Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | 2:01 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun staff have won two national journalism awards — one acknowledging expertise in covering health care and the other recognizing collaboration of the print newspaper and its Web site leading to innovative results.
Notably, both contests were open to newspapers of all circulation sizes, meaning the Sun was competing with the likes of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, USA Today, The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times.
Marshall Allen won first place in the health care beat reporting category in a national competition sponsored by the Association of Health Care Journalists. Two years ago, he placed second in the same category, behind a New York Times reporter.
This year, Allen’s entries included intimate, detail-rich profiles of patients who underwent tricky surgeries for obesity and epilepsy. Each profile involved reporting that spanned about a year as he gained the patients’ and doctors’ confidence. Allen showed his investigative edge with articles that disclosed the violation of patient privacy laws at University Medical Center and for uncovering a Medicare scam involving two doctors who billed the government for caring for patients without seeing them.
“The quality of these entries — particularly the number of strong investigative pieces — shows that even in an era of diminished resources, health care journalists are continuing their vital watchdog role,” said contest chairwoman Julie Appleby, senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News.
The Sun also won second place in the National Headliner Awards in the “Journalistic Innovation” category, recognizing the success of Sun print and online journalists in producing the multimedia project “Bottoming Out: Gambling Addiction in Las Vegas.”
In the three-part series, published in November, the Sun explored problem gambling three ways — through the experiences of an addict, by examining what happens inside the brain of an addict and by considering the role of slot machine designs in feeding gambling addictions.
The project included a documentary-style video, an interactive slot machine that outlines how the machines work — and the odds behind winning and losing — as well as a live chat with a Las Vegas-based gambling addiction expert. The package also contained resources for recovering from gambling addiction and readers’ own stories of dealing with their addictions.
Working on the project were reporters Liz Benston and J. Patrick Coolican, then-videographer Scott Den Herder and Web site developers and designers Tyson Anderson, Levi Chronister and Danny DeBelius.
The Journalistic Innovation award honors “an experimental or unconventional reader service, design, feature or news or online package that represents a fresh approach to connecting newspapers and their communities,” according to the National Headliner Awards Web site.
The Las Vegas Sun is the only news organization in Nevada honored in the two competitions.