We’ve written before about Alexandra Berzon’s fantastic Las Vegas Sun articles on Las Vegas construction deaths, and the paper won the 2009 Roy W. Howard public service reporting award from the Scripps Howard Foundation last month. Now, they’ve also won a Pulitzer in the Public Service category. The Pulitzer site states:
Awarded to the Las Vegas Sun, and notably the courageous reporting by Alexandra Berzon, for the exposure of the high death rate among construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip amid lax enforcement of regulations, leading to changes in policy and improved safety conditions.
In all, Berzon wrote 53 stories and the Sun carried 21 editorials related to construction safety. The Sun began its reporting in response to a horrific death toll among construction workers: nine had died on Las Vegas Strip construction site during a 16-month period. The coverage explored how the rush to build led to safety shortcuts, and how state occupational safety authorities routinely withdrew citations for safety violations.
Three more construction-site deaths occurred after the series was published, but public attention finally focused on the problem. The Nevada Legislature and members of Congress turned their attention to the problem, and construction workers and union leaders at two major construction sites walked off the job until the site contractors agreed to safety improvements. Safety improved, and since June of last year, no more workers have lost their lives.
If you go to the main web page for the 2009 Pulitzers, the Public Service category is at the top of the Journalism list, suggesting that the Pulitzer Board places a great deal of value on journalism’s role in serving society. The Las Vegas Sun’s construction-death reporting and the resulting changes are a great example of how journalism can serve the public. (Visit the Public Service category archives for more examples.)
Congratulations to Alexandra Berzon and the Las Vegas Sun team! Check out their Pulitzer-winning coverage here.