Las Vegas Sun

August 29, 2015

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Las Vegas Sun captures international online journalism awards

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 and Greenspun Media Group received two major awards Saturday night from the world's largest association of online journalists.

The Online News Association honored LasVegasSun.com with the General Excellence in Online Journalism award during an awards program at the close of the ONA annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

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.

Each of the General Excellence awards comes with a $3,000 prize, courtesy of the Gannett Foundation.

LasVegasSun.com won the General Excellence award in the medium-sized category for the third consecutive year.

The Sun and Greenspun Media Group also received an award for Online Video Journalism, Medium Site, for the three-part series Bottoming Out: Gambling Addiction in Las Vegas.

Bottoming Out was also a finalist for ONA's award for Outstanding Use of Digital Technologies, Professional.

The 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. The series also examined the chemical reactions of the brain when an addict gambles and explored how the design of a slot machine can feed the addiction.

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

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

Earlier this year, the project won the Best Web Special Feature — Enterprise award in its size category by Editor & Publisher magazine and placed second in the National Headliner Awards in the Journalistic Innovation category.

It also received a first-place award in the Excellence in Feature Writing competition sponsored by the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors.

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.

The Sun was also a finalist for two other ONA awards, The Knight Award for Public Service and the Gannett Foundation Award for Innovative Investigative Journalism, Large Site, for the in-depth health care series Do No Harm: Hospital Care in Las Vegas.

Besides winning ONA's general excellence award in 2009, the Sun also won Multimedia Feature Presentation, Medium Site, for Quenching Las Vegas' Thirst.

ONA's Online Journalism Awards are administered by the Online News Association, in partnership with the University of Miami's School of Communication.

Saturday's ONA awards were the second major international online honors the Sun has received this year.

In June, LasVegasSun.com was honored as the best news website in its size class by Editor & Publisher magazine.

LasVegasSun.com won three top prizes and was a finalist in four other categories in the 2010 EPpy Awards, the premier international awards for media-affiliated websites and blogs.

The newspaper's sister publication, Las Vegas Weekly, won an EPpy for Best Regional Magazine-Affiliated Website. Both publications are part of Greenspun Media Group.

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