Behavioral health series wins journalism awards

Juan Gabriel Torres’ ex-girlfriend and their children left balloons and a cupcake near a cross on the Lohman Ave. bridge for his birthday last year. The Cruces Sun-News/KRWG series told Torres’ story.

Three Las Cruces journalists have won first-place awards for their work spotlighting behavioral health in New Mexico.

Writers Carlos Andres López and Diana Alba Soular and photojournalist Robin Zielinski, all on staff with the Las Cruces Sun-News, collaborated with Heath Haussamen of to produce a four-story, two-video package on behavioral health, which published in late November.

Lopez wrote about the intersection of behavioral health, law enforcement and the judiciary, while Soular took a look at behavioral health services locally and statewide. Zielinski produced videos for each story theme. Haussamen served as the project’s editor. KRWG’s Anthony Moreno also contributed to the series.

Their combined work was recognized by the editors of the USA TODAY Network as among the best work produced by a Division III newspaper in the fourth quarter of 2017. The Sun-News, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, was competing against 43 other USA TODAY Network Division III newspapers across the country.

Lopez and Soular together won first-place in the Public Service/Watchdog category. Judges said: “This project was an impressive series of articles that cover a large swath of issues all stemming from one topic — the lack of mental health services in New Mexico. Strong narrative writing, supporting research and data, compelling characters and an ambitious undertaking make this the best public service project for this division.”

Zielinski’s video profiling Juan Gabriel Torres, who was shot and killed by police in August 2016, was awarded first in the Video category. “From the first second of this video, the viewer is gripped by the drama. Exceptional use of police cam footage, video by a witness at the scene of Torres’ shooting and interviews with survivors and others,” judges said. “The video from a distance shot by a spectator on the highway showed the officers approaching Torres — who was wielding a knife — and then you hear the shots and see him drop. The woman in the car watching the incident gasps loudly. Not a pleasant subject, but presented in a sensitive way with context. The editing itself is a standout.”

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