Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2014

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Where I Stand:

Known for the company we keep

Sun moves into a new era of journalism with a new group of friends

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The Las Vegas Sun won a national broadcast journalism award for its examination of gambling addiction, becoming the first print-based news organization to receive the award for multimedia storytelling. The Sun, one of 13 winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, was honored at a ceremony Jan. 20, 2011, at Columbia University in New York.

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."

I like the company we are keeping.

It’s said that you are known by the company you keep. Our parents taught us that. Their parents taught them that. And we try to teach our children the same thing. For it is the folks with whom we hang around, try to emulate and learn from and, yes, spend our time with, that say a whole lot about who we are.

Well, if Thursday night’s award ceremony at Columbia University in New York is any indication of the kind of newspaper that the Las Vegas Sun is, the people of this city should feel mighty blessed.

Permit me a wee bit of self-congratulations. By self, I mean the people who work every day for the Sun, the Las Vegas Weekly, our websites such as LasVegasSun.com and all of our other publications in print, on air and across the Internet.

The Las Vegas Sun joined 12 other very worthy winners who were singled out by the duPont-Columbia University jurors as the most deserving broadcasters in 2010.

We are the very first newspaper to win an Alfred I. duPont Award for “excellence in broadcast journalism.” Yes, this prestigious broadcast award has been given for the first time to a newspaper.

OK, enough gloating. Let’s talk about what this award means.

The late Edward R. Murrow — young people will remember him from the film “Good Night, and Good Luck” with George Clooney, among others — said of the newest in mass media of his day:

“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.”

That was at the beginning of the age of television. The duPont Awards existed — but only for radio broadcasting. Later, television was included in the judging of the best and most meaningful examples of broadcast journalism.

We have come a long way since those early days. Who would have ever thought to include newspapers in an award for broadcasting? And yet ...

News organizations — print, television and radio — have been under great pressure over the past few years to maintain the highest levels of investigative and enterprise journalism, at a time when they have been struggling to keep their financial heads above water. A loss of business-supporting advertising — both to the Web and mobile applications and as a result of the global economic meltdown — has caused every news organization to cut back on the raison d’etra of its business.

Providing news and information about our communities, state and nation has always been the vital role and function of a good newspaper. It is now the function of a good news organization. The difference between the two is a recognition that people want their news in ways vastly different from the way their parents or grandparents wanted theirs. The businesses that change with the demands of the market will survive. Those that choose to ignore the winds of change will drift slowly but surely toward the way of the buggy whip.

That is one reason why the Las Vegas Sun was the first newspaper to ever win a duPont. Receiving an award that is comparable with the Pulitzer Prize — more gloating, we have one of those, too — for broadcasting is recognizing that those news organizations that remain committed to telling the story, regardless of the medium, are the organizations that understand that it is the human beings who gather and write them, not the wires and lights of Murrow’s nightmare world.

Today’s news consumers still want information — credible information — but they want it delivered in a different way from how their parents and grandparents got it. They want the news now, not tomorrow. That is why LasVegasSun.com has become a daily newspaper on the Web, on your mobile devices and on whatever else comes next. It is timely, it is credible and it is written and produced by the same organization that produces this printed newspaper, which is known around the world for the substance and depth of its reporting. Remember the Pulitzer I mentioned?

And in case you haven’t visited our site lately, let me tell you what is there. Besides the printed word — thousands of them — there is some of the best television reporting available anywhere.

It is that broadcasting expertise that garnered the duPont Award and put us in the company of the BBC, “60 Minutes,” ABC News, NPR and some really spectacular broadcast journalism from television stations across the country.

The Sun’s winning multimedia story, “Bottoming Out: Gambling Addiction in Las Vegas,” was produced by videographer Scott Den Herder. Reporters Liz Benston and J. Patrick Coolican wrote the accompanying stories. Tony McDew, the addicted gambler who was the centerpiece of the story, videographed himself. Web designer Danny DeBelius cleanly assembled the project online. Flash graphics producer Tyson Anderson created an interactive online slot machine to demonstrate gambling odds, and Leila Navidi took the photographs. The series was executive produced by the Sun’s digital maestro, Rob Curley. And there are plenty of others in the newsroom whose names did not get singled out without whom we could not have produced such an outstanding piece of journalism.

Many of the titles and job descriptions may sound as foreign to you as they did to me as someone who grew up in the newspaper world. But they are all essential ingredients for a news organization that will survive into tomorrow.

I said earlier that we are known by the company we keep. Thursday night the Las Vegas Sun kept company with the best in our business when we were singled out, with them, as the best journalism has to offer. Every day I get to keep company with some of the best reporters, designers, videographers, editors and overall storytellers in this country.

I am happy to keep their company, and I am delighted that the Las Vegas Sun will be known because of them.

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  1. Chunky says:

    Congratulations to all Sun staff for the excellent work and contributions they make to our community!

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  2. You can do more with less.

    You also deserve an award on the very important issue of a local company litigating in regards to "links" and "fair use" of local newspaper stories. This involves both classic print journalism and the net, which is why the "Electronic Frontiers" group has been interested in the story.

  3. That is great, and well deserved. A voice in the vast wilderness here. Maybe you could hire Olbermann as a columnist to reinforce Jon's anti-wilderness observations ;0)

  4. Will the Las Vegas Sun return the Pulitzer won for reporting on Faulty Nevada OSHA and NV Workers deaths on the strip? Not only has the Sun removed it's mention of the Pulitzer from its web-front page, the Las Vegas Sun is nowhere to be found regarding the on-going failures of Nevada OSHA to protect Nevada workers from a similar fate suffered by Vicente Rodriguez, caused by Big Nevada businesses in bed with Government. I believe the Las Vegas Sun has a commitment to follow up otherwise the Las Vegas Sun is part of the problem and not part of the solution. What steps have NV OSHA taken to protect NV workers and improve investigations and follow-ups procedures? How exactly are NV workers safer today as a result of the Las Vegas Suns Pulitzer winning efforts?