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'NewsChannel 5 Investigates' Receives National Hillman Prize

Timeline: Policing for Profit
Posted at 10:28 AM, Apr 21, 2015
and last updated 2021-03-10 22:31:37-05

(Story originally created Apr 21, 2015)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative team has been named the recipient of the 2015 Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism for its four-year "Policing for Profit" investigation.

The national award was announced by the Sidney Hillman Foundation.

“WTVF has an outstanding reputation and a proven track record for high impact investigations,” said Rich Boehne, chairman, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company. “The station joined Scripps April 1, and we will continue to support the team’s efforts and strongly encourage this type of enterprise reporting.”

NewsChannel 5 chief investigative reporter Phil Williams, investigative photojournalist Bryan Staples and executive producer Kevin Wisniewski turned a tip from a member of the law enforcement community into an exhaustive review of police videos and public records.

The NewsChannel 5 Investigates team spent four years following the actions of Tennessee law enforcement agencies to reveal unethical police practices and civil rights violations. In a one-hour, primetime special, WTVF documented how law enforcement officers sometimes confiscated cash from individuals during traffic stops along suspected highway drug trade routes without charging them with a crime. That money was then used to fund the operations of those agencies.

That continuing investigation fueled a national conversation about civil forfeiture laws that make those practices legal and led to reforms in Tennessee and across the country. It prompted legislative action to protect innocent victims and to clarify Tennessee law so that actual couriers could be prosecuted for money laundering when hauling drug money.

“The NewsChannel 5 Investigates team showed dogged determination to uncover these abuses of power,” said Debbie Turner, vice president of TV operations for Scripps.

“The station committed resources to broaden the story beyond the local impact. The Hillman Prize is especially fitting for this effort because the awards program aims to support investigative reporting and deep storytelling in service of the common good.”

Previous winners of the Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism include Dr. Sanjay Gupta and a team from CNN, Brian Ross and the investigative team from ABC News, and documentary filmmakers from the PBS program Frontline.

Other Hillman Prize winners also include Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story.

Since 1950, the Hillman Prize program has honored contributors to the daily, periodical, and labor press, as well as authors and broadcasters. It is named for Sidney Hillman, the first president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America union. Hillman devoted his life to the labor movement and service to the community as a whole.

Winners will be recognized at a banquet in New York City on May 5th.

The E.W. Scripps Company serves audiences and businesses through a growing portfolio of television, radio and digital media brands. Scripps is one of the nation’s largest independent TV station owners, with 33 television stations in 24 markets and a reach of nearly one in five U.S. households. It also owns 34 radio stations in eight markets.

Founded in 1878, Scripps has held for decades to the motto, “Give light and the people will find their own way.”

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