Four TV Stations Land Prestigious Peabodys

What WTVF, WBZ, KING and WVUE did to win the coveted broadcasting award.

Phil Williams picked up a lottery ticket on his way to into work at WTVF Nashville Wednesday morning.

“It’s a lucky day,” says Williams, chief investigative reporter for Journal Broadcasting’s CBS affiliate in the country’s 29th largest market.

For Williams and four other staffers — investigative reporter Ben Hall, producer Kevin Wisniewski and photographers Bryan Staples and Iain Montgomery — it certainly is.  Their year-long investigation into Tennessee officials’ involvement in shady business deals is one of the record 46 recipients of the University of Georgia’s 73rd Annual Peabody Awards announced today.

Three other local broadcasters — CBS-owned WBZ Boston, KING Seattle and WVUE New Orleans —  were also chosen from among almost 1,100 entries.

Williams says the award is recognition of his team’s efforts to “completely dissect the process of how contracts are rewarded and how relationships influence state government. This was a commitment to completely look at how taxpayer money is being spent and why.”

So are the results of the series  — a “very scathing” state audit, contract reversal and proposed reforms among them.

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“Yes, big projects take time. But they can have big rewards,” Williams says.

An exhaustive investigation of Louisiana political contributions — who gives, how much, and what does it buy — that combined the resources of Fox affiliate WVUE New Orleans (DMA 51), The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com is another winner.

WVUE reporter Lee Zurik says the project was “open ended” when it started in early 2013, but four months into the investigation it uncovered a host of corruption by law-breaking politicians. “We literally dug through data, did our research and took our time,” Zurik says.

Since the series started airing last fall, a “handful” of politicians have returned campaign contributions and the state legislature is considering law reforms, Zurik says, adding that the investigation continues.

WBZ Boston and WBZ-AM are being honored for their combined coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. The Peabody organization praised the stations’ coverage in its awards announcement. 

“Out in force to cover the annual marathon, both WBZ-TV and Newsradio 1030 had a journalistic advantage when the bombs detonated. Neither gave it up as their reporters spent hour after hour on the air providing wide-ranging, enterprising, non-sensational coverage of the casualties, the suspects and the intense, nerve-wracking manhunt. They become crucial sources not just to their city but to a stunned nation,” it says.

KING Seattle, the Gannett NBC affiliate in the country’s 13th largest market, is being honored for reports on questionable oversight and management at the Hanford Site, the 586-square-mile nuclear reservation that holds some of the world’s most dangerous radioactive and chemical wastes.

Last April, KING reported that the company managing the radioactive waste —Washington River Protection Solutions — overlooked evidence that a massive tank of the waste was leaking. A full year passed from the time evidence first began to appear before the leak was made public.

A complete list of winners is available at www.peabodyawards.com .

The Peabody statuettes will be formally presented on May 19 at a luncheon ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life, which now boasts five Peabodys, will be the master of ceremonies.


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