Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
The Las Vegas Sun has won 14 first-place journalism awards in the Nevada Press Association’s 2007 Better Newspaper Contest, including freedom of the press and outstanding journalist, which was earned by reporter Marshall Allen.
The Sun took first place in the story of the year, editorial of the year, photo of the year and best overall design categories. Reporter Michael Mishak was named the best young journalist.
The Sun, which competed against the state’s other daily newspapers, took home 36 awards overall.
The results were announced Saturday night at an awards banquet at the CasaBlanca.
Other publications owned by the Greenspun family also did well in the contest. The Henderson Home News won 30 writing, editing, photo and design awards and five advertising awards.
The Boulder City News won 27 journalism awards and eight advertising awards, and it was named best in the state among small weekly newspapers. The News’ Alex Raffi won the editorial cartoon contest among all newspapers in the state, and Craig Peterson won the best headline writing award among all weekly newspapers. In Business Las Vegas, a weekly business paper, won 10 journalism awards and one advertising award.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the Sun’s showing in this year’s NPA contest,” Michael J. Kelley, Sun managing editor, said. “We had one of our strongest journalistic years ever this year, especially with the numerous investigative stories we reported on — physician misconduct, prescription drug abuse, worker safety at the construction projects on the Strip, and use of College of Southern Nevada building materials to construct a private residence (which resulted in the indictments of four people last week), to name a few.
“The Sun’s mission is to dig deep on meaningful stories and explain the importance of what’s going on in the valley in a way that is not merely interesting but also useful to our readers.
“The recognition from our peers in this contest is gratifying and affirms that we are on target. Winning almost all the most important awards — outstanding journalist, journalist of merit, story of the year, freedom of the press, editorial of the year, photo of the year, best investigative reporting, best editorial writing and best overall design — is a well-deserved tribute to an excellent Sun staff of reporters, editors, designers and photographers.
“I’m also proud of the staffs of In Business and the seven Home News newspapers who do equally excellent work and who also won a substantial number of awards in the contest.”
Kelley also is the editor of In Business Las Vegas and of the Henderson Home News and its six sister publications.
The Reno Gazette-Journal won the top prize for general excellence among large daily newspapers in the state. The award recognizes the whole newspaper, including advertising. The Sun does not have advertising.
The Gazette-Journal also won three first-place journalism awards and three advertising awards. Its Web site was also named best in the state.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal won 19 first-place journalism awards and five advertising awards. The Nevada Appeal in Carson City won one journalism award and one advertising award.
The Sun does not enter several contest categories because it does not have an advertising staff and does not produce special sections.
Allen, the Sun’s medical affairs reporter, won the top individual journalism award among daily newspapers. It is the third consecutive year a Sun journalist has won the award.
He was singled out for his stories on “indentured doctors,” which detailed the abuses in the J-1 immigration program that allows foreign doctors to work in America. Judges also cited his reporting on the hepatitis C outbreak linked to a number of surgery centers in the Las Vegas Valley.
Judges noted that the category was “loaded with talented reporters and investigative pieces” but said that Allen’s “depth of reporting and the quality of his writing set his work apart.” The judges said his stories “were terrific examples of what journalists are charged with doing — to be a watchdog for our readers.”
Allen also won the award for investigative reporting for his stories on the program for foreign doctors. As a result of his stories, the state has launched various reform efforts to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.
The Sun’s investigation into construction accidents on the Las Vegas Strip won three awards.
Sun reporter Alexandra Berzon won story of the year and best news feature for her piece detailing how the fast pace of construction was creating danger for workers. Judges cited “the obvious depth of research (and) excellent writing” in her work.
The investigation into construction deaths also garnered the freedom of the press award. Judges said Berzon’s “determined street-level reporting pays off” and found the results “broad and significant.” The Sun’s work has been cited in both houses of Congress, where lawmakers are trying to improve worker safety laws.
Sun photographer Leila Navidi won photo of the year for a picture of the funeral of Deshira Selimaj, an ice cream vendor shot and killed in a confrontation with Henderson Police. The judges called it “a big-time photo — the big-time photo — in a big-time category. It’s got it all — perfect composition, perfect reproduction and the kind of emotion that can keep readers’ eyes glued to it.”
Navidi also won in the portrait photo category for her picture of soul singer Michael Grimm, capping a sweep of the top three places by the Sun. Sun photographers Tiffany Brown and Steve Marcus finished second and third respectively.
Sun Art Director Chris Morris also won two first-place awards, for best information graphic and best illustrated photo. Morris also took second place and an honorable mention in the illustrated photo category.
Among the Sun’s other first-place awards:
• Mishak was named journalist of merit among Nevada’s large daily newspapers, an award that goes to a journalist with fewer than five years of experience. Judges found his work to be “revelatory and probing.”
• Editorial Page Editor Michael Campbell won editorial of the year for an editorial that explained the significant problems facing the state and the governor’s lack of resolve in dealing with them.
• David Clayton won for best editorial writing. Judges said his editorials are “well written, to the point” and added that the “opinions are backed by facts and research.”
• J. Patrick Coolican won best business feature story for an article about scam artists in Nevada. The judges said his story had “great, thorough business reporting coupled with often entertaining writing — and the unfortunate, sad human element.”
• The Sun also earned the award for best overall design, which the judges said was “outstanding.”