"NC5 Investigates" Receives Prestigious duPont Award
Kevin Wisniewski, Phil Williams, Bryan Staples
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- WTVF-NewsChannel 5 has been awarded one of broadcast journalism's highest honors, the prestigious Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, for the station's investigation of Nashville's General Sessions Court system, it was announced Thursday.
That exclusive investigation – "NewsChannel 5 Investigates: General Sessions Court" -- exposed judges and court employees abusing their positions, as well as a judicial system in which ticket fixing and political favoritism was rampant. The project was led by chief investigative reporter Phil Williams, along with photojournalist Bryan Staples and producer Kevin Wisniewski.
It's the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team's second duPont Award, described by the awards committee as "the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize."
"This outstanding group of duPont winners represents the very best in the profession of broadcast journalism," said Ann Cooper, duPont Jury chair and coordinator of the broadcast department at the Journalism School at Columbia University.
According to the judges "the series methodically builds its case from one shocking incident to the next, showing how average citizens are victimized by judges and clerks. With superior storytelling and interviews, this series performed a valuable public service."
As a result of the investigation, Tennessee's Court of the Judiciary reprimanded two judges and filed formal ethics charges against a third. The court system has implemented changes to limit the power of substitute judges and to place controls over the handling of traffic citations.
"I am very proud of the hard work and dedication of the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team, said Deborah Turner, president and General Manager of the NewsChannel 5 Network. "The impact of this series is an excellent example of public service that only a local broadcaster can deliver. Viewer response was overwhelming and in total agreement with the duPont judges."
Also assisting in the award-winning project were photojournalist Iain Montgomery, investigative reporter Ben Hall, and art director Tammie Dodge. Sandy Boonstra is NewsChannel 5's news director. Michelle Bonnett is assistant news director.
The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards honoring overall excellence in broadcast journalism were established in 1942 by Jessie Ball duPont in memory of her husband, Alfred I. duPont. With his cousins, Mr. duPont transformed their gunpowder company into the chemical company E.I. duPont de Nemours. He later became owner of a chain of small-town newspapers in Delaware.
Award winners receive batons designed by the late American architect Louis I. Kahn. The batons are inscribed with the famous observation about the power of television by the late Edward R. Murrow:
"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box." (Excerpted from Murrow's address to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Chicago, Oct. 15, 1958.)
A native of Columbia, Tennessee, Williams joined NewsChannel 5 in 1998. He has won every major award for his television investigations. A former newspaper reporter, he was also a finalist for print journalism's Pulitzer Prize.
Photojournalist Bryan Staples is a graduate from Western Kentucky University and has been with NewsChannel 5 since 1995.
Producer Kevin Wisniewski attended the University of Florida and has been with NewsChannel 5 since 2006.
Sandy Boonstra is news director at NewsChannel 5. She has been at the station since 1990 serving as Special Projects Producer, Executive Director of NewsChannel 5+, Assistant News Director and for the past year and a half as News Director.
"NewsChannel 5 is committed to provide our viewers with the highest standard of journalism possible. The work of the NewsChannel 5 Network team is a shining example of this station's commitment to be the best," said NewsChannel 5 News Director Sandy Boonstra.
Other duPont Award winners are listed below. Honorees will be presented with silver duPont batons at a ceremony held at Columbia University on Thursday, January 21, 2010.