Denver, CO - The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards jury at the Columbia School for Journalism announced today that 9NEWS is a recipient of the prestigious Silver Baton Award for excellence in broadcast journalism. The award is the first in the storied history of 9NEWS and the first won by any station owned by the Gannett Broadcasting Group since 1989.
The duPont silver baton will be awarded January 20, 2011, at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York. 9NEWS President and General Manager Mark Cornetta said, "Our news organization has a tremendous culture that starts with curiosity and ends with great storytelling. The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award is the most prestigious award for broadcast journalism and we are honored to receive this very special recognition. To have others recognize the quality of your work and to see the difference you are making with your storytelling is truly an honor. I am very proud of our staff as this award speaks to all that they do and all that they have accomplished as journalists."
"This work by KUSA is a terrific example of how investigative journalism makes a difference in the communities we serve. We are pleased that others also recognize the outstanding work delivered by our talented team of journalists in Denver," said Dave Lougee, president of Gannett Broadcasting.
The 9NEWS investigative unit, 9Wants to Know, won the award for a series of reports by investigative reporter, Jace Larson, about a man calling himself Greg Castle. 9Wants to Know found dozens of people who say "Castle" tricked them into voluntarily giving up their homes prior to foreclosure. Dozens more say they rented those homes, sending their monthly checks to Castle. 9Wants to Know proved Castle had no legitimate legal claim on those homes and was illegally collecting rent money.
9Wants to Know's investigation started after it received news tips from both a homeowner who gave up her home and, coincidentally, the subsequent renter of that same property. As the story developed, Larson connected Castle to a similar scheme years before in Utah perpetrated by a man named Gordon Miller. 9Wants to Know learned when Miller was charged in 2005, the first name of one of the attorneys involved in the case was "Greg" and the last name of a prosecutor was "Castle." 9Wants to Know's investigation proved Gordon Miller was Greg Castle, a fact then unknown to federal investigators.
Through a series of interviews in Utah and extensive searches of computer records, Larson tracked Miller to his hideout in Malaysia where Miller operated his scam. After the first report, "Who is Greg Castle?" aired on 9NEWS revealing Miller's location, U.S. Marshals subsequently traveled to Malaysia and took him into custody. As a direct result of the 9Wants to Know investigation, Miller pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Scores of both homeowners and renters, from Nevada to Florida, including Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas, suffered at the hands of Gordon Miller.
9NEWS Vice-President and News Director Patti Dennis said "Great journalism starts with a tip, hunch or a burning question. Great journalists take those tips or questions and relentlessly dig to get to the bottom of a problem or situation important to the public. Our team does this dozens of times each year. The Castle story continues to be important as so many Americans face the painful reality of foreclosure. I am proud we could step in and stop some of the foreclosure fraud."
In announcing the honor, the duPont jury called the report by 9Wants to Know "a relentless six-month investigation that revealed one noxious scam."
About 9Wants to Know
9Wants to Know is the investigative arm of 9NEWS. A 16 year veteran of Gannett who started at 9NEWS in 2000, Executive Producer and six-time Emmy winner, Nicole Vap, leads the unit. Emmy award winner Jace Larson began his career at 9NEWS in October 2007. Anna Hewson came to KUSA in 2004 and is 9Wants to Know's two-time Emmy award winning producer and photojournalist. 9Wants to Know is also the home of multiple Emmy award winning investigative reporters, Deborah Sherman and Kyle Clark.
About the duPont-Columbia Awards: Excellence in Broadcast Journalism
For over 40 years, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards have recognized excellence in broadcast journalism at Columbia University. Created by Jessie Ball duPont in 1942 as a tribute to the journalistic integrity and public-mindedness of her husband, Alfred I. duPont, these awards are regarded today as the most prestigious prizes in broadcast news, the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes, which are also administered at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
The duPont-Columbia Awards bring the best in broadcast journalism to professional and public attention and honor those who produce it. The duPont Awards engender a collective spirit for the industry and inform the public of the contributions news organizations make to their communities and to the nation as a whole.
Winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards receive gold or silver batons designed by the late American architect Louis I. Kahn. The batons are inscribed with the famous observation about the power of television by the late Edward R. Murrow:
"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box." (Address to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Chicago, October 15, 1958.)
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