April 15, 2004
WCNC-TV/6 News Awarded The Peabody
Charlotte, NC -- The Investigators', WCNC-TVs 6 News investigative unit's, recent reports on questionable dental practices entitled Medicaid Dental Investigation continue to be recognized for excellence. The team has been awarded The Peabody, the oldest honor in electronic journalism. Stuart Watson was the lead investigative reporter for the series of reports. This is the third Peabody Watson has won, the first for WCNC-TV. The Peabody Awards, established in 1940, are administered by The University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Today the Peabody recognizes distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals.
Most local news operations would never make the commitment to the resources necessary to operate an investigative team of this caliber. In the first year of its existence The Investigators have been honored by most of the major awards recognizing journalistic excellence. The level of investment in people and resources to create this team is expected in cities like New York and Chicago. This team is the only one of its kind in Charlotte.
The investigative effort all started with a cry for help from a single mom on Medicaid. At her son's first dental visit, dentists separated the four year old boy from his mother for hours, restrained him and drilled sixteen of his baby teeth at once as his mother paced the waiting room, demanding to see him.
From that one report, WCNC-TV spent six months talking to dozens of parents, poring over dental records, consulting experts and tracking tens of millions of dollars in Medicaid payments. WCNC-TV shows how one group of dentists cash in on kids few other dentists will treat and bill taxpayers for tens of millions of dollars, some of it for unnecessary work. The report tracks money from coast-to-coast and expose how children could be subjected to pain with too little anesthetic.
Despite being sued by the dentists WCNC-TV persisted to expose how the clinics paid monthly bonuses based on how much dentists billed Medicaid and how a the local clinics profited handsomely from poor kids' pain.
After the reports, a state senator, himself a dentist, called on the state dental board to investigate and the FBI requested copies of the reports and began interviewing parents.
The award winning team members are: Stuart Watson, Investigative reporter, in addition to his three Peabodys, he is a two-time winner of the IRE (Investigative Reporters & Editors) Award and winner of three Emmys for Investigative Reporting. Rick Yarborough, Investigative Producer at WCNC-TV. Rick has won 3 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. Stephanie was named NC 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. Mary Alvarez, Special Projects Manager. Mary Alvarez has worked in the television news industry for 22 years, starting her career as a producer in Tallahassee, Florida then moving on to Miami. She held the positions of producer, executive producer, special projects manager and assistant news director at WSVN.
Stuart Powell, Vice President and General Manager is proud of the Investigative team and their recent awards and has this comment on the news operation, Every day the entire news team at WCNC/6 News works to serve the viewers in Charlotte and the surrounding counties. Striving 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 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 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. Belo's daily newspapers include 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 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.