Indianapolis has long been dismissed by its Midwestern neighbors as “India-no-place.” But last week, the No. 25 Nielsen market was hard to overlook when two of its stations won prestigious Peabody Awards for their hard-hitting news stories: WTHR, for a pair of reports on tornado-warning sirens and drug stores’ disposal of client information, and WISH, for a report on inadequate padding in U.S. Marine combat helmets.
Folks at the University of Georgia, which has administered the award for 66 years, can’t find another instance when a TV market as small as Indy scored a twofer in the same year. (New York did it in 1977, Boston in 1986, and Chicago in 1966 and 1979.)
“My news director, Jim Tellus, calls and says, ‘You won’t believe this! We just won a Peabody Award.’” recounts WTHR General Manager Rich Pegram. “And then he says, ‘WISH won one. too.’ I said, ‘Get out!’” Jacques Natz, who was news director at WTHR when its winning reports aired, calls Indianapolis “a hotbed of investigative reporting,” thanks to the competition between LIN Broadcasting’s WISH and Dispatch Broadcasting’s WTHR. Adds WISH News Director Kevin Finch, “It’s a rich heritage that goes back decades.” Natz, who now directs Hearst-Argyle’s digital content division, says he had set out to find the “best investigative reporter in America.” He may have found it in Bob Segall, who not only reported WTHR’s winning stories but also earned a Peabody in 2005 for WITI Milwaukee.And WISH reporter/anchor Karen Hensel is a repeat Peabody winner, too.