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Workman Garners NPA Awards, Will Stay in Mesquite - Videotape
Posting Date: 10/20/2011

By Barbara Ellestad
Morris Workman, former editor of Mesquite Local News, won seven first place awards at the annual NPA gathering.

Morris Workman, former editor
of Mesquite Local News, won
seven first place awards at the
annual NPA gathering.

Morris Workman, the former editor at Mesquite Local News (MLN), won seven first place awards, one second place award, and one third place award from the Nevada Press Association at its annual ceremony in Carson City, NV, Oct 15.

A list of the NPA Awards for both the MLN and the Desert Valley Times is included at the end of this article.

Workman discussed the awards, his current projects, and his future plans for staying in Mesquite with the Mesquite Citizen Journal, Tuesday, Oct. 18.

"Mostly, I've been writing," Workman quipped about how he's spent his time since his contract with Stephens Media, owner of the MLN, expired the end of June. "It's funny because I've spent so much time writing for the newspaper, first with Desert Valley Times and then Mesquite Local News, and it's so deeply entrenched in my DNA now, that I do it everyday."

He explained that he continues writing the popular Workman Chronicles column on his personal Web site now. "It was the most important thing to me," he said about the weekly reflection he began in 2005 and continued publishing in the MLN after he joined the publication. He won NPA first place awards for the column in 2008, 2010, and 2011. In 2009, the column garnered him a second place NPA award.

"That wasn't enough so I had to stir it up with Mesquedia which is editorial." One of the NPA awards Workman won this year and in several years past was for "Best Editorial Writing." He gained an infamous reputation for spotlighting issues dealing with Mesquite City Hall and elected officials, often putting them on the spot for actions he felt were wrong for the general populace.

One of the newest features on the site is a column called "Dear Abbner" in which he gives a "guy's perspective on personal issues. My wife and daughter have a lot of fun with it. I live in an estrogen ocean, surrounded by women. I know I've written a good one when my daughter says 'there's no way I'd ever listen to that advice," Workman joked.

He discussed a book he's finished after five years of working on it and now has before several publishers for their consideration. "I'm waiting to hear back to see if they are interested," he commented. He went on to discuss other writing projects he has in the works.

NPA Freedom of the Press Award

"It's easily the most important award that we worked toward. It epitomizes everything I've always believed about the newspaper business and what my partner, Cindi Delaney, and I tried to work towards with Mesquite Local News," Workman said about the prestigious Freedom of the Press Award his newspaper won in both 2007 and 2011.

"We always felt it was really important for the people in the community to know the truth about what's going on. The editorials we wrote were very hard-hitting editorials," he said.

He added that it was often difficult to know if he and Delaney were steering the newspaper in the right direction but, "to have an organization as prestigious as the Nevada Press Association recognize that in our very first competition, meant so much to all of us because it substantiated what we were trying to accomplish."

He calls the two awards, "the bookends. I got one at the beginning of my career as an editor and then I got one at the end of my career as an editor. It told me that we didn't lose our way. We still managed to tell the hard truths. I was really gratified about that."

Workman won a first place NPA award for the "Best Spot News Story," based on his reporting of the Donna Fairchild murder-suicide tragedy that occurred in Mesquite in January. "It's one of those things that is really difficult because in the news business we're constantly trying to tell the truth. Sometimes you get too close to the story, especially if it's about people that you know and care about," Workman reflected back.

"It's gratifying to receive the award but it's not something that you necessarily celebrate. To win an award about something that tragic is very humbling. I'd be willing to give back all the awards and all the money we made if we could bring Bill and Donna back," he added.

Workman discussed another first place award he won for Best Investigative Story on Desert Falls. "I'm really proud of that one because we caught so much resistance from City Hall over that whole series and the fact that we wouldn't back off. People are so tempted to say 'I told you so." I felt like that because we knew from the beginning that there was something not right about the project. We poked and dug and interviewed. We put a ton of work into making that story happen. We had to dig in places people didn't want us to dig in."

