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RJ, reporters take home top honors in state journalism contest

Updated September 27, 2020 - 11:21 am

The Las Vegas Review-Journal and its journalists took home top honors in the Nevada Press Foundation Awards of Excellence this month.

The Review-Journal nearly swept the contest’s sweepstakes awards, taking six of the eight biggest categories. Staff secured awards for outstanding journalist, outstanding visual journalist, journalist of merit, editorial of the year, best editorial cartoon and story of the year. The Review-Journal also won the general excellence award for best newspaper and the general online excellence award for best news website.

Also, the newspaper won first place for breaking news reporting, freedom of the press and best overall design.

The awards are presented by the Nevada Press Association. In all, judges recognized the Review-Journal and its sister publications more than 80 times for journalism and advertising produced from April 1, 2019, to March 31. The contest was judged by members of the Utah Press Association.

“The results of this year’s state contest are a reflection of the talent and dedication of the Review-Journal staff and the collaboration that takes place every day on every piece of work we produce,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said Thursday. “We’re grateful to the Utah judges for recognizing our top work of the 2019-20 contest year, which is some of the best work the Review-Journal has ever done.”

The Review-Journal grabbed 45 awards, including 26 top-three finishes in urban journalism categories, while its sister publications, the Boulder City Review, Pahrump Valley Times and Tonopah Times-Bonanza, had 18 top-three finishes in the rural division.

Top reporters

Investigative reporter Art Kane was named outstanding journalist for 2019 for coverage that included an investigation of the state dental board that resulted in three members resigning and the governor not reappointing three others whose terms had expired. Kane also reported on improper benefits for executives with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and he was part of team coverage in the aftermath of the deadly Alpine Motel Apartments fire, which ultimately linked the building’s owner to a federal drug investigation at the property.

“Impressive body of work; shows solid research and legwork,” the judge said of Kane’s reporting. “This reporter goes the extra mile and is clearly interested in the public good, not just getting a story.”

Reporter Rio Lacanlale won journalist of merit, which is awarded to those with less than five years of experience in the industry.

Her entry featured four stories: a four-part series with Amelia Pak-Harvey, who has since left for another newspaper, that showed how state oversight breakdowns failed at-risk youth at a Nye County school; a profile of a K-9 officer that was accompanied by a first-person sidebar and video of Lacanlale allowing a police dog to bite her padded arm; a story detailing 911 recordings from the Alpine Motel fire; and a report on a deadly shooting of a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper.

“What separated Rio Lacanlale was initiative,” a judge said. “(She took) the extra steps to really get in depth with the stories and give us a feel for what the subjects were like and what they were experiencing. I hope Lacanlale maintains that passion for work in journalism — we need more of it!”

The Review-Journal won story of the year — for the fourth consecutive year — for a series showing how the eviction process in Nevada favors landlords and exacerbates the state’s housing crisis. The stories were produced by staffers Michael Scott Davidson, Rachel Aston and Lauren Flannery.

“A masterful blend of empirical research/data gathering with personal reporting, which makes for a story both highly readable and comprehensive, also aided by strong visuals and multimedia,” a judge said.

Breaking news sweep

The Alpine Motel fire story won the award for breaking news reporting and led a sweep of the category for the Review-Journal. The paper won second place for its coronavirus reporting and third place for coverage of Bernie Sanders’ win in February’s Nevada Democratic caucus.

The Review-Journal also won the freedom of the press award for going to war for public records, winning access to vital public information such as police reports, autopsy reports, investigative documents and previously sealed lawsuits. The Review-Journal also lobbied for Senate Bill 287, which was passed and strengthened the state’s Public Records Act.

“Fantastic promotion of the First Amendment at all levels of city, county and state government,” a judge said.

Staff photographer L.E. Baskow was named outstanding visual journalist for entries that included a photo that accompanied a profile by Briana Erickson of a homeless man living in a mine shaft; a photo essay about the Seven Magic Mountains art installation; and photos that accompanied a profile on a Raiders player.

“Baskow is a superb example of what a journalist can be,” a judge said.

Editorial page editor John Kerr won editorial of the year for an editorial that demanded Fire Department reforms in the wake of the deadly Alpine apartment fire, and his work won first place for best editorial page as well.

“The Review- Journal’s well-written and compelling editorial explains clearly how city fire officials neglected repeated warnings that the building was a firetrap, and offers suggestions about how emerging technology could help the fire department identify problem structures and ensure they receive adequate attention,” the judges wrote about Kerr’s winning editorial.

Staff artists Severiano Galvan and Wes Rand won outstanding graphic designer, a new category this year, for “design work (that) is clean and very appealing to look at,” a judge said.

Staff photographer Erik Verduzco won best sports photo for a shot from the boxing match between Tyson Fury and Tom Schwarz that a judge described as “perfect timing and framing. Crucial moment in a huge fight.”

The Review-Journal also took first place for best editorial page, digital innovation, best special project and best special section. Photographer Benjamin Hager won best feature photo for an image from a grasshopper invasion of Las Vegas. Bailey Schulz won best business spot news story for her coverage of joblessness at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. George Riggle won the headline writing category. Michael Ramirez won for best editorial cartoon. And Ed Graney won for best sports column writing.

Southern Nevada freelance writer John Glionna won first place for the Review-Journal for non-staff story for his narrative on a former Nevada resident’s miraculous recovery from a mystery illness.

Advertising awards

The Review-Journal’s advertising staff also took home 11 awards in the annual contest.

Angie Gutting took first place in advertising innovation for the M Resort football tailgate kit.

David Sly and Gutting also took first place in the urban in-house advertising category for last year’s Best of Las Vegas campaign.

“This is a great campaign to increase reader engagement and highlight local businesses,” a judge wrote. “This campaign fosters healthy competition to be named the best. The ads were simple but appealing.”

The Review-Journal swept the category.

Sly and Brandi Munn also won first place for color print ad in the magazine category for an ad in Luxury Las Vegas.

An earlier version of this story included an incorrect total for number of awards.

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

Review-Journal staff writer Blake Apgar contributed to this report.

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