Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to become a multimedia journalist

This video presentation is the final assignment for my multimedia reporting class about techniques and methods I've learned at The Las Vegas Sun this semester. I've learned a lot about multimedia journalism and how to balance a print edition with an online publication. Hope everyone enjoys the video. It was a lot of fun to make. :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

NBA could become gender-neutral in 10 years

The ongoing argument in the world of sports this morning has been whether or not women will ever be able to play in the NBA.
I'm sure other sports issues are going on too, but this caught my attention because I happen to be a huge fan of the WNBA.

The whole debate began when NBA commissioner David Stern told "Sports Illustrated" that he believes women will be playing in the league within the next decade.

"I think that's well within the range of probability," Stern said. "I don't want to get into all kinds of arguments with players and coaches about the likelihood. But I really think it's a good possibility."

Some NBA coaches agreed with Stern, while others thought having a female athlete would be more of a publicity stunt. This depends on whether a woman would actually be allowed to play or just sit on the bench.

"If she was truly a full-time player rather than a modern day Eddie Gaedel," said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban of the dwarf who played major league baseball in a 1951 publicity stunt, "it would be enormous."

It would be enormous. In fact, it could possibly alter the way society views women's sports. If women are tough enough to play with the men then maybe the WNBA and NBA would be seen as having equal competitors.

Often women's basketball college coaches such as Pat Summitt hire male team managers to play against their girls to make them more physical. This is a good technique, but I think it sends the message that women don't measure up to the athleticism of men.

As of now, the top players in the WNBA, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings, aren't considered strong or fast enough to play with NBA superstars Lebron James or Kobe Bryant.

After the article in "Sports Illustrated," James said in an ESPN interview that 10 years is "pushing it."

"Ten years?" James asked. "That's, like, right around the corner. [In] 10 years, I'll be 34. I'll still be in the NBA. I think 10 years is pushing it, honestly."

I find James' quote a little insulting because it implies that he is the best player in the league right now and no one will be able to take him on, especially not a feeble woman.

I'll agree with Stern that it might take a few years, but I truly believe when the right woman athlete comes along she will be able to knock down shots and defend a male athlete.
In the "Sports Illustrated" article by Ian Thomsen, New York Knicks president Donnie Walsh said the women in the WNBA play better than he did in college. He said women can play under the rim, drive and shoot just like shorter male NBA athletes. Who's to say a 6-foot-1 female player couldn't act as a point guard for a NBA team?

This would make history but it certainly wouldn't be the first time an NBA team signed a woman athlete.

In 1979 the Indiana Pacers signed Ann Meyers Drysdale, now GM of the WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury. Drysdale was a three-time All-American guard at UCLA and became the first woman to sign a contract with the NBA. Too bad the Pacers released her before the season even started.

Drysdale recalls that period of her life and the media's coverage of the signing.

"I had been liked by the media at that time," said the 5-9 Meyers, but that changed when she joined the Pacers. "I recall at the press conference that I was attacked pretty good by the media. You know: what are you doing, you're taking some guy's job, you can't compete, you're too slow, you're going to get hurt, you're too small, da-ta-da. But somebody gives you an opportunity, you're supposed to say no?"

Will the same thing happen again when the female Michael Jordon comes along? I guess only time will tell. What do you think?

Police: Female sexually assaulted at fraternity house

A female alleges she was sexually assaulted at a fraternity house on Greek Row between 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. and 6 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 4.

An e-mail alert sent out by Campus Police said the alleged victim told officers she could not remember anything that happened between that time period but believes she was sexually assaulted. Police did not specify which fraternity house the alleged victim said she was assaulted in.

The alert said police are trying to contact a friend of the victim to substantiate the location of the assault.

The incident is under investigation. Anyone with pertinent information is asked to call MTSU Campus Police at (615) 898-2424.

Check MTSUSidelines for more updates.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's a thankless job, but somebody's got to do it...

Lately, I've been reading up on crime and court coverage techniques. I came across a Web site with some pretty unsettling statistics of journalists who have died on the job. Right now, I cover some crime and courts for the Las Vegas Sun, and it's scary to think that I could die on an assignment but it's true. I was aware of this when I fell in love with journalism, and it's something I'll always carry in the back of my mind. Regardless, I love what I do and I'm willing to risk my life to relay important information to the public. Read below if you're considering a career in journalism.

Personal Safety

Journalists frequently are at risk while on assignment.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) says 389 journalists were killed while on the job from 1992 to 2001. Of those, 62 were killed in crossfire and 298 were victims of homicide. Fourteen of the victims were Americans, and only four of those were working in the U.S. while killed.

In an infamous domestic case, Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles was killed by a car bomb in 1976 as a result of his investigations of organized crime. Two men were convicted and sentenced to prison in the case.

CPJ said at least 11 journalists since Bolles have been slain in the U.S. because of their work. In all but one case, the victims were immigrant journalists working in languages other than English.

Journalists sometimes are arrested or injured while covering clashes involving law enforcement. In recent years, such incidents were reported at International Monetary Fund demonstrations in Seattle and Washington, D.C., and during the federal raid to seize the Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez in Miami.

Some journalists have reported they were wearing proper identification when attacked by renegade police officers or units. In one recent case, a radio journalist covering the funeral of a man shot by New York police said he was assaulted and arrested on trumped-up charges.

Crime reporters can face special safety concerns while on assignment. In 1984, a New York newspaper reporter was seriously beaten during an apparent robbery in Brooklyn. In some big cities, a few crime reporters on assignment use war-zone safety devices, including helmets, body armor or outer garments boldly marked MEDIA.

But this strategy has been known to backfire. Over the past 35 years, journalists frequently have been targeted during riots.

Twin Cities Examples
In 2002, several Minneapolis journalists were injured during rioting that followed the shooting of a child in that city by a police bullet that ricocheted. A TV vehicle was torched, and several journalists were attacked.

A similar scenario occurred in that city 10 years ago. In that case, television reporter Julia Sandidge was seriously injured when she was punched in the head by a rioter. She was left unable to walk for two months. Sandidge told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the crowd turned on her and a cameraman.

