Finding Stories All Around You

Look at these stories that won 2012 Alfred duPont Awards, considered my many, myself included, to be the most prestigious journalism awards in broadcasting. (disclosure, I am a juror for the awards.)

These two winners have something in common.  The journalists found the stories by talking to colleagues.  That is often how journalism unfolds, one tip leads to another and a story emerges.  The lesson here is clear, listen to everyone.

WSB Atlanta exposed the scam of people making false claims on property by claiming “soverignty.” Cops didn’t understand the claim and were taking forever to get to the bottom of it. Reporter Jodie Fleischer  spent a month following a paper trail of deeds and records to reveal how a group of so-called “sovereign citizens” were acting in concert to file fraudulent paperwork and take ownership of homes that were in foreclosure. The reporter and the station stayed on top of the story as it spread throughout Georgia.  The investigation relied on volumes of paperwork, affidavits and promissory notes, and it led to more than a dozen arrests.

The New York City Triangle fire was one of America’s great tragic events. 100 years later, an HBO documentary producer heard an associate say a relative may have been a victim in the fire. Listen to how the story unfolded.

Original Story: “Triangle: Remembering the Fire” website

Video | Behind the Story: Triangle : A Cautionary Remembrance of the “Gilded Age”

WTVF Nashville won a duPont after police officers tipped him off that other cops were shaking down drivers on the interstate. How often does that happen, cops telling on other cops? The case focused on seizure laws that reward police departments for stopping people even if there is no real reason to do so.

Pay attention to how the station used its helicopter to tell the story. It is the second time Williams and WTVF effectively used a helicopter in an big investigative story. The other involved the WTVF crew following judges who were out running errands rather than sitting on the bench and hearing cases.

I also recommend you take some time to look at this story from WFAA’s Byron Harris, one of local broadcasting’s most celebrated investigative journalists.

WFAA-TV, Dallas & Byron Harris
“Bitter Lessons”

An outstanding investigative series that uncovered fraudulent practices at unregulated for-profit trade schools in Texas

This nine-part investigative series uncovered a lack of state oversight and rampant fraud in student recruitment, job placement and recordkeeping at local for-profit career schools. Reporter Byron Harris and producer Mark Smith methodically showed how schools falsify job placement and employment records to remain tapped into the lucrative federal student loan system. The reporters also detailed how unscrupulous school recruiters gained access to parolees, probation departments and homeless shelters. Students were left with worthless degrees, few job prospects and debt. WFAA-TV obtained placement and employment records that ultimately prompted a federal probe and initiated tighter state regulations.

Byron Harris, reporter; Mark Smith, producer; Billy Bryant, editor, photographer;
Michael Valentine, executive news directorOriginal Story: “Bitter Lessons”

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