In Depth

ABC Leads Way at Murrows

Network’s Divisions Show Their Range in Winning Coverage

ABC News has a lot to celebrate when it comes to the 2008 Edward R. Murrow Awards. The organization will take home six of the 12 broadcast honors being handed out in the national television network and syndication categories, including the top award for overall excellence.

ABC also will take home the prizes for hard news feature, investigative reporting, news documentary, spot news coverage and videography.

“We’re deeply honored,” said David Westin, president of ABC News. “We do the work because we believe in it and hope it matters to the audience, and it is gratifying to have our colleagues recognize us. If you look at specific things, you will see both the depth and the intelligence of the reporting. It’s a very wide range of reporting from different reporters, around the world and country, on a wide variety of topics.”

With the eligibility period encompassing the 2007 calendar year, the news landscape was dominated by the war in Iraq, the Virginia Tech shootings and the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

ABC won for spot news coverage for its reporting on the Minnesota rush-hour disaster by Dan Harris and Chris Cuomo live on “Good Morning America.” In addition to interviewing survivors and eyewitnesses, they reported on possible causes of the tragedy, which killed 13 people and injured more than 100 on Aug. 1, 2007.

“The biggest challenge for any news organization is not only covering the news but going beyond the news, and bringing things that are distinctive and valuable for the audience,” Mr. Weston said. “It’s especially important to bring something unique to a story that everyone else is also covering.”

Mr. Harris is also the recipient of the Murrow Award for hard news feature reporting for “Child of War,” his follow-up story on an Iraqi teenager coming to America to begin college in Maine, which aired on “World News With Charles Gibson.”

The young man, Dan Azad, had been a student in Baghdad when gunfire erupted outside his school, killing his best friend. He was desperate to leave his violence-plagued environment, and in the initial December 2006 story, he told ABC News that his fondest wish was to study in the United States. Offers of help came pouring in, and Mr. Azad was able to enroll at Maine’s Thomas College. The award-winning piece begins when Mr. Harris meets the student upon arrival at New York’s Kennedy International Airport.

“He idolized Americans and America, and carried pictures of New York City in his wallet,” Mr. Harris said. “It was amazing to watch him soak it all in, and to see the things he was impressed by, like Times Square, which he loved. At first he was taken aback by people kissing on the street, but he is now very American; he wears baggy ripped jeans, his voice is deeper and he wears a hat off to the side. In Baghdad, he came to our office in a tuxedo jacket.”

After ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff was severely injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq, he used his traumatic life-threatening experience and painstaking recovery as a springboard to report on the ordeals of wounded war veterans in a series of reports and an hourlong documentary, “To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports,” which is the recipient of a Murrow Award.

“Before this happened, I had never heard of traumatic brain injury, and neither had most of the country,” said Mr. Woodruff. “When we made the documentary, we decided it would include what happened to us, but most importantly would really concentrate on the soldiers and tell how they are doing, which is really more important.”

“I was deeply proud that he wanted to tell the story, but he insisted it not be simply about him but about other solders with similar brain injuries,” Mr. Weston added. “He used his own experience to tell the story.”

ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross will take home the Murrow Award for “Prescription for Disaster,” a look into how major pharmacy chains allegedly cut corners in order to increase profits. In the process, pharmacies sometimes give people the wrong medications or dosages, which can result in severe medical problems or even death.

“We found in many states, people with virtually no training are putting pills in bottles, and while a pharmacist is there, they are put under strict quotas to be efficient,” said Mr. Ross. “Even more telling was that a big chain like Walgreen’s doesn’t keep track, so it’s hard to fix the problem if you don’t know the nature of it or have any documentation. We felt this impacted every single person in the country, and that it is important to know what’s going on behind the scenes.”

For “Key to the World: Kiribati,” ABC News photojournalist Mario Conti will receive the Murrow Award for videography in a report by Bob Weir on the remote Pacific Island nation of 100,000 residents that is being eroded by ocean waters and storm surges.