She said, "It does happen very quickly. You really can't anticipate how it's going to happen." She said rioters saw her as part of the establishment.

"We were there and they were angry," she said. "They saw us more as the arm of the law than as an unbiased journalist."

Sandidge eventually left the daily news business, burdened by stress. She said the assault changed her perspective. She began to identify with victims.

"We'd cover crime and show the video on the news and not take into consideration the victim's family watching that," she told the Star Tribune. "I'd feel grief…I'd go home and cry myself to sleep at night."

Sandidge said she frequently shows video footage of her attack and its aftermath to journalism students. "I like to let young wanna-be reporters see what they are up against," she said.

Tips: Wear clear identification. Carry a cell phone. Store an emergency bag in your trunk with a change of clothing, bad-weather gear, a flashlight and a first-aid kit. In potentially dangerous situations, such as a riot, wear footwear and clothing that allow you to move quickly. Consider protective gear, such as a helmet. If journalists are being targeted, get to a safe location.

(P.S. I stole the name of this blog from "Repo! the Genetic Opera," which seems appropriate for this topic of death.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

First video project

Jam skating group offers youngsters creative outlet, support

Hip-hop beats blared from a stereo as Le Var Maxwell stared at his reflection in a mirror at his in-house studio.

The metal plates on his striped roller skates clanked against the wood floor while he walked through the steps of a routine in his head. At the exact count, he began to react to each musical beat with an arm movement and foot shuffle.

His feet slid smoothly across the floor, and he spun around in circles on his toes.

When he stopped spinning, he looked to the other members of his group and said, “Let’s loosen up and freestyle a little bit.”

Read more and view photos here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another round? No thanks.

Yesterday the newsroom had another round of layoffs. This time Greenspun Interactive suspended publication of two community newspapers that work in connection with the Las Vegas Sun. Everyone surrounding my cubicle was let go. Those people helped me and taught me how to cover courts, city council meetings and crime scenes.

I was on assignment at a preliminary hearing, so I didn’t know they had left until I arrived at the office around 5:30 p.m. Their desks were empty and the newsroom was quiet. It’s normally quiet, but not like this. Everyone is walking around like zombies and worrying about their jobs. I don’t blame them. If I wasn’t doing an internship, I would be just as worried.

Having to see amazing journalists let go because of advertising sales is harder than I thought. I’ve been told for the last five years that the newspaper business is in a slump, but I guess I didn’t recognize how bad things actually were. Now I see talented individuals losing their jobs and it makes me scared. Some people in the newsroom have said that the worst is yet to come. I hope it’s already over.

The thing that sets the Las Vegas Sun apart from most newspapers is its online presence. The print edition of the Las Vegas Sun answers the question why, but the online gives you breaking news and answers all of the other questions. My fear is that the economy is going to push the Sun’s Web site to reflect the print edition.

We’re running low on having enough people to update the Web site, and the interns are taking on a more active role. This is a good thing because I’ll learn more by stepping into the shoes of other journalists and trying to keep their beats afloat. I can step into their shoes, but I’ll certainly never fill them.

I have two semesters left until I graduate. I’m determined to find a job in journalism, but I can’t help but ask myself “what if I get fired?” Where will I go? Are you just supposed to pick up and leave? I can’t even imagine the heartbreak some of people who were let go yesterday are dealing with. It’s something you’ll never know until it happens to you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stop Child Trafficking NOW

Group rallies to bring attention to child prostitution

Listen to audio here.

Chants broke out on Las Vegas Boulevard late Saturday as community members gathered to raise awareness and money to help stop child prostitution.

Stop Child Trafficking Now organizers walked through residential areas carrying signs with slogans like “Real Men Don’t Buy Sex” and “Stop Buying Our Girls.”

Joseph South, local community organizer for Stop Child Trafficking Now, said the goal of the walk was to raise awareness and thank investigators working to save children from trafficking operations. Stop Child Trafficking Now is a national group that has organized walks in other major cities.

Andrea Pitcher, who walked with the group, said the "24/7" atmosphere of Las Vegas means teenagers can go unsupervised. She said parents work late hours and aren’t always around their children -- a factor that can push them in the direction of prostitution, she said.

“This is a very fast economy,” she said of prostitution. “It’s also very money-driven.”

She said lack of supervision allows children to get on the Internet and look for modeling jobs that aren't always as they appear. Terri Miller, who walked with the group Saturday, said she lost her niece after she responded to a fake modeling job.

“My niece was trafficked from here to Japan,” Miller said. “Luckily, her family made contact with her and got her back home.”

According to Regulated Management, a Las Vegas-based group that says its mission is to "evaluate the problems and effects of the criminal enterprise of illegal prostitution on Las Vegas society," about 1,500 children from 40 states were victims of sex trafficking in Las Vegas over a 13-year period.

“Las Vegas has a reason why it’s called Sin City,” said Bob Fischer, communications director of Regulated Management. “There are all different forms of prostitution, and there’s a great deal of apathy in this city.”

Jackie Capasso, of Christians Against Sexual Slavery, said while child and adult prostitution are separate issues, many women got into prostitution a young age.

UNLV researcher and assistant professor Alexis Kennedy said homeless children exposed to prostitution are taken to jail instead of receiving counseling.

“We’ve drawn them here with our bright lights and now we have to take care of them,” she said. “An 11-year-old is a child, and we had a 13-year-old arrested last weekend.”

Kennedy urged residents to speak to their legislators about the need for a safe house in Las Vegas.

For now, Las Vegas has Safe Place, a nationwide project that helps children who have been sexually or domestically abused get back on their feet. Safe Place spokesman Larry Lovelett said Safe Place, which has a drop-off center, is a service open around the clock for young people when they need help.

Lovelett said children need counselors who can talk to them about their victimization.

“Pimps have PhDs in human nature,” Lovelett said. “They are playing a psychological game with these kids.”

