On the heels of a bruising election season, local broadcasters representing Hearst, Scripps, Tegna and Nexstar have been recognized for their political coverage as winners of the 2017 Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in Television.
The awards are given every other year by the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The 2017 winners include:
BROOKS JACKSON PRIZE FOR FACT-CHECKING POLITICAL MESSAGES
- KUSA Denver, Tegna’s NBC affiliate, wins the local fact-checking award for the third consecutive time. The station was noted for research, writing and presentation that serve as a model for how to help viewers cut through the political spin. Political reporter Brandon Rittiman's reports are "clear, concise, well-documented and well-delivered," the jury said.
- The E.W. Scripps Company wins the national fact-checking award. The jury broke from past practice to recognize the work of a news organization that leveraged its local stations to have a national impact. Working with the national fact-checking website PolitiFact, Scripps "provides a template for doing fact-checking consistently well" across many TV affiliates, the jury said.
ACHIEVEMENT BY A LOCAL STATION
- KXAN Austin, Texas, Nexstar’s NBC affiliate, wins its second Cronkite Award for its "deeply resourced, deeply reported" coverage of the expensive and questionably successful effort by lawmakers and law enforcement to stop drug smugglers from entering the state from Mexico. Judges praised the station for holding elected officials accountable and featuring people directly impacted by federal and state policies.
- WXIA, Atlanta, an NBC affiliate owned by Tegna, wins for its five-part investigation of a military policy stripping benefits and veteran status from service members suffering from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury and other mental health conditions, even after serving in war zones. Judges said the station team's "phenomenal storytelling" is a case study for taking a deep look at one issue, understanding its impact on people and prompting legislative action.
INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT BY A LOCAL JOURNALIST
- Brandon Rittiman, political reporter for KUSA Denver, wins his second Cronkite award reflects his steady efforts to "give voice to and be an advocate for real people," which is at the core of "what investigative and political journalism is all about,” the jury said. They praised his reporting on local judicial elections, an issue not usually covered on local broadcast news, which "set the bar extremely high" for political coverage.
- Sabrina Ahmed, reporter for Nexstar’s WOI West Des Moines, Iowa, wins for her "extremely compelling" reporting on medical cannabis, "combining emotion with policy and medicine." By telling one woman's story so powerfully, the "incredible, character-driven coverage" of a hotly contested political issue provides a look at how lives could be changed by changes in policies.
- Hearst Television, with 32 stations, garners its ninth consecutive Cronkite award. It is joined by The E.W. Scripps Company, with 33 stations, which wins its first Cronkite award in this category. Judges were impressed by both groups' "top-down commitment" to political coverage across all their stations. They praised both organizations' "strong, clear, vocal leadership," which translated into quality political coverage across the country.
SPECIAL COMMENDATION FOR LOCAL INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
- Marshall Zelinger and KMGH Denver the Scripps-owned ABC affiliate, are recognized for breaking the story of a signature forgery scandal that rocked a U.S. Senate race. His dogged research tracking down voters whose signatures were forged, as well as finding the forgery suspect, triggered an official investigation and eventual policy change. Zelinger, now at KUSA, showed "the impact that journalism can have on politics."
SPECIAL COMMENDATION FOR VOTER EDUCATION
- KCETLink Los Angeles an independent public television station, receives a special commendation for its online and on-air initiative, "Props in a Minute." Led by KCETLink news anchor Val Zavala, the project created 60-second video explainers of 17 propositions on California's ballot, ranging from school bonds to criminal sentencing to prescription drug prices. Judges said it demonstrated "the public service a public station can provide."
You can see the full list of winners here.