Explaining that he received documents from other sources that helped shape the story, he remarked, "we found out the city had taken a post-dated check for the down payment on this thing. It was such a flawed execution of what could have been a brilliant idea." Saying that people in the community criticized him for continually investigating the story, he added, "there was something wrong with it. And if we didn't talk about it, nobody was going to know there's something wrong. The project eventually collapsed and the NPA judges saw that this was an important story."

He's particularly proud of the first place Best Multimedia Story award that he won because "it's one of the things I'm so proud of with Mesquite Local News." The award was based on a story Workman wrote back in the Spring when the Mesquite Police Department released the 9-1-1 call Fairchild made the morning she shot her husband and then herself. "Again, it's an award for a topic that I'm sad about," Workman began. He discussed how important the Web site had become to the newspaper because of its interactivity with readers.

"This story in particular was an amazing example of that. We had the story. We had the actual audio clip from the Mesquite Police Department. We played it uncut and without any filters and without tinkering with it. The people listened to it. They discovered that what the official police report said, is not what people heard. That started gaining momentum and became an example of interactive news. We didn't do it. The people did it."

Ultimately, the Police Department corrected their report and added the interpretation that readers provided. "The award has my name on it. But the people drove that story and they had a hand in setting the record straight," Morris proclaimed.

One of the most popular, yet hated features, of the Mesquite Local News during Workman's time at the helm was the comments section at the end of stories where readers could post thoughts and opinions. "Don't call them bloggers," he chided.

"Cindi Delaney is the one who really captured the essence of what we were about as a newspaper. The comments truly emphasized it. That is, the fact that we were 'Mesquite's' local newspaper. The people responded to it. They were the ones who embraced what we tried to do. We met a lot of resistance. The only thing that kept us going is that there were so many people out there saying 'don't give up.'"

"The commenters," Workman said, "were the best thing to happen to news. The fact that people have a chance to not just read the news, but they become part of the story when they respond, telling you how they feel." He added that he tried to tell people at City Hall and local politicians for years, "don't denigrate these people. They are your people. These are your constituents. You should get on your knees and kiss the feet of every person who makes a comment on a news story. You ignore it at your own peril."

"People got involved, shared information, and shared their perspective. I don't know how the old newspapers did it," he said

Workman went on to talk about how he enjoyed allowing anonymous posts in the comments section of stories because it gave people who otherwise wouldn't have said anything a chance to express themselves.

"It helped make us a better newspaper and helped make this a better community," he remarked.

Future Plans for Staying in Mesquite - Video 4

"We have no plans for leaving Mesquite," Workman said upfront. He explained that he and his family agreed in June that he would devote the bulk of his time in the near future to writing books and getting them published. He also spends time on his computer business to help fill in the gaps.

He has a one-year non-compete clause in his contract with Stephens Media that does not allow him to participate in any news business. He doubts if he'll return to that field after the year expires. Right now he says he's living the dream he had since seventh grade to try his hand at authoring books.

"I might not be good enough to be a national writer. But that's what life is about, taking chances and finding out if you can do it," Workman remarked as he talked about the future.

"I can tell you with all certainty, I've owned my last newspaper," he quipped.

Nevada Press Association 2011 Awards

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Freedom of the Press - Mesquite Local News

Multimedia Story - Morris Workman

General Excellence - Desert Valley Times

Spot News Story - Morris Workman

Sports Story - Lou Martin (MLN)

Local Columns - Bob Challinor

Investigative Story - Morris Workman

Entertainment Writing - Lou Martin (MLN)

Editorial Cartoons - Floyd Johnson - (DVT)

Local Column - Morris Workman

Local Columns - David Bly (DVT)

Entertainment Writing - David Bly (DVT)

