'NewsChannel 5 Investigates' Delivers Award-Winning Work - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

'NewsChannel 5 Investigates' Delivers Award-Winning Work

The NewsChannel 5 Investigates team has received national recognition for its efforts to act as a watchdog for our viewers.

DuPont Award: Considered one of the broadcast equivalents of the Pulitzer Prize, the duPont-Columbia University Award has now been bestowed upon the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team three times! 

Most recently, in 2012, a duPont Award was given for  the team's "Policing for Profit" investigation.  That project exposed how some Tennessee police agencies routinely target out-of-state drivers for traffic stops, looking for large sums of cash that they can seize based on the suspicion that it's drug money.  Members of the duPont jury said the investigation revealed "an outrageous abuse of power by law enforcement agencies." It was the work of chief investigative reporter Phil Williams, producer Kevin Wisniewski and photojournalists Bryan Staples and Iain Montgomery.

In 2010, a duPont Award honored the team's "General Sessions Court" investigation. It was the work of Williams, Staples and Wisniewski.  The duPont jury wrote that "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." 

In 2004, a duPont Award recognized the "Friends in High Places" investigation of insider contracts awarded during the administration of former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist.  It was the work of Williams and Staples.

Peabody Award:  Considered the other counterpart to the Pulitzer Prize, a George Foster Peabody Award was given in 2005 for "Friends in High Places."

The Peabody committee wrote, "WTVF's three-year investigation probes the awarding of hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts to friends of the Tennessee governor. The station's ongoing reports on abuse of power have led to federal indictments and the passage of contract reform laws."

It was Phil's second Peabody Award.

National Headliner Awards: NewsChannel 5's investigative unit has been recognized five times with First Place honors in the National Headliner Award competition.

In 2011, investigative reporter Ben Hall and photojournalist Iain Montgomery were honored by with National Headliner Award for Environmental Reporting for their investigation of how Metro Nashville school officials had ignored the risks of cancer-causing radon gas in classrooms across the city. Wisniewski and Williams contributed to the report.

The year before, in 2010, Hall and Montgomery also received a National Headliner Award for Environmental Reporting for their investigation of how the coal industry fought to weaken water quality standards in Tennessee.

In 2009, consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus, producer Kevin Wisniewski and photojournalists Bryan Staples and Mike Rose were honored with a National Headliner Award for Business and Consumer Reporting for their "Alarming Failure" investigation. It highlighted the problem with a common type of smoke detector that may have trouble detecting smoke from smoldering fires.

In 2007, NewsChannel 5's investigation of Bill Heard Chevrolet received a National Headliner Award for Business and Consumer Reporting.  That investigation -- by Kraus, Staples and Wisniewski -- documented questionable sales and financing practices inside a company that billed itself as the "World's Largest Chevy Dealer."

A National Headliner medallion was awarded in 2003 to Williams and Staples for "Friends in High Places."

George Polk Award: A prestigious national award for the "Friends in High Places" investigation. The Polk judges said that when Williams and Staples "began looking into the sometimes too-cozy relationships between Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist and companies doing business with the state, they knew right away they had uncapped a powder keg."

In 2003, the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team was the only television unit -- local or national -- to receive a George Polk Award.



Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting: Williams and Staples were among six national finalists in 2004 for the "Friends in High Places" and "Perks of Power" investigations. The "Perks of Power" investigation documented widespread abuses by Tennessee lawmakers.

The prize -- administered by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government -- honors journalism which promotes more effective and ethical conduct of government. Other finalists included the New York Times and Frontline, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. "We look for stories that have a real impact, and these finalists all have high muzzle velocity," said Shorenstein director Alex S. Jones.

Edward R. Murrow Awards: In 2007, the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) gave its highest honor, a national Edward R. Murrow Award, to NewsChannel 5 Investigates for the best investigative reporting by a large-market television station.

That award went to NewsChannel 5's investigation of questionable sales and financing practices inside Bill Heard Chevrolet.

The NewsChannel 5 Investigates team has been recognized with multiple regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.


National Press Club:  In 2007, the National Press Club bestowed its Consumer Journalism Award to NewsChannel 5's investigation of Bill Heard Chevrolet.

Sigma Delta Chi Award: Three-time winners of this national award, the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team was honored in 2007 by the Society of Professional Journalists for public service. 

The award recognized an investigation that uncovered life-threatening neglect of veterans at two Tennessee State Veterans Homes. That project was the work of Kraus,  Staples and Wisniewski.  "At some point during the story the viewer should come away a different person ... a more knowledgeable person. This story had ‘it' on all emotions," the judges wrote.

In 2004, Williams and Staples received the Sigma Delta Chi Award for the investigation of University of Tennessee president John Shumaker.  

A year earlier, SPJ bestowed the national honor for "Friends in High Places," the investigation of state contracts received by friends of former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist.

Fourth Estate Award:
  The American Legion has twice honored NewsChannel 5's investigations of matters affecting the nation's veterans.  In 2011, the Fourth Estate Award was given for an investigation of the questionable solicitation tactics of the Veterans Support Organization.  That project was the work of Kraus and Staples.  

In 2007, the Legion recognized NewsChannel 5's investigation of the state veterans homes. "Your reports directly led to the correction of life-threatening violations that likely saved the lives of veterans under their care," said Paul A. Morin, national commander of The American Legion. "Journalism doesn't get any better than that."

Clarion Award: In 2008, the Association for Women in Communications awarded a Clarion Award for the documentary "Dishonorable Deceptions."

That documentary exposed how U.S. Army recruiters urged prospective recruits to lie about their histories of mental illness. It was the work of Williams, Staples and Wisniewski.

IRE Awards:
An IRE Certificate in 2004 from Investigative Reporters and Editors for the "Perks of Power" investigations by Williams and Staples of state lawmakers and the University of Tennessee president. The IRE judges wrote, "WTVF's documentary of abuses of power by state legislators and the president of the University of Tennessee is yet another example of this station's commitment to investigative journalism."

An IRE Certificate in 2003 for "Friends in High Places." IRE's judges wrote, "Facing retaliation, WTVF's Phil Williams didn't flinch and produced some of the most compelling television investigations of the year. This important investigation does more than put an outgoing governor on notice; it sends a clear message to all elected officials."

An IRE Medal, the group's highest honor, in 2001 for "Who's Policing the Police?" That investigation focused on allegations that high-ranking police officials helped certain individuals escape criminal charges. Judges said Williams "went after one of the most powerful institutions in any town and broke the blue line by getting police officers to talk about their superiors." They called it "an outstanding example of dogged local reporting."

NewsChannel 5 has been ineligible for the awards for a number of years due to Phil Williams' service on IRE's national board of directors.

Emmy Awards:
In 2007, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized "The Ticket Fix" with a national Emmy Award. That investigation, by Williams and Staples, exposed a systemic problem of ticket fixing in the city of Nashville.

The NewsChannel 5 Investigates team has also received many regional Emmy Awards.

In addition, Williams was previously a finalist for print journalism's Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting.

With that kind of reputation, you can count on NewsChannel 5 to dig a little deeper, ask the tough questions and look out for you.

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