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RJ sweeps state’s top journalism awards; slain reporter German honored

Updated September 25, 2022 - 9:19 pm

Slain Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German posthumously won Podcast of the Year at Saturday night’s Nevada Press Foundation Awards of Excellence dinner, the state’s most prestigious contest for digital and print journalism.

The honor helped the Review-Journal sweep every top individual and institutional award in the urban division at the dinner, held at the Westgate.

German’s podcast award, shared with Larry Mir, the Review-Journal’s senior technical director of digital, was presented for season two of the true-crime podcast “Mobbed Up: The Fight for Las Vegas,” and comes three weeks after German was found stabbed to death outside his home. Robert Telles, an elected official who was investigated by German, is charged with his murder.

Judging for the contest took place before German’s death.

“‘Mobbed Up’ ensures Jeff’s voice, telling his stories of the rise and fall of organized crime on the Strip, will live on forever as part of local history and his legacy,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said. “Jeff would have been incredibly proud to accept this award with Larry.”

The podcast category judge wrote of German and Mir’s work: “It’s so well-researched, so entertaining, such great storytelling. It’s the perfect podcast.”

Prior to the awards dinner, German was inducted into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame with four other journalists, including former Review-Journal reporters Jane Ann Morrison and Steve Carp. And German was recognized by a proclamation from Gov. Steve Sisolak, naming Saturday a day in honor of late journalist.

Additionally, German was part of the Review-Journal’s winning entry in the Freedom of the Press category, which honors journalism that best promotes the principles of the First Amendment and the public’s right to know. German shared that award with investigative reporter Art Kane, former reporters Scott Davidson, Shea Johnson and Rio Lacanlale, and Politics and Government Editor Steve Sebelius for a collection of stories based on public records the journalists had to fight to obtain.

The Review-Journal also won Outstanding Journalist, Journalist of Merit, Outstanding Visual Journalist, Outstanding Graphic Designer, Story of the Year, Photo of the Year, Video of the Year, Editorial of the Year, Editorial Cartoon of the Year, Community Service and General Online Excellence, which honors the state’s best news website.

The Review-Journal, its quarterly rjmagazine and its sister publications — the Boulder City Review, the Pahrump Valley Times and the Tonopah Times Bonanza — together netted more than 90 awards, including more than 40 first-place awards.

The contest, which is held annually, recognized journalism produced between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022. This year’s contest was judged by members of the Arizona Newspapers Association.

“The sweep of major categories is unprecedented in this contest,” Cook said. “We told many important, impactful stories during the contest year, and we’re grateful for the recognition. I’m very proud of our newsroom staff and leadership.”

Investigative reporters big winners

Kane was named the state’s Outstanding Journalist for work that examined Clark County’s failed oversight of the coroner’s office and a deadly Nye County crash that killed two adults and a 12-year-old girl last year.

Kane also was awarded Story of the Year for “Flawed Discipline,” his investigation of a system that allowed Henderson police officers to remain on the force, and even be promoted, despite years of sustained complaints from the public over improper use of force, allegations of sexual misconduct and even criminal arrests.

Judges said they were “blown away” by the way Kane’s work attacked so many varied topics.

“His reporting was direct, simple and unafraid,” they wrote. “There is nothing more you can ask from a journalist.”

Briana Erickson, also a member of the newspaper’s investigative team, was named Journalist of Merit for a body of work that included her examination of what justice looks like for the victims of the deadliest residential fire in city of Las Vegas history. The award recognizes the state’s top journalist with fewer than five years of professional experience.

Judges made note of Erickson’s writing style and ability to make stories “come alive.”

“This is what will keep journalism alive,” they wrote. “Keep it up.”

Erickson also won the Feature Writing category for her story on how the Metropolitan Police Department solved a 32-year-old cold case.

Review-Journal photographer Ellen Schmidt was named Outstanding Visual Journalist for a portfolio that captured the grief of family members who had lost loved ones to COVID-19 and for her portraits of a family grieving the death of their teenage son from fentanyl intoxication.

“The fantastic work and professional package put this entry over the top,” one judge wrote. “You feel the emotions when looking at Ellen’s work.”

