WITF honored with multiple Regional Murrow Awards

Written by Tim Lambert, WITF Multimedia News Director | Apr 19, 2016 1:00 PM

For the 10th year in a row, WITF's multimedia news department has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) for excellence in broadcast and online journalism.

RTDNA announced today that WITF is the recipient of six Regional Murrows in the Investigative, Series, Feature and Hard News Feature categories. The awards acknowledge work of the highest quality produced by radio, television and online news organizations around the world. RTDNA groups WITF in a region that includes Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

"We are delighted to honor the great work being done by local newsrooms," said RTDNA Chair Kathy Walker. "Whether the winning entries come from a large team of journalists in a big city, or from a single, dedicated reporter in a small town, each demonstrates the value of exceptional journalism."

"Our winners shed light on important issues and solve problems in their communities," added RTDNA Executive Director Mike Cavender. "We're proud to recognize their achievements."

It's the sixth year in a row the public media organization netted at least a half dozen regional honors from RTDNA.

"Edward R Murrow awards, both regional and national, are especially esteemed at WITF for the vigor of the competition and the values they represent," said Kathleen Pavelko, President and CEO. "We are honored by these awards and also by the variety of work recognized -- from best feature and hard news feature to investigative report and series." 

"The news team at WITF consists of talented, hard-working and creative individuals who deserve this recognition," said Cara Williams Fry, WITF's Senior Vice President and Chief Content Officer.  "The stories are as diverse as the individual reporters, but together they're part of a team which is led by WITF's Multimedia News Director Tim Lambert. This team works hard every day to consistently create important reports that impact the people of Central Pennsylvania."

WITF competed against all radio stations in markets 51 and smaller in the three-state region. The six awards were the most in the region among radio and broadcast outlets in the small market categories and tied with WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh for most in Pennsylvania.

"As an organization, we decided to dedicate time and resources to covering the heroin epidemic as well as the state budget impasse. So, it's a tremendous honor to see our work receive such recognition from our peers across the country," said WITF's Multimedia News Director Tim Lambert. "I can't say enough about the dedication of our journalists to serve our listeners each and every day. We take our responsibilities to provide a strong public service to the region very seriously, even more so in a time such media disruption."


Photo by Stacy Emminger

WITF's Ben Allen, who spent much of the past year chronicling the impact of the heroin epidemic in central Pennsylvania, was honored with his first-ever Murrows. His story on how no standard exists in Pennsylvania to accurately track heroin overdose deaths was recognized in the Investigative category. Allen also received an award in the Hard News Feature category for his profile of the family of Anthony Perez, who died of a heroin overdose at age 23.

"I'm truly honored to win these awards," said Allen. "I've been very passionate about the opioid crisis, and I hope this sheds more light on the struggle so many face. I'm especially thankful for the families, including Anthony Perez's, who have allowed me to tell their stories, despite the stigma that surrounds this disease."

It was WITF's third straight Regional Murrow in the Investigative category.


Photo by Mary Wilson/WITF

 State Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Wilson was honored with two Regional Murrows, giving her three during her time at WITF.

Her unique take on how the legislature's inaction on some issues spurred individuals to make their voices heard, "Active Citizenship at the Capitol," was honored in the Series category. Wilson profiled four people who refused to take "no" for an answer from their elected officials.

"Most days as a reporter, the work is its own reward. But it's always nice to have that little bit of recognition to let you know that, yes, you're on the right track, and what you're doing does resonate," said Wilson.

Wilson also was honored in the Writing category for the second time in her career. The entry highlighted three examples of Mary's fine work -- a profile of an Adams County nonprofit dealing with the budget impasse, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane's fight for her political life and the state police's struggle to diversify its ranks.


Photo by Joe Ulrich/WITF

In a year when much of the news centered on the state budget impasse, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane's legal woes and other serious topics, WITF's Arts and Culture reporter Joe Ulrich found a little levity. Ulrich traveled to Dushore, Pennsylvania, to see the community's outhouse races first-hand and ended up producing a truly memorable multimedia story. It was honored in both the Feature and Best Use of Sound categories and marked the fourth straight year he has been honored with a Regional Murrow. He now has five in his career, including three straight in the Best Use of Sound category.

"What I enjoyed most about doing the Outhouse Race story was giving an in-depth and exhaustive treatment to an apparently inane event," said Ulrich. "But there was substance to it as well. It's about how people reinforce their bond as a community in some really quirky ways."

Since 2006, WITF has received 49 RTDNA Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards -- the most of any media organization in Pennsylvania. In the last six years, WITF has garnered 37 Regional Murrows -- a number that is among the top stations in the country in Markets 51 and smaller. Additionally, it's been awarded 10 National RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Awards since 2007.

Regional winners automatically advance to the national Edward R. Murrow Awards competition, which will be judged in May. National awards, including those for network news organizations, will be presented at the RTDNA Edward R. Murrow Awards Gala in October.

This year, RTDNA awarded 654 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards in 14 categories, including Overall Excellence, Breaking News, Investigative Reporting, and Website.

RTDNA received more than 4,300 entries during the 2016 awards season, setting an all-time record for the fourth year in a row.

In the large market television category, KING-TV in Seattle led the way with nine Murrows this year.  Among other categories, they took home awards in Overall Excellence, Feature Reporting and Investigative Reporting.

WISC-TV in Madison, Wisconsin took home eight Murrows, the most in the small market television category. This included wins in the Overall Excellence, Investigative Reporting and Newscast categories.

KUT-FM in Austin, Texas was tops in large market radio, winning seven regional Murrow Awards, including News Series, Writing and Overall Excellence.

In the small market radio category, Marfa Public Radio in Marfa, Texas took home eight Murrows, including Overall Excellence, News Series and News Documentary.

Among non-broadcast affiliated winners, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting received six awards.

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