March 29, 2011

NewsChannel 36 I-Team Honored with Prestigious National Headliner Award for Liquor Control Board Investigation

Charlotte, North Carolina -The NewsChannel 36 I-Team led by investigative reporter Stuart Watson -- was honored with a first place National Headliner Award in the Investigative Reporting category for local television.

The award, presented by The Press Club of Atlantic City, New Jersey, recognized NewsChannel 36 for the half-hour special report: "Bamboozled: A Story of Liquor and Money." This special highlighted a series of reports over a ten-year period about the North Carolina-run local liquor control boards and, specifically, the pattern of waste and corruption at the Mecklenburg County Alcohol Beverage Control [ABC] board the largest local liquor monopoly in the nation with $100 million a year in sales.

In 2010, after years of what ABC board members called "negative media attention," lawmakers and state regulators stepped in. North Carolina's governor pushed through a new ABC law. ABC boards around the state adopted tougher ethics and conflict-of-interest policies. And the CEO and Chairman of the Mecklenburg County ABC Board resigned.

"In North Carolina, the liquor business is the government. And this government-run monopoly is demonstrably more effective and ethical today because of the investigative reporting of Stuart Watson and the I-Team," said Tim Morrissey, President and General Manager of WCNC.

A tip from an inside source allowed the I-Team to show up uninvited at an expensive steakhouse in Charlotte where local liquor regulators were being wined & dined by a sales rep from one of the world's biggest liquor companies. The cost of the dinner including tax and tip --- was $12,700.

The I-Team dug up documents of ABC cancelled checks showing millions of dollars in payments to this same liquor company and discovered that the local board pays $6 million more in overhead than a similar-sized board in Raleigh. Profits from these boards are supposed to flow to local governments, treatment centers, libraries and law enforcement. But, the I-Team found that a lot of the Mecklenburg County board's money goes for high-end liquor stores located in upscale shopping areas.

In 2010, Stuart Watson and the I-Team of NewsChannel 36 also won a first place National Headliner Award for reporting that compelled the local United Way board to fire its CEO and institute new procedures to promote transparency in the organization's operations.

The Press Club of Atlantic City established the National Headliner Awards program in 1934 to recognize journalistic merit in the communications industry. Over the years, outstanding writers, photographers, daily newspapers, magazines, graphic artists, radio and television stations and networks, and news syndicates have been honored with more than 2000 Headliner medallions.

WCNC is part of Belo Corp. (BLC), one of the nation's largest pure-play, publicly-traded television companies, that owns and operates 20 television stations (nine in the top 25 markets) and their associated Web sites. Belo stations, which include affiliations with ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW and MyNetwork TV, reach more than 14 percent of U.S. television households in 15 highly-attractive markets. Belo stations rank first or second in nearly all of their local markets. Additional information is available at www.belo.com or by contacting Luanne Stuart, Creative Services Director- WCNC-TV at 704-329-3684.