For more information about Stop Child Trafficking Now, visit

Ancient Times

This was my last event with videographer Denise Spidle. :( View photos here.

Renaissance Festival lures ‘knights’ of all ages to Sunset Park

Knights, fairies and guilds are gathering in Sunset Park this weekend for the 16th annual Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival.

Participant Sherrie Gibbons said attending the festival is like walking into another world. She said she first became interested in the Renaissance period through her daughter.

"It’s a chance to get away from mundane life, especially with the economy right now," Gibbons said.

Sandra Navarro has a personal tie with the festival. She said she has been bringing her son and daughter to the event for six years.

Her daughter, Melissa, said the festival gives her an excuse to dress up like a pirate. She said she is intrigued by the pirate lifestyle and has a crossbones tattoo on her shoulder.

While the festival offers a chance for locals to show off their Renaissance wardrobes, Scott Fitzpatrick said he enjoys the live steel competition, including heavy armor on Saturday and fencing on Sunday. He said this is the 11th year the festival has offered the competition.

"Anyone can participate as long as they follow our safety guidelines," Fitzpatrick said.

Las Vegas middle schools are joining in on the fun, too. Candy Rutledge, senior program administrator for Clark County Parks and Recreation, said the festival allows schools to bring their students in for free.

Las Vegas Day School teacher Jeff Segel said the school brought sixth-graders to the festival to experience the history they're learning in the classroom.

"Anything you study comes to life more when you do things like this," Segel said. "It’s a lot of fun for them. They get to see the artifacts and it’s a good way for them to learn."

Sixth-grader Romina Montti, 11, said she would rather attend the festival than read her textbook.

"It reinforces what they are teaching us in school," Montti said.

Some children were on school field trips, but others participated in the festival because of their passion for the time period.

Holly Long, 8, said she enjoys working at Age of Chivalry Renaissance Festival. She works at her family’s tent, Dragon Bubbles, and said she chose to be a flower fairy this year.

"My parents got me into this," she said. "It’s an amazing experience."

Besides offering bubble vials, jewels and meat pies, the festival also features various educational programs like the Pirates Parrot show, which focuses on parrots from across the world.

Rutledge said the parrot show is especially popular among children.

"He gets all the kids together and teaches them about the birds," Rutledge said. "He lets the birds fly around and land on kids’ shoulders."

Birdman Joseph Krathwohl was at the festival Friday with his companion and bateleur eagle Sheba. Krathwohl said he has had Sheba for more than 26 years and has learned bateleur eagle territorial calls from her.

"I help to teach people about the use of birds for prey – not only in the Renaissance period but for the last 7,000 years of our history," Krathwohl said. "If you could ride up and have several falcons and one big golden eagle on your arm, then everyone who saw you arrive knew you were a powerful man, not woman. Women were not allowed to touch our birds."

The festival will also have entertainment by comedians, sword swallowers and fire breathers. Mary Evanoff will perform in the "Merrie May Show" by juggling and pole walking, while Mike Foster will perform his spin on the movie and play "Sweeney Todd."

Live music will also be provided by The Wild Celts, The Prodigals and Swagger.

"It’s all about our history, and world history is our history," said Las Vegas resident Jim Hartung. "If we don’t know it, we’re doomed to repeat it."

Weekend fun

View more pictures here.

Fundraiser aims to lift spirits of city’s homeless teens

The underlying theme of this year’s third annual H.O.P.E. for the Holidays event was homelessness is not a choice.

Kelly Robson, director of the Help of Southern Nevada Youth Center, said if teenagers leave home to get away from a bad situation, it’s not their choice to become homeless.

“They’re grateful for anything, because one of the hardest things for youths is to be thrown aside,” Robson said.

A fundraiser was held at the Henderson Pavilion Promenade on Saturday with donations and proceeds going to five local organizations that provide resources and housing for homeless teenagers.

Event chair Judy Alewel said last year’s event raised $29,000. She said with today's sour economy, she will be happy to reach that amount again.

“Whatever we make, we will be grateful for anything that is donated,” Alewel said. “The teens want to feel normal and we want to go that extra step and help them feel normal.”

Alewel said more than 4,000 teenagers are living on the streets in Las Vegas. She said it’s important for the Help of Southern Nevada Youth Center, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, Street Teens, Living Grace Home and Clark County School District Title 1 Hope to work together and provide the best services possible for each person.

Jazmyn Akins, 18, is a resident at the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. She said the organization helped her get into college and pursue her dreams of becoming a commercial photographer and actress.

“My father had a gambling problem and sold our house,” Akins said. “I was living with my neighbors, and I didn’t even know them.”

Akins said her mother works in North Carolina as a teacher and contacted the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth after Akins was "couchsurfing" for a couple of months.

“They put me in a condo with a housemate and take us grocery shopping every two weeks,” Akins said. “My roommate is in high school and the organization makes sure she leads an actual high school life.”

Nancy Amaya, 19, was in a similar situation before she graduated from high school. She said the Help of Southern Nevada Youth Center took her in because her family wasn’t stable enough to care for her.

“They helped me graduate high school, and I was voted class clown and prom royalty,” Amaya said, smiling.

According to H.O.P.E. statistics, 80 percent of homeless teenagers would like to be able to finish high school. The majority of homeless teenagers living in Las Vegas are 16 years old.

Sariah Johnson, 20, said homeless teens should utilize services offered to them. She said walking into the Help of Southern Nevada Youth Center felt like having a clean slate.

“I grew up in a drug neighborhood,” Johnson said. “Life is about choices and you have the opportunity to have better if you want better.”

The event also featured games, a silent auction, train rides, face painting, hair dying and live entertainment by local bands and singer and impressionist Tom Stevens.

Stevens performs impressions at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and served as the moderator at the event. He said he wanted to participate because it brings awareness to the community.

“I wasn’t aware this many were homeless,” Stevens said. “I have been fortunate enough in my life and it touches me to know that kids out here are living on the streets.”

Quin White, 23, lead singer of the band Amarionette, said he wanted to be involved because the issue of homelessness is often neglected. The band dedicated a song called “Apart From the Same” to all the homeless teenagers.

