April 3, 2003
WFAA-TV's "Fake Drugs, Real Lives" investigation honored with George Foster Peabody Award for excellence
Dallas, TX -- A series of probing WFAA-TV investigative reports on Dallas police officers use of planted powdered gypsum as evidence to convict poor and immigrant defendants on drug charges has been honored with a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence.
In December "Fake Drugs, Real Lives" was recognized with the prestigious duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, the station's seventh such award.
Last month it was honored as a finalist for the 2003 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, awarded annually by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
"We are all pleased to be recognized with such a prestigious honor," said WFAA President and General Manager Kathy Clements-Hill. "Local investigative reporting is an indelible part of our collective heart and soul at WFAA. The fact that this series of reports impacted innocent people's lives, and resulted in a change in police procedure only validates our purpose of bringing viewers credible, dependable information each and every day."
This marks the second time since the mid-nineties that WFAA has been awarded a Peabody for a local investigation. Other Peabody 2003 honorees include CNN, CBS, ABC News Nightline, NBC, HBO, PBS and ESPN. WFAA was one of only three local television affiliates to be recognized with a 2003 Peabody Award.
WFAA reporter Brett Shipp and producer Mark Smith broke the story on New Year's Eve 2001 and reported on developments throughout the year. News 8 Investigates looked beyond what appeared to be a successful round of local drug busts, sifting through arrest records and court filings.
Later they reviewed lab tests, and demonstrated how many of the drug arrests for possession of cocaine and amphetamines involved fake drugs and residents who could not afford quality legal help. The News 8 Investigates team unmasked violations of civil liberties by informants and possible abuses among members of the Dallas police department.
They pushed past denials by the police department and the district attorney, and reported on developments that eventually resulted in the suspension of two local officers, significant changes in police procedures and the dismissal of drug cases against 50 defendants.
ABC News' Barbara Walters is scheduled to host the awards ceremony to be held on May 19, 2003, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. For the first time in the award's history, the ceremony will get a national berth on cable's A&E Network, scheduled to air in June 2003.
Administered by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, the Peabody Awards differ from other electronic media awards because they are given solely on the basis of merit, rather than within designated categories. A 15-member board including television critics, broadcast and cable industry executives, scholars and experts in culture and fine arts does the judging. For more information about the Peabody Awards, visit www.peabody.uga.edu
WFAA-TV is a subsidiary of Belo Corp., one of the nation's largest media companies with a diversified group of market-leading television, newspaper, cable and interactive media assets. A Fortune 1000 company with approximately 7,800 employees and $1.4 billion in annual revenues, Belo operates news and information franchises in some of America's most dynamic markets and regions, including Texas, the Northwest, the Southwest, Rhode Island, and the Mid-Atlantic region. Belo owns 19 television stations (six in the top 16 markets) reaching 13.7 percent of U.S. television households; owns or operates six cable news channels; and manages one television station through a local marketing agreement. Belo publishes four daily newspapers: The Dallas Morning News, The Providence Journal, The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA) and the Denton Record-Chronicle (Denton, TX). Belo Interactive's new media businesses include 34 Web sites, several interactive alliances, and a broad range of Internet-based products. For more information, contact David F. Muscari, vice president/strategic alliances, at (214) 977-6490. Additional information, including earnings releases, is available online at www.belo.com.