Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2015

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Sun wins national media award for telling the story of gambling addiction

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."

The Las Vegas Sun has 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 was one of 13 winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, announced this morning in New York City. Other winners include CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” ABC News’ “20/20,” BBC News America, PBS’ “Frontline” and National Public Radio.

“This extraordinary group of duPont winners represents the best in broadcast journalism,” said Ann Cooper, outgoing jury chair and director of the broadcasting program at the journalism school. “Despite the economic challenges and rapid changes facing the news industry, this year’s powerful and innovative winners show that broadcast news continues to have an important and vital place in people’s lives and in society at large.”

The duPont Awards, established in 1942 and administered since 1968 by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, are considered to be the most prestigious broadcast journalism awards and the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes, which also are administered at the journalism school.

The Sun was honored for “Bottoming Out: Gambling Addiction in Las Vegas,” which judges called a “compelling and informative look at the human toll of compulsive gambling as well as the brain behavior and science of the gambling industry. The series is strengthened by a powerful video diary following one man’s descent into gambling addiction, with strong interactive engagement.”

Abi Wright, director of the awards, said the jury looked for enterprising and innovative reporting in the public service, and congratulated the Sun for “the courage it takes to cover problem gambling in Las Vegas.”

Cited for their contributions to the project were Scott Den Herder, who conceived the story and was its primary videographer and reporter; Tony McDew, the centerpiece to the story who recorded a video diary of his gambling; reporters Liz Benston and J. Patrick Coolican, Web page designer Danny DeBelius, flash graphics producer Tyson Anderson, photographer Leila Navidi and Rob Curley, the Sun’s senior editor for digital.

The Sun's "Bottoming Out" multimedia series has garnered other national attention and awards this past year. In July, the package was named “best multimedia storytelling among newspapers” from the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors.

In October, the Online News Association named "Bottoming Out" the winner of its top Online Video Journalism award. At that same competition, the ONA also named the Sun's gambling-addiction project as one of the three international finalists for "Outstanding Use of Digital Technologies" in storytelling.

In June, "Bottoming Out" was named this year the best online enterprise feature for its size category by Editor & Publisher magazine, and it placed second in the National Headliner Awards in the “Journalistic Innovation” category in March.

For a more in-depth look at the different storytelling elements of the "Bottoming Out" series, please read this detailed blog post from Curley, which was posted this summer on his personal site.

This past year, the Sun's website was named as one of the best local news sites in the world by two different international organizations.

In October, the ONA gave the Sun its top honor for news sites, the General Excellence in Online Journalism award.

The General Excellence awards, which the ONA says honor digital journalism that maximizes the use of the Web's characteristics and represents the highest journalistic standards, were also won by MSNBC.com, SA LA NACION, The Texas Tribune/texastribune.org and the California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting in their respective categories.

In June, LasVegasSun.com was honored as the best news website in its size class by Editor & Publisher magazine. The Sun shared the award with NPR.org, which won the large division.

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