“It’s a song about being different and not feeling like you’re like everyone else,” White said. “No one is better than anyone else, and these kids are like everyone else."

First preliminary hearing

Woman charged in NLV police standoff to stand trial

The case of a woman accused of holding North Las Vegas Police at bay during a June standoff will proceed to trial after a preliminary hearing today.

Carla Eagleton, 52, is charged with two counts of attempted murder with a deadly weapon, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of battery with a deadly weapon and assault with a deadly weapon.

North Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Stephen Dahl sent the case to District Court and scheduled Eagleton’s arraignment for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 26. Defense attorney Ronald Paulson said Eagleton would plead not guilty and plans to go to trial.

After Eagleton was arrested in June, a North Las Vegas justice of the peace ordered she undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if she is competent to stand trial. Eagleton passed the evaluation.

At the preliminary hearing Friday, Eagleton appeared alongside Paulson and listened to testimony given by her husband, Kenneth McDede, and North Las Vegas police officers Jason Olson and John Thomason.

McDede said at about 9 p.m. on June 4, he and Eagleton had an argument that escalated to a physical altercation when Eagleton grabbed an aluminum bat. He said Eagleton began to chase him and swung the bat, trying to hit him. While running from Eagleton, McDede said he called 911 and ran out of the house.

He said he ran to a convenience store and waited for police to arrive. McDede said he met police at the house in the 3500 block of Coleman Street and explained what happened. He said he saw Eagleton drive off with his 10-year-old grandson before police arrived.

After filing a domestic battery report, officers and McDede left the residence, McDede said during cross-examination. He went to work and returned home at about 5 a.m. He parked across the street and kept receiving phone calls from Eagleton that said, “Don’t come home. I’ll shoot intruders,” he said.

In court today, he said he had given Eagleton the gun, but said she wasn’t trained on how to use it properly. McDede said Eagleton had asked him to train her, but he never got around to it.

Afraid to go home, McDede then called police again to update them on the situation. Three patrol units and four police officers, including Thomason and Olson, arrived at the residence at about 6 a.m.

Olson testified today that he wasn’t involved in the domestic dispute altercation the night before, but because of Eagleton’s threatening phone calls, his supervisor called for backup. Olson said the officers parked three houses south of the residence and approached on foot with their guns drawn.

He said he and Thomason went through the back yard to the backdoor, while officers Brian Wheeler and Derek Fellig positioned at the front entrance. Olson said Wheeler and Fellig knocked on the front door asked Eagleton to come out.

“Over radio, we were told that Eagleton was knocking back and challenging officers to come in and get her,” Olson said. “She was yelling and screaming. It was inaudible.”

She said, “the house was set up to kill police officers,” Olson testified.

Olson said he looked through a window and saw Eagleton standing in what appeared to be a kitchen, holding a silver handgun.

“I looked in the window and saw her pointing a handgun at me,” Olson said. “I was fearful for my life. I yelled ‘gun’ and ducked. I saw Thomason dive out of the corner of my eye and that’s when I heard two shots fired.”

Thomason said he felt debris hitting him when he dove. After the incident, he said he found a bullet fragment lodged in his boot.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Thomason said.

Shortly after firing two gunshots, Thomason said Eagleton came out of the house with nothing in her hands. He said he pointed his gun at her and told her to put her hands up. Eagleton ran back into the house screaming, he said.

McDede said in court today that his wife is on medication. Her medical condition is unknown at this time.

The standoff lasted more than five hours, according to police reports. The report said Eagleton released her 10-year-old grandson after an hour, unharmed.

Prosecutor Michelle Fleck said the grandson might be called to testify if the case proceeds to trial.

No one was injured during the standoff, but Olson said his supervisor called in SWAT team officers as a precaution. Eagleton was taken into custody after the standoff and booked at the Clark County Detention Center. She is being held on bail set at $140,000 for all charges, according to jail records.

Golfing with Pros, Celebrities

Celebs hit the links at Justin Timberlake charity tourney

Instead of hitting the red carpet, celebrities stepped onto the golf course today for the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Pro-Am competition.

The event was broken into morning and afternoon tee-offs with 36 groups participating, including professional golfers, amateurs and celebrities.

Timberlake kicked things off around 11:30 a.m. with professional golfer Anthony Kim and amateurs Sal Masekela and David Bomar. Crowds swarmed the course to get a look at Timberlake as he greeted his mother, Lynn, before teeing off.

Gina Cochran, visiting from Georgia, arrived at the course three hours before Timberlake was scheduled to show up. She said she missed last year’s event and didn’t want to miss the action this year.

“I enjoy the PGA and Justin,” Cochran said. “This is such a good cause. I would love to see more celebrities come out and support this.”

Wayne Lachut, board chairman for Shriners Hospitals for Children, said the event has been held for three years, and each year the turnout is better.

“The bigger the names, the better we are,” Lachut said. “We’re happy if we break even, but it would be nice to raise $5 million.”

Lachut said the Shriners Hospitals for Children spend $2 million a day and $28.60 a second to improve pediatric care for children. He said Timberlake was brought in last year to try and spread awareness among the younger generations. Alice Cooper and Kenny G will bring in the older crowds and Timberlake will bring in younger crowds, he said.

Timberlake’s former band mate Chris Kirkpatrick was also putting his golf skills to the test at the competition. He said he’s glad Timberlake got involved with the cause.

“It’s great they brought Justin in because he’s a young guy and will bring in new people,” Kirkpatrick said. “I love coming here and meeting people and getting out on the golf course to play golf and have fun.”

Comedian and actor George Lopez certainly had fun on the course. He joked with fans, kicked a clown and even made technical sergeant Jerard Waymer do push-ups.

“I try to compete in all the tournaments I can with the people I have posters of on my wall,” he said. “It’s tough to raise money because of the economy, but this raises the money.”

Accompanying Lopez in Group 20 was former boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya.

Tom Sailers, from San Diego, said he attended the event to watch De La Hoya play golf.

