December 3, 2004

WCNC-TV wins prestigious 2005 duPont for investigative story

Charlotte, NC -- The Investigators, WCNC-TV's 6 News investigative unit, continues to be recognized for excellence. The team has been awarded the 2005 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for broadcast journalism.

Of the 588 entries for this year, WCNC/6 News was one of only two local television news operations nationionwide to win. The other 12 duPont Awards went to venerable national news operations such as NBC and ABC news and Public Television's "Frontline" series. WFAA-TV in Dallas was the other local television station to win a duPont Award. WCNC and WFAA are owned by Belo Corp., one of the nation's largest media companies.

The investigative effort started with a cry for help from a single mom on Medicaid. At her son's first dental visit, dentists separated the 4-year-old boy from his mother, strapped him down for hours, restrained him and drilled 16 of his baby teeth at once as his mother paced the waiting room, demanding to see him.

From that one report, WCNC 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 shows how one group of dentists cash in on kids few other dentists will treat and bill taxpayers for tens of millions of dollars. The reports track money from coast to coast and expose how children could be subjected to unnecessary pain with too little anesthetic.

In the first year and a half of its existence, The Investigators team has been honored by most of the major awards recognizing journalistic excellence. Those awards include: The George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence, the Scripps-Howard Foundation National Journalism Award, The North Carolina Associated Press Award for Excellence, the Electronic News Association of the Carolinas Award for Excellence and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Mid-South Region EMMY. This team is the only one of its kind in Charlotte.

Despite being sued by the dentists, WCNC continued its exposure of 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; Rick Yarborough, investigative producer; Stephanie Johnson, photojournalist; Mary Alvarez, formerly special projects manager, now assistant news director; and Keith Connors, news director.

Stuart Powell, WCNC's vice president and general manager, lauded the investigative team for its recent awards, saying, "Every day the entire news team at WCNC/6 News works to serve viewers in Charlotte and the surrounding counties. When a report engages the community and brings about positive change and perhaps rights serious wrong, local television news is working at its best. 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 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 7,600 employees and $1.4 billion in annual revenues, Belo operates media franchises in some of America's most dynamic markets and regions, including Texas, the Northwest, the Southwest, Rhode Island, and the Mid-Atlantic. Belo owns 19 television stations (six in the top 15 markets); owns or operates seven cable news channels; and manages one television station through a local marketing agreement. Belo's daily newspapers are The Dallas Morning News, The Providence Journal, The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA) and the Denton Record-Chronicle (Denton, TX). Belo operates more than 30 Web sites, several interactive alliances and a broad range of Internet-based products. Additional information, including earnings releases and corporate communications, is available online at For more information contact John Rice, Director of Creative Services WCNC-TV at 704-329-3684 or email