Bryan Staples, Kevin Wisniewski, Iain Montgomery, Phil Williams with News Director Sandy Boonstra
Scene from 'Policing for Profit' investigation
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 drug interdiction units operating along Tennessee's interstates, it was announced Wednesday.
It's the third time in nine years that the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team has won the duPont Award, described by the awards committee as "the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize."
"It is a lifetime achievement just to be honored with one duPont," said NewsChannel 5 chief investigative reporter Phil Williams, who led the award-winning investigation.
"But, when you think about three duPonts, that's a real tribute to NewsChannel 5's commitment to those in-depth stories that serve our viewers -- even though they take more time and resources."
Other members of the duPont-winning team were photojournalists Bryan Staples, Iain Montgomery, and producer Kevin Wisniewski. Sandy Boonstra is NewsChannel 5's news director. Michelle Bonnett is assistant news director.
Judges said that the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team exposed how some police agencies "abused a law intended to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the state. Instead, agencies confiscated cash off of out-of-state drivers based on the alleged suspicion that it was drug money.
"As part of the investigation, Williams set up surveillance on one interdiction team, documenting questionable stops and tactics, and obtaining dash cam videos, as well as traveling out of state to interview victims. As a result of this series, officials admitted that interstate agents' jobs depend on seizing cash."
Several lawmakers are considering possible legislation to address issues raised by the NewsChannel 5's "Policing for Profit" investigation.
The NewsChannel 5 Investigates team was awarded a duPont in 2004 for the "Friends in High Places" investigation of insider contracts awarded to friend of Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist and in 2010 for an investigation of misconduct within the Davidson County General Sessions Court system.
No other Tennessee station has received a duPont Award in the last 25 years.
An honors graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Williams joined NewsChannel 5 in 1998. He has won every major national award for his television investigations. A former newspaper reporter, he was also a finalist for print journalism's Pulitzer Prize. He's a native of Columbia, Tennessee.
Photojournalist Bryan Staples is a graduate from Western Kentucky University and has been with NewsChannel 5 since 1995.
Photojournalist Iain Montgomery is a graduate from Colorado State University and has been with NewsChannel 5 since 2002.
Producer Kevin Wisniewski attended the University of Florida and has been with NewsChannel 5 since 2006.
Sandy Boonstra has been at the station since 1990 serving as Special Projects Producer, Executive Director of NewsChannel 5+, Assistant News Director and now as 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.
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.)
Honorees will be presented with silver duPont batons at a ceremony held at Columbia University on Thursday, January 19, 2012
Learn more about the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for excellence in broadcast journalism at www.dupont.org.