“I’ve heard Oscar is a very good amateur golf player,” Sailers said.

While watching Lopez and De La Hoya putt, Laurie Houck of Charlotte, N.C., said the Pro-Am is the best part of the event.

“What other sport can you get this close to the athletes?” she said.

Rock singer and songwriter Alice Cooper didn’t mind getting up close and personal this morning with fans. He signed autographs and posed for pictures while sporting a grin on his face.

Cooper said he wanted to participate in the event because he had three days off from his Theatre of Death Tour and wanted to help out.

“When you see these kids, you want to play every day for them,” Cooper said.

He said he’s been playing golf for 28 years, and it has helped him quit drinking.

“I quit drinking and started playing golf,” Cooper said. “I traded one bad habit for another one.”

Some of the other Pro-Am attendees were PGA professional Davis Love III, professional poker player Phil Hellmuth and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” actor Alfonso Ribeiro.

Natalie Gulbis, of the LPGA and a former employee of Donald Trump on the TV show “Celebrity Apprentice,” said the special guest list of professional golfers and celebrities help increase knowledge about the event.

“Every single time it gets mentioned, it only does more to get the awareness out about Shriners Hospitals,” she said.

View photos here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

Today I got a wake up call from reality. The Las Vegas Sun shut down and let a lot of people go.

I’m not sure whom all they let go, but I know my friend and videographer Evelio Contreras is no longer working here. :(

He was teaching me about visual storytelling and how to piece together a video. We were working on a jam skating video and story package together. It’s just hard to believe that he’s gone now.

It’s been a sad day all around, and really woke me up. I really love my job and what I do, but there’s no guarantee that jobs in journalism will exist in a few years. We all know the economy is bad right now, but what if it doesn’t get any better?

I know I’m supposed to remain optimistic but it’s a serious question. I’ve never had to deal with a staff member leaving not by choice, mainly because I’ve never worked in a professional newsroom.

Advertising is a big part of the reason why newspapers are failing, but there are other factors as well. I know I’m on an internship, so I feel pretty stable right now but what happens when I graduate? If I was a full-time employee it could have been me who was let go today.

It’s a terrible feeling and I hope no more employees have to experience it in the near future. I wish I could say NEVER but that’s unrealistic right now.

To all the employees who were let go today, I hope you find quality paying jobs because you’re all good at what you do and should pursue your dreams.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Las Vegas Tall Club


I know it's been a while since I've posted anything, but I wanted to post one of my recent stories about a Tall Club. My editor Cara McCoy pitched me the idea and I thought it was interesting and unique. I had no clue that the local chapter was part of an international organization.

After talking to the members and hearing their stories growing up and feeling out of place, I felt really bad that people have to endure that kind of discrimination.

All of the members were really nice and even wanted me to pose for a picture. Needless to say, I was the shortest one there, and I'm 5-foot-8. I have posted the picture of me and the tallest member John Allen, who is 6-foot-11.


Some say life is short, but 6-foot-11 John Allen isn't.

Allen is the social co-chair of the Las Vegas Tall Club, and the tallest member in the organization.

“It’s become a way of life,” Allen said. “For the most part it doesn’t bother me, but when people ask me how tall I am, I say 211 centimeters or 83 inches. If they want to know that badly they can figure it out.”

The Las Vegas Tall Club chapter of the international organization started in 1983 and has been recruiting members ever since. It's one of about 65 such clubs in the United States and its 50 or so members meet on a regular basis for everything from bowling to bikes rides to picnics.

This past weekend the group met for its semiannual garage sale to raise money for a scholarship it offers to a Las Vegas-area high school student.

The $1,000 Tall Awareness scholarship is given each year to one high school student who has applied to colleges and meets the height requirement.

Scholarship chair Lydia Garza said last year’s scholarship went to a student at Valley High School who also received a second scholarship from the international organization.

“We want to award someone who is tall and can express themselves well,” Garza said. “With the way the economy is we’re getting more and more interest.”

Garza said the club eventually hopes to award two scholarships per year.

The scholarship has no grade point average requirement, but does involve writing an essay about Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. Garza said most people who are diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome are tall, therefore, writing the essay allows students to do research and become more aware of the disorder.

Pat Blanchard is a founding member of the Las Vegas chapter. She said the basic premise of the club is for tall people to form friendships among other tall people.

The club specifies tallness as 6-foot-2 for men and 5-foot-10 for women. Anyone who meets the height requirement and is 21 or older can join the group.

Blanchard said she was 5-foot-11½-inches when she graduated from high school. Social co-chair Debbie Prince said she was 5-foot-11½-inches when she was 13.

“I felt like I didn’t fit in,” Prince said. “It was kind of hard to take pictures with your friends because your head would get cut off.”

Prince said finding clothing that fit her has been a problem over the years, so she started her own clothing line called Tall Dolls Rule. She said she created the clothing line to cater to tall women’s needs.

“If you go to JC Penney or Sears, all they’ll sell is the basic talls,” Prince said. “They won’t take a risk.”

She said she travels to international Tall Club meetings on the weekends and sells her clothes to pay for her travel expenses. Las Vegas club Vice President John Morath, who is 6-foot-3, said clothing is typically harder to find for tall women.

Allen said men also have trouble shopping for clothes because "big and tall" stores cater more to big than tall.

“Their sign says Big and Tall, but their sizes only go up to 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3,” Allen said.

Morath said the international Tall Club has also raised awareness of other concerns it has, such as the need for a king-size bed in hotel rooms and more legroom in airplane seats.

Prince said the group continues to target younger members to join its ranks.

“We’re trying to get younger people, but at the age of 46 I’m one of the youngest,” Prince said. “We think it’s because being taller isn’t such a big deal anymore.”

Gaining more members is important to the growth of the international organization, she said. She said club members are like family.

“It’s like living in a small town with the bad and the good,” Prince said. “We bicker and fight like family, but if someone is sick then someone else is cooking for and taking care of that person.”

Friday, October 2, 2009


I didn't even know it at the time, but I scooped the Associated Press today!

