Gary Stokes
Shari Gilson and Teresa Stewart show off their first-place award for best special section.

The Ely Times 

The Nevada Press Association Awards were held this past Saturday in Ely Nevada.  

The Ely Times took home four first-place awards, including the Freedom of the Press award by columnist Thomas Mitchell, at the Nevada Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.

Mitchell writes a weekly column for The Ely Times along with all five other Battle Born Media newspapers.

Also earning first-place were Jason Bath for a feature photo called “Charcoal Ovens;” Sean Pitts, first for non-staff story for his series of articles about the 150th anniversary of White Pine County; and first from Shari Gilson and Teresa Stewart for Special Sections for the White Pine County Visitor’s Guide.

Other awards were a third place for sports photography by David Maxwell; a third for multiple-photo essay by Gilson on Snake River; and a third for print advertising by Teresa Stewart.

The Nevada Press Association also recognized the bill’s eleventh-hour rescuers as First Amendment champions for their efforts.

Executive Director Richard Karpel expressed the significant role in the passing of a law that will lead to increased government transparency.  

The Bill is Senate Bill 287, which puts teeth in state public records law by creating fines against agencies that withhold records and tightening rules on how agencies must respond to requests. Amendments that won its passage tweaked the schedule of fines and addressed some privacy concerns. The changes to the law takes effect Oct. 1.

Three legislative sponsors, the Assembly speaker, the governor and an open government advocate for championing effort.

The reform effort was pushed by Right to Know Nevada, a coalition of open government groups and media organizations including the Review-Journal. The bill’s passage was the Press Association’s highest legislative priority of the session.

Senator David Parks, District 7 of Las Vegas, the prime sponsor,  carried the bill initially as chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee. When the bill faltered, Senators, Melanie Scheible, District 9 of Las Vegas, and Ben Kieckhefer,  District 16 of Reno, stepped in to work with stakeholders and make compromise revisions. They resisted “intense pressure from government lobbyists to water down their amendments,” according to remarks Karpel gave on Saturday.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, who Karpel said “made sure the bill was a priority” and “kept the bill moving in the session’s final hours.”

Karpel said, “Governor Steve Sisolak, whose outspoken support for open government and public records access helped focus public attention on the issue” and sway legislative leaders to back it.”

Retired news anchor Bill Brown was the master of ceremonies for the evening.  “I have been kicked, spit on, hit, sworn at, and at the end of the day I still did my job, because that’s what we do, so congratulations for being here tonight.”