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KING-TV Hits Hard in Investigations

Oct 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

By Debra Kaufman

Special to TelevisionWeek

The Murrow Award for overall excellence in news for a large-market station went to KING-TV in Seattle, and the win for best newscast to WBZ-TV in Boston. KING Executive News Director Pat Costello said that the station did well throughout 2005 with its investigative reporting. One report that got attention was “Trouble on the Tarmac,” a hard-hitting series about major problems at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. KING-TV reporters discovered that gang members had been hired as baggage handlers, as well as numerous other troubling security breaches.

The station earlier this year won a regional Murrow Award, which Mr. Costello credited to “a great staff of veteran journalists who take journalism seriously.” But he also pointed out that the station’s market is an environment that encourages everyone at the station to aim high.

“Seattle is a very intelligent market and appreciates the quality of the work we do,” said Mr. Costello, who noted that KING also wins in the ratings. “We play up to their intelligence and we have to strive to reach their standards.” Mr. Costello also credited Belo, its ownership group. “Our company supports quality journalism, and that makes our job all the better,” he said.

WBZ-TV in Boston won the Murrow for best newscast, for coverage of an unexpected and devastating flash flood in the tiny town of Alstead, N.H. Alstead is located in south-central New Hampshire, three or four hours outside of Boston. The flood was not predicted by any meteorologist, and when News Director Jennifer Street held the station’s early-morning meeting, a decision had to be made. “We didn’t know this one was coming,” she said. “We looked at each other and said, `What do we do?’ Then we made the commitment to send resources up there.”

It was a big risk, since Ms. Street was sending a significant number of photojournalists, reporters and technicians, as well as several live trucks, during a time of heavy rain, to an area that had been hard-hit by flash floods. Indeed, once the team arrived in Alstead, the streets were flooded and there was no cellphone service. “They slogged around in the water, and got to houses wiped out with people, holding onto their possessions,” Ms. Street said. “They were all trying to get the human interest stories and also to show the scope, while they were also facing weather obstacles.”

Ms. Street lauded all the journalists involved in covering the story, and noted the importance of the videographers. “I give total credit to the photojournalists who were up there,” she said. “The reporters were getting the sounds and the interviews, but the video was really telling the story.”

“If you compare everything to Katrina, this was no big deal,” she said. “But on this particular day, we were really able to rally around the story.”