A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

SDX Awards: Newspaper deadline reporting, Las Vegas Sun

By Quill

Charles A. McCoy, Jr., 28, was taken into custody at 2:45 a.m. after he pulled up to his first-floor room at the Budget Suites motel on Industrial Road near the Stardust. He was registered under his own name.

On March 15, McCoy made national headlines when he was named the prime suspect in two dozen sniper shootings along Ohio highways. In less than a day, several people reported seeing McCoy in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Sun received a tip on McCoy’s whereabouts and scouted a motel parking lot after midnight, finding no sign of the alleged sniper or his vehicle. Just hours later on March 17, police arrested McCoy in that same parking lot, causing Sun staff to scramble for its 9:30 a.m. deadline.

“It’s difficult because of all the changes during a breaking news story,” said Managing Editor Michael J. Kelley. “But when it comes together and you nail a story, especially on tight deadline, there’s no better feeling.”

Police learned about McCoy’s stay in Las Vegas after Conrad Malsom, 60, spotted him at the Stardust sports book about noon Tuesday. Malsom had just read a story about McCoy in USA Today.

Malsom and a friend were sharing a large pizza at the sports book and had a few pieces they couldn’t finish. …

“I offered it to a young man sitting two seats away,” Malsom said. “When he turned to accept my offer I knew exactly who I was talking to. I didn’t believe he was anyone other than Charles A. McCoy Jr.”

McCoy was wearing a black “Oakley” T-shirt, well-worn jeans and a “five-day growth beard,” Malsom said. He also had a copy of USA Today.

In less than seven hours, reporters Jen Lawson, Christina Littlefield, Mary Manning and Jace Radke, Metro Editor Matt Hufman and Assistant Metro Editors Pat McDonnell and Jean Norman turned McCoy’s arrest into front-page news.

“A great sense of teamwork underscored the piece,” said Kelley. “Reporters, photographers and editors worked together, and it paid off. People pitched in and turned around a top-notch story in a few hours.”