March 12, 2004
WCNC-TV/6 news wins national journalism prize
Charlotte, NC -- The Investigators, WCNC-TV's 6 News investigative unit, recent reports on questionable dental practices has won the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Award in Journalistic Excellence in Electronic Media (large market TV).
The level of investment in people and resources to create an investigative team of this caliber is expected in cities like New York and Chicago. This team is the only one of its kind in Charlotte. The panel of judges had this to say about WCNCs winning entry, the Medicaid Dental Investigation:
"How could this happen? Children, as young as 4 or 5 years old, were strapped down for hours in a dentist's chair while dentists drilled the children's teeth for up to four hours at a time. The children screamed for their mommies, the procedures continued. The children even said they were threatened if they cried. The babies came out of the procedure with a mouth full of silver capped teeth. The system, it seemed, may have rewarded dentists for fast work involving as many teeth as possible in one sitting."
WCNC-TV's Stuart Watson was able to find many victims, not just one or two. He took X-rays and records to outside experts to see if the dental work was necessary. It was not.
"The citizens pay for this treatment through their tax dollars -- tens of millions of dollars," Watson said."There are so many reasons this story could have died. Many would have written it off as too difficult to document, too time consuming to chase down. Mix in the obstacles that medical privacy (and) juvenile identification present, and this story could have been doomed in most newsrooms. This project had a mountain to climb before it aired. On top of it all, one of the people mentioned in the stories filed a lawsuit. But the station reported the story anyway. We are all beneficiaries of their courageous decision. We can only hope that other children will be spared pain as a result of it all."
The award-winning team members are:
Stuart Watson, Investigative reporter. In addition tothisaward, Watson is a two-time winner of the coveted George Foster Peabody Award, a two-time winner of the IRE (Investigative Reporters & Editors) Award and winner of three Emmys for Investigative Reporting.
Rick Yarborough, Investigative Producer. Rick has wonthree Emmys in the Mid-South Region for his work on an hour-long special report on hurricane safety, "Don't Be A Victim" and a report on evacuation plans at a local nuclear plant. He has also been recognized by the Electronic News Association of the Carolinas and RTNDA of the Carolinas.
Stephanie Johnson, photojournalist for WCNC-TV's Special Projects team. Johnson was named North Carolina Photographer of the Year in 1999 by the RTNDA of the Carolinas. Her work has garnered three Emmys in the Mid-South for a poignant portrait of injured EMT Tim Hayes, "Don't Be A Victim" as well as her video editing.
"Every day the news team at WCNC/6 News works to serve the viewers in Charlotte and the surrounding counties. While this award recognizes a stellar effort by the investigative team and were certainly proud of Stuart, Rick and Stephanie," says News Director Keith Connors, "the passion for journalistic excellence is the foundation for all the news we report, every day at 6 News."
WCNC-TV is part of Belo Corp., one of the nations largest media companies with a diversified group of market-leading television, newspaper, cable and interactive media assets. A Fortune 1000 company with approximately 7,900 employees and $1.4 billion in annual revenues, Belo operates news and information franchises in some of Americas 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 15 markets) reaching 13.8 percent of U.S. television households; owns or operates 10 cable news channels; and manages one television station through a local marketing agreement. Belos daily newspapers include The Dallas Morning News, The Providence Journal, The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA) and the Denton Record-Chronicle (Denton, TX). Belo Interactive new media businesses include more than 30 Web sites, several interactive alliances and a broad range of Internet-based products. Additional information, including earnings releases, is available online at www.belo.com. For more information contact John Rice, Director of Creative Services WCNC-TV at 704-329-3684 or email jrice@WCNC.com.