Updated June 21, 2021 - 8:29 am
The Las Vegas Review-Journal won nearly a dozen regional and national awards for work published in 2020, including two high-profile honors for its investigation into the deadly Alpine Motel Apartments fire.
Staff were awarded first place in project reporting from the Best of the West contest and first place in public service from the National Headliner Awards for a series of stories on the December 2019 fire, which killed six people and injured 13.
The stories include “Alpine motel apartments fire: 1 year later,” “Police called Alpine ‘the worst of the worst’ and tried to close it. Las Vegas officials said no.” and “Once a teacher, this secretive Vegas landlord built an empire. Then 6 died.”
“Over the course of a year, the Review-Journal doggedly pursued the story of a motel fire that killed six people, revealing government failures, safety violations, a disabled fire alarm and problems plaguing the wealthy owner’s real-estate empire, including a federal investigation of ties to Mexican drug cartels,” a Best of the West judge wrote. “Tracking down hard-to-find witnesses and official interview reports, the newspaper capped its coverage with a gripping, minute-to-minute retelling of the tragic fire.”
“As one reader wrote, ‘It’s writing like this that reminds me of the importance of journalism,’” said a judge in the National Headliner Awards.
“It’s gratifying to see contest judges recognize the work of the Review-Journal’s talented staff as among the very best in the country,” Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said. “We’re especially proud of our work investigating the Alpine fire, which changed laws and hopefully will prevent a repeat of a tragedy that never should have happened in the first place.”
The Best of the West contest is the region’s most prestigious journalism competition, pitting all media organizations across 14 states from Alaska to Texas, regardless of size or medium, against one another. The Review-Journal won the second-most total awards this year, trailing only the Los Angeles Times. The RJ’s nine awards included first-, second- or third-place honors in project reporting, breaking news reporting, arts and entertainment writing, headline writing, editorial writing, informational graphics, page design and two awards for video storytelling.
Visual journalist Rachel Aston received two honors for a video report on Cirque de Soleil performers training while in quarantine: second place in video storytelling from Best of the West, as well as a Pacific Southwest Emmy Award in the category of Arts/Entertainment – Short or Long Format.
In Headline Writing, copy editor Gary Dymski won first place from Best of the West for the headline: “Knight Shift: Major shuffle sees Gallant fired, DeBoer hired.”
“Forced into an unsparing head count that allows not more than a couple of words on a section front centerpiece, the headline writer makes clever use of a hockey term (shift) and the name of a local team (Knights) to create a main head that nails the topic of the story: a coaching change for the team,” the judge noted.
Digital Designer Tony Morales won first place from Best of the West in the Informational Graphic category for a multimedia piece on the construction of the Circa Resort &Casino, which included drone video, photos and facts about the resort.
In Breaking News Reporting, reporter Rio Lacanlale took second place for a story on a deadly truck crash that left five bicyclists dead and four others injured.
“With a combination of shoeleather reporting and quick thinking, the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s coverage of this tragedy stood out as an excellent example of comprehensive breaking news coverage that stood out in a competitive news cycle,” the judge wrote.
Second place in Page Design went to to designer LeeAnn Elias for “Silver &Black Facts,” a special section on the Raiders that one judge described as “engaging, informative and meaningful.”
“It benefited from thoughtful, sophisticated touches on every page, such as the use of typography and white space,” the judge’s comments continued. “But what really made this design stand out was the use bite-sized nuggets rather than long-form journalism. The ‘numbered’ approach allowed the newspaper to quickly capture the story of this celebrated franchise.”
Videographer Mackenzie Behm took third place in video storytelling with “Navajo Nation,” a look at the heavy toll the coronavirus has had on the Arizona tribe.
Editorial Page Editor John Kerr won third place in Editorial Writing with “Tax hikes should be suicide during crisis.”
“A strong, well reasoned editorial calling for government action on an essential issue as the state contended with the unexpected costs of the pandemic,” the judge wrote. “Clear, concise and persuasive.”
TV and movie critic Christopher Lawrence took home third place in arts and entertainment writing for “Looking back at ‘Casino,’ perhaps the definitive Las Vegas movie, at 25,” which the judge called “top-notch writing.”
“The nostalgia surrounding the ‘glory days’ of the film helped provide a strong narrative hook and ‘Casino’ production stills were used incredibly well in the thoughtful design,” the judge wrote. “The writer did a wonderful job of personifying the Las Vegas that not everyone gets to see.”