Director of Digital Design Tony Morales was named Outstanding Graphic Designer for the second year in a row for his digital layouts, including “Portraits in Silver and Black,” an award-winning package that profiles the diehard fans of the Las Vegas Raiders, and his package heralding the debut of Resorts World, the first new casino-resort to be constructed on the Strip in more than a decade.

Judges said they loved how the visual elements of Morales’ designs were used as critical storytelling components.

Other first-place wins

The newspaper’s repeat winners included Kane, who also won first-place awards for Investigative Story and Community Service, in addition to sharing the Freedom of the Press award and Video of the Year honors, for a total of six first-place awards.

Video of the Year was awarded to Kane and visual journalist Rachel Aston, former Director of Photography David Guzman and Assistant Managing Editor-Investigations Rhonda Prast for their video on the deadly crash in Nye County and deputies’ failure to arrest the impaired driver.

Reporter Jason Bracelin won four first-place awards: One for Entertainment Spot News Reporting, for his Review-Journal coverage of an auction of Picasso masterworks at Bellagio, and three magazine division wins for his work in rjmagazine: Entertainment Feature Story, Feature Writing and Arts and Culture Commentary.

Columnist Victor Joecks snagged three first-place awards: Editorial of the Year, for his criticism of changes to the Clark County School District’s grading policies, and wins for Editorial Writing and Best Local Column.

Christopher Lawrence won two first-place awards: one for Entertainment Feature Story, for his piece on Elvis Presley’s Las Vegas debut in 1956, and one for Headline Writing.

Michael Ramirez won Editorial Cartoon of the Year for his drawing of an anti-mask COVID patient in intensive care. “He says he doesn’t want to wear this mask, either,” an attending doctor says.

“Tragedy and comedy in a single panel,” the judge wrote.

Bizuayehu Tesfaye won Photo of the Year for a picture taken during a fact-finding review into the fatal police shooting of Jorge Gomez.

“I felt this photo,” the judge wrote. “And when I closed my eyes, I could still feel it. Amazing job of storytelling and capturing pure, raw, emotion with vivid detail and skill.”

The Review-Journal won Best Special Section for its project documenting “The Unforgettable Class of 2021,” a series of profiles of high school seniors whose school year was interrupted by the pandemic. A judge called it a “great way to honor students in an otherwise terrible graduating year.”

Health reporter Mary Hynes won the Health/COVID Enterprise Reporting category with a story on how a newly approved Alzheimer’s drug that slowed memory loss and decline in mental function gave one couple hope for more time together.

“The author did an exceptional job weaving in the research history of the drug with a very nuanced look at its effectiveness,” a judge wrote.

Davidson, Lacanlale and photographer L.E. Baskow won Explanatory Journalism for their story about how 44,000 police service calls and patrols were logged at just three extended-stay motels since 2017, work that a judge said “covers an existing problem and looks to the future.”

First place in Breaking News Reporting was awarded to the Review-Journal staff for a series of stories on former Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs, who was charged with DUI after a fatal crash that killed a 23-year-old woman last fall.

“This comprehensive and thoughtful series of reports had me whispering ‘wow’ as I read and watched the material,” the judge wrote.

David Schoen won Sports Spot News Story for his story about the trade of Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Aston won the Portrait category for her photo of Chelsea Roberts, whose 12-year-old daughter, Georgia Durmeier, was killed in the Nye County crash.

Ben Hager won the Sports Photo category for his image of a Pittsburgh Steelers player leaping past the Las Vegas Raiders.

“Great stop action, good position, good composition, crisp and clean,” a judge wrote. “Excellent shot. Hands down winner.”

Former Review-Journal designer LeeAnn Elias won for Page One Design for her front-page layout of the obituary for former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and former restaurant reporter Al Mancini was honored for Food Writing.


Baskow won for Multiple Photo Essay or Gallery for his photos chronicling one architect’s attempt to bring urban style to downtown Henderson.

Freelance writer John Glionna won for Business Feature Story.


Jorge Betancourt, Brandi Munn and Chris Sothman won for Print Ad ½ Page or Larger for Las Vegas Kitchen & Bath.

For print ads less than a ½ page, David Sly and Betancourt won for their Christopher Homes Sky Vu ad.

Malachi Schlink won best Digital Ad for Meat Up Las Vegas.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.

NPA Awards Tab 2022 by Las Vegas Review-Journal

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