Many baseball players dream of hitting a walk-off home run to win the World Series. Some doctors dream of curing cancer. And my guess is there are at least few journalists who dream of winning a Pulitzer Prize.
Certainly journalists at the Las Vegas Sun shared those dreams, though they wouldn’t dare whisper it.
Those dreams were realized last week when it was announced that the Sun’s amazing investigative journalism into the construction deaths on the Las Vegas Strip had earned the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
But what made the award even more significant to me was that it was vindication of Sun president and editor Brian Greenspun’s vision for our news organization.
Brian loves what newspapers represent (and I mean that in the most honorable sense), and wants to do everything possible to save them. Even if that means blowing them up to rethink every aspect of them.
I remember him telling me a couple of summers ago that we might be able to figure out a new model for newspapers here in Las Vegas … and that model might be applicable to the rest of the industry.
That might sound like crazy talk, but it’s not. Especially since the Las Vegas Sun doesn’t own a press.
Because of the unique JOA that we’re a part of, the Las Vegas Sun is a daily newspaper with no ads in it — so none of our strategic decisions have to be based upon defending that print revenue. We’re a family owned newspaper. We don’t own a press.
And because the Greenspuns’ initial online strategy had been Vegas.com — a highly successful travel site, and not a newspaper site — we could essentially start with a clean slate on the news side of our company’s Internet strategy.
All of the sudden, the idea of figuring out a possible new model for local news organizations, while working at a newspaper in Las Vegas, didn’t sound so looney.
What if we could start over? What if you could envision what a local news organization might look like if you were going to start it now? And you didn’t own a press.
What if you could rebuild the print edition of the newspaper and focus on people who love to read newspapers?
What if you could build a local news website that used the Internet the way folks really used it? What if you could build a news organization from scratch that would focus on local breaking news, the topics the community was the most passionate about, and then layer on some of the most practical guides any local newspaper had ever tried to develop?
And when it came to video and broadband, what if you were willing to try something that had never been done before, and build it with both your feet firmly planted in the present while your eyes were looking toward the future?
The idea was simple:
* Build a print edition for those who love newspapers, that is loaded with Journalism with Capital J;
* Build a local news website that is really webby, and not just a digital record of what was printed last night;
* And use video like video is really used (on broadcast, cable and on the Internet) — not the way newspapers have traditionally used it.
Then try like crazy to come up with some of the most creative, diverse and effective ways a local news organization has ever gone about trying to get all of this paid for.
The goal was straightforward: Unencumbered by legacy, we would work to create news strategies that serve the community and be self-sustaining through profits. And do it all like you would do it in 2009. Not 1989. Or Even 1999.
And that brings me to a video that I’ve wanted to post for a long time, but never have gotten around to doing it.
It was shot this past fall for the APME conference that was in Las Vegas. At that conference, three newspapers were nominated for the title of most innovative. The Sun didn’t win.
Each newspaper was asked to produce a five-minute video to explain why it was innovative.
What I love about this video is that Brian Greenspun’s vision for what we’re doing here is so evident with every word he says. And it shows why the Las Vegas Sun’s Pulitzer-winning journalism was part of a bigger vision.
Being able to work with Brian Greenspun is just one of the reasons I am so proud to work at this newspaper.
And even though I’ve congratulated them on Facebook (and in person) like crazy, I want to get it out there again: I am so proud to work with the crew at the Sun directly responsible for the courageous journalism that won the Pulitzer.
Alexandra (Ali) Berzon, Mike Kelley, Drex Heikes — as well as so many others who added to the construction-deaths project — are not just some of the best journalists you’ll ever meet, they’re also some of the most grounded.
I can’t even tell you how cool it is to work at the Las Vegas Sun.
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