Online Journalism at its Finest: Las Vegas Sun Pulitzer Prize Winner

Las Vegas Sun’s coverage of construction deaths on the Las Vegas Strip exemplifies the benefits of online journalism

CityCenter Construction, Las Vegas

CityCenter Construction, Las Vegas (Photo credit: Rob Young)

Story by: Jamie Soule

In today’s world of seamless and instant information online, it can be difficult to keep up with audience demands. That’s why the Las Vegas Sun’s online coverage of construction deaths on the Las Vegas Strip is so incredible, and its 2009 Pulitzer award is rightfully owned.

The Sun was successful in utilizing many of the advantages to online journalism covered in James Foust’s text. The main idea to keep in mind when doing a project like this is that online users have short attention spans; therefore, the information needs to be quick and easy to access and to understand.

Picket Line @ City Center, Las Vegas

Picket Line @ City Center, Las Vegas (Photo credit: Rob Young)

Not only did the Sun write full articles every time there was an incident, but it also included videos, a photo gallery and interactive media to keep the reader interested—a very important detail, especially with something so extensive and sensitive to the community. In fact, that is why the Sun won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, because getting the community involved helped make a change in the safety concerns of the construction businesses and ultimately prevented more deaths from happening.

What I enjoyed most was the interactive map the site provided, detailing the deaths of each worker with such facts as how the person died and what happened with the citations of violations issued for that death. I watched the “Cost of Expansion” video first, which is something I would expect for someone who has not been following the story from the beginning; the video was very effective in creating empathy for the families and generating a general interest while giving an overall introduction to the topic. Though the automated slide show option for the photo gallery was too fast for reading the captions, the gallery itself was also a helpful addition to the story.

Although the number of links is a little overwhelming, they are a great addition to the site as a whole, allowing the user a one-stop shop for information: There are archived stories, blog posts, extra videos and slide shows dedicated to the topic, allowing the user to find a multitude of facts and stories via his or her preferred medium. The site also provides an RSS feed for updates on posts; however, feed access to, specifically, the Topic: Construction Deaths page is not available. I was also unsuccessful in finding a link to any sort of Facebook page for this topic, which could have been even more helpful in an outcry for support from the public.

If I were to suggest changes to the layout or features of the site, earlier in the coverage I would have included the above mentioned Facebook page to increase awareness. Also mentioned previously was the fact that the links to other media were overwhelming, which could easily be fixed by creating thicker dividing lines and headlines, creating bigger video icons, and making a greater visual distinction between multimedia content and ad content.

I wouldn’t change the story in any way. After all, the writers did win a Pulitzer Prize for their work, which is something I am not qualified to criticize, nor would I be interested in doing so. The Sun was very deserving in that respect, as the staff put together an incredible project that a number of people from different technological perspectives could appreciate.

Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University (left), presents the 2009 Public Service prize to (l-r) Alexandra Berzon, Michael Kelley and Brian Greenspun of the Las Vegs Sun. (Photo from Pulitzer Prize website)

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2 thoughts on “Online Journalism at its Finest: Las Vegas Sun Pulitzer Prize Winner

    • I completely agree, Sarah. It’s evolving into something bigger than we ever imagined! Journalism is not dead–it is alive and well! When I was in grade school, everyone was worried that none of us paid any attention to the news. Now, with Twitter, Facebook and all the other social media out there, that’s all we do–and rightfully so. There’s a lot of news to be had.

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