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AP honors Signal reporters

Writers receive top prize in ‘Spot News Coverage’ division

Posted: May 5, 2009 10:00 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2009 8:00 a.m.
 
Two Signal reporters and a former reporter have been singled out by Associated Press judges for top honors in a newswriting contest that celebrates the best of journalism in 2008.

Brian Charles and Tammy Marashlian were named to the top prize in the "Spot News Coverage" division of the AP's California/Nevada Newswriting and Photo Contest.

Former senior staff writer Jim Holt won first place in investigative reporting for the Feb. 8, 2008, story "Building on Lies?"

The investigative piece revealed that the developer of the proposed Las Lomas project in Newhall Pass owned less than half of the project land, although it represented itself to the county as the sole owner.

Holt's article helped bring down Las Lomas when it went before the Los Angeles City Council for approval later in 2008.

Charles and Marashlian were awarded first prize for spot news for an Oct. 21, 2008, story headlined "Death Probe at Acton School."

The story investigated the death by Jeremiah Lasater, age 14, a special-needs student at Vasquez High School who killed himself Oct. 20 in a school bathroom.

Lasater, who allegedly was bullied by other students in spite of his adult-like size and build, used a handgun in the suicide.

The initial story on the incident by Charles and Marashlian, along with subsequent stories on the suicide and the reasons for it, likely helped persuade the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to adopt Project 51, which offers a hotline to students who feel they're being bullied.

Project 51, founded by Jeremiah Lasater's father, Jeff, also advocates for intervention by school administrators in cases of bullying.
Jeff Lasater also was a major factor in urging the supervisors to adopt the project.

"Tammy and I put a lot of hard work went into this story," Charles said. "Jeremiah's death was tragic, but his father's efforts will have a lasting impact."

Marashlian added, "This was a tough story. It was such a personal issue and here we are, exposing it to the public. I'm at least happy to see that our reporting help drive change."

Charles, 32, covers the police/courts and water beats for The Signal, while Marashlian, 23, covers education for the paper.

Holt covered Los Angeles County, development and water for The Signal.

"I'm very grateful for this award," he said Tuesday. "It's not that I'm wise and wonderful. It all comes down to leg work."

"I'm very proud of the staff's work," Signal Managing Editor Lila Littlejohn said. "For us to win first place in two major news categories - that indeed is an honor."

Charles, Marashlian and Holt each will be awarded $150 by the AP.

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