illustrator Chris Morris worked on the project.