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WWL-TV wins four regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, including overall excellence

The Regional Murrow Awards honor members of the Eyewitness News Staff for overall excellence, multimedia, social media and news series
Credit: Edward R. Murrow Awards

WWL-TV has earned four regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, including the coveted prizes for overall excellence and multimedia news coverage, as well as top regional awards for social media and news series.

Winners of the regional Murrow Awards, which are among the most prestigious in broadcast and digital news, were announced Tuesday by the Radio Television Digital News Association.

The regional competition is open to news outlets in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.

WWL-TV’s overall excellence award recognizes a wide range of stories and news coverage over the past year, including investigative reporting, hard news, multi-part series reporting, breaking news, sports and breaking weather.

WWL-TV’s overall excellence entry included examples of innovative storytelling, such as anchor Charisse Gibson and photojournalist Adam Copus’ series, “Treme: Death of a Neighborhood, Survival of a Culture;” anchor Katie Moore and photojournalist Derek Waldrip’s investigative series “Mystery in Ashes,” about the questions surrounding the death of a St. Tammany fire chief’s wife; and Waldrip’s work with former reporter Caresse Jackman on the four-part series about New Orleans East called “The Forgotten East.”

The entry also included examples of Eyewitness News’ investigative reporting, including Mike Perlstein and T.J. Pipitone’s series “Global Wildlife Center: Paradise Lost,” a joint investigation with The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate focusing on allegations of animal abuse and mismanagement at the Global Wildlife Center in Folsom; and “Highway Robbery,” revealing how a series of staged accidents contribute to Louisiana’s high auto insurance rates.

Also featured was Pipitone’s work with investigative reporter David Hammer on a yearlong investigation into charter school bus safety, entitled “Taken for a Ride.” Hammer and Pipitone’s investigative series “The Stench of Failure,” detailing problems at a Jefferson Parish landfill, was also recognized for its innovative storytelling techniques. For example, an animated graphic in one of the stories used an innovative, high-tech approach to visualize the internal workings of a landfill, to help explain the landfill collection process and what might be causing a sickening stench that neighbors across parts of the viewing area have complained about.

In order to compete for the overall excellence award, stations are required to submit an entry in the newscast competition. WWL-TV’s entry was the 10 p.m. newscast on Super Bowl Sunday 2019, when the big local story was not the Super Bowl, but the events New Orleans Saints fans staged to boycott the game that their team was shut out of.

The regional Murrow Award for social media also recognized WWL-TV’s coverage of that infamous blown call that cost the Saints a near-certain berth in the Super Bowl. WWL-TV’s digital staff captured the emotions of that day online, with live reports from news and sports reporters at the game as well as photos and images that portrayed the moment. Engaging content that night and in the days that followed represented the feelings of the heartbroken and frustrated city. There was also video analysis by the Eyewitness Sports team to show just how certain a victory was taken away by the non-call.

WWLTV.com’s digital efforts were also highlighted with the regional Edward R. Murrow Award for multimedia (formerly known as the award for best website.) The winning entry included the digital team’s breaking coverage of the Saints’ “no call” game, as well as the Hard Rock construction collapse on a Saturday morning in Oct. 2019, which was first covered on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Other breaking news coverage included in the entry showcased WWL’s online response to a major flooding event in the city two days before Tropical Storm Barry came ashore.

In addition to these winning entries, Moore and Waldrip’s work was also recognized with the regional Murrow Award for news series. Their multi-part docuseries, “Shattered,” raised questions about the mysterious death of Seth Donaldson, a 22-year-old man who plunged to his death from a 12-story window in downtown New Orleans. While police and the coroner called his death a suicide, his family and friends doubted that assertion. The series was also honored with a Suncoast regional Emmy award last year.

RTDNA has been honoring outstanding achievement in electronic journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Awards since 1971. Since that time, WWL-TV has been honored with more than 35 Murrow Awards, both regional and national.

Winners of the regional awards, which are named for the legendary CBS newsman, will now automatically compete for national Murrow Awards, to be announced in June.

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