RJ wins ethics award for reporting on newspaper’s sale

The Las Vegas Review-Journal won an Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for its stories investigating the newspaper’s sale to the family of casino executive Sheldon Adelson.

In a Tuesday statement, the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, which issues the award, honored reporters Jennifer Robison, Howard Stutz, James DeHaven and Eric Hartley, columnist John L. Smith, Deputy Editor James G. Wright and Interim Managing Editor Glenn Cook.

The school said the Payne Award, which carries a $5,000 prize, honors “commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards in the face of extraordinary pressures.” The school said the RJ journalists “fought for transparency by reporting the secret sale of the newspaper despite management’s warnings to stay away from the story.”

Payne Award judge Mike Fancher, former executive editor of The Seattle Times, said the RJ staff’s pursuit of the story at the risk of losing their jobs helped clinch the win.

“This case epitomizes what the Payne Awards are all about: principled, courageous behavior under political or economic pressure, inspiring public trust in the media,” he said. “Nobody would want to find themselves in this situation, but they did what they needed to do on behalf of their readers.”

In the statement announcing the award, Wright said, “Somewhere in the world right now a journalist is wondering if he should go along to get ahead or if he should do the right thing no matter the personal cost. This particular award honors the journalists of the Review-Journal, but it is really for everyone who chooses to do the right thing.”

Cook, who wrote editorials advocating disclosure of the newspaper’s ownership, said, “The Ancil Payne Award is a tremendous honor for the newspaper, its dedicated staff and the high ethical standards that guide them.”

It is the second prize the RJ team has earned for its coverage of the newspaper’s sale. In January, it won a Sidney Award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that honors socially conscious journalism.

The University of Oregon also recognized The Associated Press with a Payne Award for the news organization’s “Seafood to Slaves” series, the result of a yearlong investigation into human trafficking in Thailand’s $7 billion seafood industry.

Contact Matthew Crowley at mcrowley@reviewjournal.com Find him on Twitter @copyjockey

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