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KYW Racks Up the Laurels

Oct 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

These are heady times in the Philadelphia newsroom of CBS owned-and-operated KYW-TV. Not only did the station’s “Eyewitness News” win the prestigious national Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence in a large market, it also walked away with two regional Murrow Awards, for feature reporting and feature hard news. Its region includes stations in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
That’s on top of recently winning 21 regional Emmy Awards and a Sigma Delta Chi Award.
In the nation’s fourth-largest market, the competition is tough and the audience is diverse, ranging from rural to cosmopolitan, from mountain communities to seaside towns. The wide coverage area includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
So what is it about KYW that is warranting all the recognition from its journalistic peers?
“We’ve made a real effort to bring in the most committed and most passionate people, who love reporting, writing and editing and who see it as their mission,” said Susan Schiller, the station’s vice president and news director, who has been running the newsroom for about six years. “It goes well beyond the job for many people. They are committed. Editors, camerapeople and writers bring different ideas. You try to harness all of that editorial strength and pull it together.”
Ms. Schiller, who grew up in Philadelphia and returned to her hometown after several senior producing positions at CBS News in New York, said the staff works to be “extremely aggressive” in covering news.
“I think Philly is a very competitive city, with a lot of breaking news,” she said. “It’s fairly straightforward. We are here to serve our viewers with a high degree of excellence, set the bar high—and we have to respond to breaking news and have people look at us as a source for information. There are other times when people are hungry for health, consumer and celebrity news, and we try to do our best to serve their needs.”
The station’s president and general manager, Michael Colleran, is also a Philadelphia native. He made his way back two and a half years ago, most recently from Miami, where he was president and general manager of Viacom’s South Florida stations—WFOR-TV and WBFS-TV in Miami and WTVX-TV in West Palm Beach.
“There is nothing that succeeds like hard work and teamwork,” Mr. Colleran said. “We work extraordinarily hard every day to give our viewers the best news product we can. That simply means we’ve made a commitment to each component—talent, writing, production, enterprise reporting and special reporting—to make it excel, and the end result is the Edward R. Murrow Award.”
Both station executives also stressed their involvement in the community—from being respectful and understanding of the Amish people in the wake of the rural Pennsylvania school shooting that left five girls dead a year ago to providing support for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a home-grown charity benefiting research for childhood cancer started by 4-year-old Alex Scott while she was being treated at the Children’s Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
After her death at the age of 8, KYW aired a documentary about Alex’s inspirational battle with cancer and her idea to host a lemonade stand in her front yard to raise money for cancer research, which inspired people in dozens of other cities to set up their own lemonade stands, raising millions of dollars. The station remains involved by providing on-air support for the fund-raising efforts.
KYW boasts an investigative reporting team fronted by reporters Jim Osman and Walt Hunter and a consumer unit headed by Jim Donovan, 3 on Your Side, that does regular segments solving consumer complaints. It also holds an annual toy test for the holidays, which is featured in a half-hour special exploring what’s hot and what’s hype and helping parents decide which children’s toys are most worthwhile.
The station recently moved into a new 100,000-square-foot high-definition facility in the Art Museum area with a sky deck balcony six stories high boasting a spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline. It’s primarily used for weather live shots in what Ms. Schiller called a “weather-crazy” market.
In addition to the overall excellence award, anchor Larry Mendte, photographer Andrea Korff and editor Mike Henry were honored with the Murrows’ regional feature reporting award for “The Legacy of the ‘Beanie Baby’ Soldier,” the story of Cpl. Stephen McGowan, who gave out the small stuffed animals to children in Iraq before he was killed in the line of duty. “His mother still works doing this,” said Ms. Schiller. “Even in death, he has a legacy that lives on. It is a story that was both heartbreaking and enormously heart-warming.”
Mr. Osman, photographer Dennis Richardson and Mr. Henry received the Murrow regional feature hard news award for “Price of Polygamy.” Mr. Osman, who had previous experience covering the subject, traveled to Colorado City, Ariz., and interviewed four women in polygamist marriages and, separately, two others who had fled the polygamist community. “It’s a fascinating subject and an opportunity for viewers to learn more. We aimed for fairness and balance by presenting detractors and current wives,” said Mr. Osman.
“We’re very open in this TV station, with an environment that provides for employees to do their very best work,” Mr. Colleran said. “People respond to that challenge and the opportunity. I think we have an environment of true openness that is fear-free. People can bring ideas and if they’re good, we’ll pursue them. We have a belief in the people we hire.”

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