Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2019

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Las Vegas Sun captures business writing awards

CityCenter Construction

MGM Mirage's $9 billion CityCenter project, encompassing seven buildings, continues rising Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. Launch slideshow »

Stories about troubled CityCenter and about what lessons recession-slammed Las Vegas can learn from the Rust Belt have been named as among the best examples of business writing in the nation in 2009 by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

The competition, launched in 1995 to help set standards and recognize role models for outstanding business journalism, attracted 796 entries. The New York Times captured the most awards. The Sun was the only Nevada news organization to be honored.

In the breaking news category, the Sun won for stories by Liz Benston, Joe Schoenmann and then-Sun reporter Alexandra Berzon about how the Harmon hotel, one of the six high-rise towers then under construction at CityCenter, had to be reconfigured because of major structural flaws on 14 upper floors.

The Sun confirmed what had been shrugged off as a rumor by developer MGM Mirage, and then explored the systematic breakdown in the inspection process that allowed the flaws, involving the placement of rebar, to go unaddressed. A third story reported why MGM Mirage decided to reconfigure the hotel as a 28-floor structure instead of the intended 49-story tower.

The Sun also was recognized for Benston’s long-view story on the financial woes facing CityCenter, written on deadline the day MGM Mirage injected $200 million into the project to keep it alive.

In the breaking news category, the Sun shared honors with two other newspapers in its circulation category, The Detroit News and the San Jose Mercury News.

In the enterprise category, the Sun was recognized for J. Patrick Coolican’s analysis of what lessons Las Vegas can learn from Rust Belt cities that experienced similar economic crises.

Coolican noted the emerging similarities — including economic stagnation, population loss and governments in fiscal crisis — between Las Vegas and the string of decaying industrial cities such as Buffalo, N.Y., and Cleveland, from the Northeast to the Midwest.

The Rust Belt

Vacant properties such as this house north of downtown Detroit are prevalent in a city that has lost about half its population since its peak in 1950. The steady decline of the U.S. auto industry is largely to blame for the exodus. Launch slideshow »

The similarities were all the more ironic because so many people in Las Vegas came from the Rust Belt. In his piece, which was aimed directly at Las Vegas’ civic, political and business leaders, Coolican asked experts from those cities what Las Vegas could learn from their successes and failures.

The lessons learned: Admit you have a problem; build a culture of education to diversify your economy, and cultivate a civic spirit of cooperation between government and business.

Among newspapers in the same circulation category, The (Nashville) Tennessean and The Charlotte Observer were also honored for their enterprise stories.

The Sun’s senior print editor, Tom Gorman, said the recognition was gratifying “because it’s an acknowledgment by our peers of the kind of signature enterprise journalism we pursue at the Sun — smart, analytical, illuminating.”

Other midsize newspapers honored by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers included The Miami Herald, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.