This morning I went to cover Roger Mayweather's arraignment for battery-strangulation and felony coercion charges. Mayweather didn't show up and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. I wrote the story and submitted it as soon as I could.

Later I found out that I scooped the AP and The Review Journal.

Needless to say, it was an awesome day. :)

Click here to read the full story.

I also want to plug an unfolding story on our Web site right now. Check out the story of an 18-year-old who killed his best friend's parents for him. Denise and Mary did a good job, so be sure to watch the video. It's pretty creepy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Back To Basics

Last week I got schooled, but it was a good thing. I needed someone to show me how to cover a collision scene more thoroughly and that’s exactly what I got.

I was covering a one-car collision that killed one 16-year-old and left two other teenagers in serious condition with Las Vegas Sun reporter Jean Reid Norman. I learned a lot from Norman about how to work with information and listen carefully for what you might need. Even though neighbors nearby might ramble and have no useful information, they might slip up and say something beneficial.

I’ve covered crime before but never vehicle accidents. I felt like I grew as a journalist by working with her that day. She taught me things and I feel like I’m a better journalist because of it. So yes, I got schooled and it was totally worth it.

For the weekend, I covered a walk to raise awareness about child trafficking and prostitution. Even though I wasn’t covering breaking news, I still used some of the techniques that Jean taught me. I think the story turned out well because I was willing and able to dig a little deeper.

Here are the links for the stories I’m talking about.

Group rallies to bring attention to child prostitution

Teen dies after SUV hits block wall

Friends gather to mourn Del Sol High School student killed in crash

I also got to know my co-workers better this weekend. Videographer and former anchor Denise Spidle invited me to a potluck dinner at her house. The entire office team showed up, and I had a great time getting to know everyone better.

Denise is also helping me learn Final Cut Pro. I’m so excited about this! And the best part is I might be able to start shooting videos soon. I’m already getting to shoot pictures and post galleries, but video is my ultimate goal. Plus, videographers are using my dream camera that I wanted for Sidelines. That’s right. I will actually get to use an AG-DVX100B Panasonic camera! Did I mention I’m excited about this? Haha.

In addition to video training, I will be covering more court cases, which is pretty awesome in my book. I will also be writing a feature sports piece on BMX rider Nathan Berkheimer. It’s too bad I won’t actually get to meet him, but it’s still a story.

It’s only Monday and the week is filling up fast. Man, I love my job! ☺

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Holocaust survivor speaks to students about painful memories

Holocaust survivor Ben Lesser doesn’t need a serial number tattoo to remind him of his childhood spent in a concentration camp. He said he will have the experience etched in his mind forever.

During his time imprisoned by the Nazis, Lesser witnessed innumerable horrors. He was pistol whipped, starved and stabbed. He lost family members. But he never lost his faith, he said.

“Why was I so fortunate to live?” Lesser said. “God needed a witness.”

To cope with his memories, Lesser said, one of the most therapeutic exercises is sharing his story with younger generations. On Tuesday, he told his story to more than 300 students at the Las Vegas Academy, 315 South 7th St.

Lesser described the experience as “five years of living hell on earth.” He said he lost everyone in his family except for his sister Lola, who is an artist in New York. She has painted several pieces of her memories from a Jewish ghetto in Poland, he said.

In 1944, Lesser said he was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he lost the remaining members of his family. Lesser said he had to fall asleep at night to the sound of people screaming and burning in fire pits.

“Fire is one of the methods that [Adolf] Hilter used to almost completely annihilate the Jewish population of the earth,” Lesser said.

Lesser asked students to never forget the Holocaust. He handed out 300 “remembrance” pins from his Zachor Holocaust Remembrance Foundation. Lesser said he received his first pin from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and has since given out 25,000 pins.

In conjunction with Lesser’s speech, the Las Vegas Academy Theatre is putting on a play called “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.”

Director Melissa Lilly said the play is based on the true story of an art teacher named Raja Englanderova, who was sent to a concentration camp and survived through art. She said lead actress Rebecca Carrol contacted Lesser and asked him to come speak to the cast.

Junior Sarah Niederman said she met Lesser after winning an essay contest in middle school. She said Lesser’s message and appearance is important to students because there aren’t many Holocaust survivors left.

“We are the last generation and soon there will only be newsreels and books,” Niederman said. She said that technology will not be able to replace the feeling everyone in the room felt during Lesser’s speech.

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly” will premiere on Oct. 8 at the Las Vegas Academy Black Box Theatre, 315 South 7th St., with an admission of $10.

Listen to the full audio track here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vegas Diaries: Up To Speed

Hey everyone!
Sorry I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve just been so busy with work and school that I haven’t had the chance to. I do have some good news, though.

Last Friday, I covered a majority of the Sept. 11 events happening in the area and my story actually made centerpiece on the Web site. I didn’t get to see it because I was running around all day, but my boss Tim took a screen shot for me.

The weekend went well, although I was a little bored. I have got to get out and make some friends in this place.

On Sunday I drove to Phoenix, Arizona to watch the Phoenix Mercury play the L.A. Sparks. It was amazing! When I moved to Las Vegas I knew I would be in between the two states that host my two favorite teams in the WNBA. I thought I was going to have to pick one of the other, but turns out I was lucky. Too bad Diana Taurasi didn’t play. Stupid playoffs. Anyway, I have pictures that I will be sure to post. ☺ Oh, did I mention I almost got an autograph from Candace Parker? If I had worn my orange and represented then maybe I would have an autograph right now. I blame Richard lol.

Monday was an OK day. I covered a court hearing and got lost in the Justice Center. I guess that’s bound to happen your first time, especially when there are 17 floors. Here is a link to my story for the Las Vegas Sun.

The day got better and by Monday night I had forgotten all about my troubles at the Justice Center. I covered an open forum at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada held by the Secretary of State Ross Miller. The forum was to educate same-sex and heterosexual couples about the new domestic partnership bill.