Editorial Writing - Morris Workman

Editorial Page - Desert Valley Times

Photo Coverage - Morris Workman

Spot News Story - Morris Workman

Multimedia Story - Morris Workman

Investigative or In-depth Story or Series - Alicia Portillo

Overall Design - Desert Valley Times

Web Site - Mesquite Local News

Sports Features - Bob Snell (DVT)

Local Non-staff Column - John L. Smith (MLN)

Non-staff Columns - Margaret Caldwell (DVT)

News Coverage - David Bly (DVT)

News Photography - David Bly (DVT)

 

Commentary
  • Posted Date: 10/20/2011
    Congratulations Morris...these are all well deserved. Your efforts gave the residents of Mesquite what they needed...the truth.
    By: Hal
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/20/2011
    This is really a great story and no one deserves those awards more than Morris. Freedom of the Press is a lofty achievement that he earned singlehandedly reporting on wrongs when he saw them. Without Workman we might not know about the millions being stolen from VVWD, we might be stuck with a Desert Falls without any financing, we wouldn't know of the library land ripoff where councilman Randy Ence got $2 million for his church for a now dirt lot, we wouldn't know the outrageous abuses of Mayor Holecheck and her backroom deals, backstabbing policies, uncontrolled spending, 5 star hotels and first class airfare. It would go on and on but Workman had the courage to report it all and he paid the price. The Desert Valley Times and the new MLN with Kent Harper will not report on controversial issues and just plain ignore them. The people of this city owe Morris Workman a huge debt of gratitude. I wonder what he would be saying about the NCS ripoff?
    By: John Taylor
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/20/2011
    Congrats to you Morris! Your reporting was always spot on.. Thanks for all your efforts!
    By: Debra
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/20/2011
    Way to go Morris!!! You were and are the best in the business and deserve these awards.
    By: Betty Haines
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/20/2011
    Great interview Barbara! Nice to see Morris again and hear his philosophy. Morris and I worked extremely well together when I was the Public Information Officer for Mesquite PD. We both knew where the line was drawn and neither of us ever crossed it. He made my duties as PIO much easier and I could never regret the relationship we had. I realize I no longer reside in Mesquite, sorry for the out of state comments, but old habits (positive comments) are hard to break. PS: We'll be waiting in Ohio to read the book(s) Morris!
    By: Robert W. Everett
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/20/2011
    Morris is the "60 Minutes" of Mesquite and keeps this city a great place to live. There are many things that need the light of truth shined on them and Workman did it best. Lets not forget however that when the forces who want to ripoff us taxpayers finally managed to get rid of Workman, another hero stepped in to take up the fight, Barb Ellestad. She will not let lies go unchallenged. Lots of people talk a good story but only a select few like Morris and Barb stand up to fight the good fight.
    By: Ken Paulson
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/20/2011
    Congratulations Morris! The detail and quality of your reporting during our last City election cycle was exceptional. You should be proud of the service you provided to inform the citizens of Mesquite to allow insightful section for their votes. It has definitely changed the direction of the Mesquite for the better.
    By: David Ballweg
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/20/2011
    A BIG thanks and congratulations to you, Morris. The thanks is for forcing me to become more aware of how important it is for citizens to take an active role in their city government. I'm no longer sitting on the sidelines hoping someone else will take up the fight for citizen input.
    By: judy
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/20/2011
    Who's your daddy now, Stephens Media?
    By: George
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/23/2011
    John Taylor and David Ballweg said it right Morris, exceptional reporting at your own peril. At this time I would like to make another award to you. This is the first "Without Restraint" award by the grateful citizens of Mesquite. Don Muse
    By: Don Muse
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/24/2011
    Thanks for Barb. WE would be ignorant of the city business without her, now that you are gone. Wonder who will pay for the design review and etc. Oh, I know the tax papers. Wish you the best
    By: Donna
  •  
  • Posted Date: 10/29/2011
    Thanks Barb for the story. Thanks to Morris for staying local. In enjoy your writing.
    By: mmcgreer
  •  
     
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