I learned a lot about Nevada last night. Certain companies refuse to give health insurance to domestic partners and adoption is still an issue. In Tennessee, being gay is still the biggest obstacle. I stood listening to all the panelists and political figures speak, and it saddened me to know that Tennessee has a long way to go before it ever reaches that point.

Here is the link to the story.

Tuesday was definitely a better day. I woke up this morning and traveled to the Henderson Justice Center to cover a preliminary hearing for a 19-year-old woman who is accused of suffocating her newborn son. The hearing was the last thing on the calendar, but I really didn’t mind waiting. In fact, I really like covering court cases.

After waiting three hours, the hearing was continued to Oct. 21 because the autopsy report was not completed. The continuance was a disappointment for some reporters but we eventually got all of our interviews with the prosecuting attorneys. I also spoke with the woman’s Public Defender Andrea Luem.

Here is a link to that story.

Tonight, I will go home and work on some homework before heading to bed. I have a sentencing court case in the morning for a man who shot four people in the New York-New York Casino. You never know what you’re going to get in Vegas. I love it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Covering Sept. 11 events in Las Vegas, Nev.

Las Vegas Remembers Sept. 11, 2001

Here is a link to my story for the Las Vegas Sun.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Road Trip Slideshow

I know the pictures may be blurry but keep in mind I took them on my phone. I am also going to try to find a way to fix the resolution so next time the photos will be more clear. Call it a test if you will.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Entry 1 of The Vegas Diaries

Sept. 5

After a long road trip through seven states, I finally arrived in Las Vegas last night. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but so far it’s pretty nice. The people are kind, the scenery is beautiful and the weather is bearable.

Last night, a friend and his family showed me around Henderson and Green Valley Parkway. We went to dinner at the Claim Jumper, took a look at the
Las Vegas Sun office building and drove around near the strip.

On television the strip seems like a huge tourist spot, actually the entire area of Las Vegas seems monstrous, but really Las Vegas is an average size city in a valley. The land is so flat that you can see the strip from miles away, especially at night when all the casinos are lit up.

The family also helped me look at a few apartment complexes. Luckily, I won’t be staying in an extended stay hotel the entire trip because I found a one-bedroom apartment today. It’s in a nice neighborhood and located off Boulder Highway, which is roughly 15-20 minutes from the Las Vegas Sun office.

I also learned a few things about Vegas that some people may not know. Everything is open 24/7 here, brothels and prostitution aren’t legal, despite what many people think and U-Turns are legal on many streets.

I move into the apartment tomorrow and start work on Tuesday. I’ll keep everyone updated after I get settled in more.

For more, check out

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fear and Living in Las Vegas

I never post anything personal on my blog, but I'm going to take an entry to do so. A few days ago I received an internship in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Las Vegas Sun. It's an incredible opportunity that I'm stoked about.

There are so many diverse people and stories just waiting to be told in Vegas. However, I'm a little nervous at the moment as to where I'm going to live. It seems staying four months has put me in a bind when it comes to apartment leases. Everywhere I call, the landlord wants a six-month lease and that's just not possible right now.

I found a few places that allow three-month leases, but seem to have a bit of a bug problem. It's a little unsettling when a landlord says "Everyone has bugs. I just don't let me kids eat anywhere except for the kitchen counter."

I think I'll pass.

Another option I came across was a room for rent with two complete strangers. I actually thought about calling but remembered my horror movie knowledge. Moving in with strangers could be a slasher film waiting to happen.

After 20 different phone calls, I came across an apartment complex I really liked. It's called Sunset Winds and looks really clean and safe. Then I noticed the amount for a one bedroom – $710, excluding utilities.

I leave for Las Vegas Wednesday morning. Until then, I have four days to decide where I'm going to live. Things are getting stressful, but it's going to be an amazing journey. I will post updates as much as I can along the way. :)

P.S. Oh and if anyone in Vegas is looking for a roommate, contact me as soon as possible, please.

Teen cries blood

A family in desperate need of a diagnosis. reported that an east Tennessee teen and his family is dealing with a medical mystery.

Calvino Inman, 15, is an average teenager residing in Rockwood, Tenn. Then again, average might not be the appropriate word since Inman cries blood.

Inman said his eyes start bleeding at least three times a day and it can last from a few minutes to up to an hour.

"Sometimes, I can feel it coming up, like a tear," Inman said. "I feel my eyes watering; sometimes it will burn as it comes out."

Inman said he's been called "possessed" by most of his friends.

"I guess I'm used to it now," Inman said to WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tenn. "At first, it kind of hurt my feelings."

Now Inman's family is making a desperate plea for help. Inman's mother, Tammy Mynatt, said she has taken her son to several specialists but still has no diagnosis and no treatment.

"The scariest thing in my life is when he looked at me and said 'Mom, am I going to die?' That right there broke my heart," Mynatt said. "Every doctor tells us they've never seen anything like this before in all their many years of being a doctor."

Mynatt said she is running out of hope and wants somebody to say they've seen this and can help.

"I don't care where we have to travel; I will go wherever we need to go," Mynatt said. "I will do whatever I have to do.

"I just please want somebody to help my baby; that's all."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Playlist for 8/21/09

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Police officer suspended for sleeping on the job

Paul Morgan called Murfreesboro Police and complained that neighbors were shooting fireworks off at his house. When Officer Michelle Ratleph arrived, Morgan forgot about the fireworks and began to worry about Ratleph's alertness. reported that Morgan said Ratleph began to drift off to sleep while filling out the report.

"[I] started looking at her, concentrating on her face and I could see that her eyes were closed," Morgan said. "It was obvious she was going asleep."

Morgan was so stunned at Ratleph's condition that he pulled out his cell phone and began taking video of her sleeping.

"I counted about 14 times that she dozed off and fell asleep," Morgan said.

In the video, Morgan's wife tried to wake Ratleph several times by turning up the volume on the television, but after Ratleph kept drifting in and out of consciousness, Morgan called her supervisors.

"I felt like I was having to call the police on the police," he said. "I was really concerned with her driving, concerned with her safety and the safety of others."

Ratleph's supervisors agreed and wrote Channel 4, saying "she did herself and the department a disservice if she hurt herself or someone else."

Morgan said Ratleph told him she had worked long hours the day before and was working overtime on that day. The Murfreesboro Police Spokesman Kyle Evans disagreed.

"This is an isolated situation," Evans said. "We think this officer has some type of possible medical issue or maybe didn't get enough sleep the night before she came to work."

Evans said the Murfreesboro Police Department is not understaffed and officers typically only work eight-hour shifts.

Ratleph apologized in the written report and said "it is by no means intentional." As to whether or not Ratleph has a medical condition, the police department couldn't comment.

The Murfreesboro Police Department have suspended Ratleph for seven days without pay. Ratleph will also be under probation for six months.

Canadian University adds "FD" to grading scale

Students know the letter grade "F" means fail, but what about "FD?" reported that Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada is taking punishment to a whole new level by adopting a new grade of "FD," which means failure with dishonesty. This is now the worst possible grade a student can receive.

Rob Gordon, director of criminology at SFU and acting chair of the senate committee on academic integrity, said the new grading is intended to curtail cheating using the Internet.

"What used to be a lot of cheating in libraries has changed quite significantly," Gordon said. "We now have to be concerned about cheating during exams with high-tech devices and the inappropriate use of Internet sources and downloading, including online companies offering services to students that promote academic dishonesty."

Department chairs can impose the "FD" grade if they feel the incident warrants a severe penalty.

Gordon said the new grade will only be used in cases of dishonesty.

The grade has yet to be used in its introductory semester, however, it will stay on the student's transcripts for two years after graduation.

Some students say it's unfair to carry the stigma of the grade into the working world.

"Two years loss of your life is a bit too far," said Olid Amid, Simon Fraser student.

However, some students said they feel the grade will finally hold cheaters accountable for their actions.

Student John Aubrey said the grade "makes it a lot easier for those of us who don't cheat to get good grades and to not worry about the people who are cheating."

Even though this grading system is fairly new, other universities have already began implementing its own system. The University of Alberta gives cheaters an "F8" or "F9," which is reduced to an "F" after three years.

"In our case, we give the students a chance to redeem themselves," Dean of Students Frank Robinson said. "[In] three years they can graduate and have a clean record and get on with life."

I have never been a fan of cheating, which is why I agree with this grading system. There is no excuse for plagiarism or being too lazy to study. If you're in college, then it's time to study. You knew going into it that it wasn't all fun and games.

This grading system should be considered in the United States, especially with all the new technology that makes it easier for students to cheat. However, cheating is a choice and if you make that choice then an "FD" is what you should receive.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Police bust Tennessee family-run prostitution ring

Prostitution is something more common in big cities, but Metro Police detectives and FBI agents busted a family-run prostitution ring in Murfreesboro, Tenn. today.

The ring was run by Teresa Ann West, 45, her son Casey, 20, and daughter Diana, 22. Police said the trio have been using underage teenagers from Middle Tennessee high schools as prostitutes.

After receiving information earlier this year, police began conducting surveillance at a Murfreesboro Motel 6 in early August.

As of now, Metro's Specialized Investigations Division and the FBI have only accused the trio of using one 16-year-old high school girl to perform sexual acts, however, other underage victims are believed to be involved.

Police finally got their chance to question Teresa West after setting up surveillance at a Motel 6 on Chaffin Place. The reported that officers watched West leave a room key card on a wall in the parking lot and leave the area.

A little later, a 16-year-old girl drove to the motel and went into West's room, using the key card. Metro detectives and FBI agents then entered the room and interviewed the 16-year-old girl. The girl said she had had sex for money at the direction of Teresa West about 20 to 30 times this summer.

The victim said that clients usually paid $110 and she gave West $40. She said West knew she was underage but told her to tell people she was 18 if anyone asked.

Teresa Ann West is charged in state court with trafficking for sexual servitude and promoting prostitution. She is also charged in federal court, along with her son, Casey, 20 and daughter Diana, 22, with using a minor for commercial sex.

Casey West is alleged to have driven the teenager to a client and received a $20 fee from her. The girl said she has given money to Casey West on other occasions as well. Diana West, 22, is alleged to have assisted in the operation of the prostitution business.

Parents of teenagers, particularly in the Robertson County area, who are or were friends with Casey, Diana or Teresa West, are urged to talk with their children and inquire whether they have any knowledge regarding the prostitution business.

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Metro SID Detective Chad Holman at 615-782-3301. Underage persons involved in this matter are considered to be victims.

PSA: Texting While Driving

This PSA is intense! It makes you think twice about texting while driving.

Florida man spends three months in jail for possession of breath mints

Donald May is suing the Kissimmee, Fla. Police Department for his arrest over breath mints that were thought to be crack.

May was originally pulled over for an expired tag, but police officers thought the mints were an illegal substance and arrested May. reported that May told Eyewitness News that police wouldn't let him out of jail for three months until the tests proved the mints were candy.

May said he was just driving home from work when an officer pulled him over. He said when the officer walked up to him, the officer noticed something white in his mouth.

"He took them out of my mouth and put them in a baggy and locked me up [for] possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence," May said.

The officer said he field-tested the evidence and it tested positive for drugs. He said he saw May buying drugs while he was stopped at an intersection. In the police report, the officer said May admitted to buying drugs. May said that never happened.

"My client never admitted he purchased crack cocaine," said Attorney Adam Sudbury. "Why would he say that?"

Regardless, May spent the next three months in a jail because he was unable to pay his bond. He was released when he received a letter from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney's Office that test results showed no drugs were found.

"While I was sitting in jail I lost my apartment," May said. "I lost everything." reported that while May was behind bars, the Kissimmee Police Department towed his car and auctioned it off.

May said he also lost his job and was evicted. Now he is suing the city for false arrest and false imprisonment. He wants to be compensated for the loss of his car and job. May's attorney and the city of Kissimmee discussed a possible settlement last year, but failed to reach an agreement.