Photos: 11 News Defenders win prestigious award

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by khou.com staff

khou.com

Posted on January 25, 2010 at 4:38 PM

HOUSTON -- KHOU-TV has won a 2010 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, regarded as one of the most coveted honors in broadcast journalism. The station was recognized for the 11 News Defenders' one-hour special “Under Fire: Discrimination and Corruption in the Texas National Guard.” 

Investigative reporter Mark Greenblatt, photojournalist Keith Tomshe and Executive Producer David Raziq were presented the award in New York City on Thursday, January 21.

“One of the most important jobs of a news organization is to inform the public by questioning the institutions that are supposed to serve them,” said Susan McEldoon, KHOU President and General Manager. “It is a commitment we don’t take lightly and we are grateful for the acknowledgment that comes with the duPont Columbia Silver Baton."

Under Fire” was the culmination of a two-year investigation by the 11 News Defenders.

During the course of their investigation, Greenblatt, Raziq and Tomshe unearthed a series of deep-rooted problems in the Texas National Guard that ultimately led to the firing of three top Generals.

The investigation found high-ranking female officers being pushed out of the National Guard through harassment, punishment and sabotage by an all-male leadership. It was then discovered that subsequent discrimination investigations were often mired at the highest levels. The unraveling continued when the Defenders exposed other forms of corruption, including embezzlement, double-billing and the funding of private businesses with National Guard resources.

“The corruption in the Texas National Guard went on for years, until the 11 News defenders finally brought it to light,” said Keith Connors, KHOU Executive News Director. “We’re honored and humbled by this award and accept it on behalf of the brave soldiers who came forward and put their reputations on the line to help us tell this story.”

This is the fourth duPont for the Defenders.

Since KHOU’s investigative unit launched in 1998, the Defenders have won every major national award for journalism, some of those multiple times.

The unit is a three-time winner of the National Edward R. Murrow Award and two-time winners of the Peabody, Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi, Scripps Howard and Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards. Other accolades include the George Polk, National Headliner, National Press Club and Charles E. Green Awards.

Most recently, the Defenders received the award for Outstanding Regional News Story – Investigative Reporting presented at the 30th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards Ceremony – the only station in Houston to ever be honored in that category.

Over the last decade, the team has not only reported the news, but has also made the news as a result of its investigations. First, it exposed problems with rollover crashes linked to Firestone Tires. Not only did that investigation cause a congressional investigation, but it eventually led to a world-wide recall and changes in tire and auto design.  As a result, the Defenders were featured in high-profile stories in the New York Times, the Washington Post, 60 Minutes and news outlets across the world.

The team was again recognized for revealing how bad science in the Houston Police Department DNA Lab was sending innocent people to prison. Besides freeing those who were wrongly convicted, the investigation ignited a national dialogue on the quality of forensic science by local and federal law enforcement. More recently the team has been singled out for exposing the questionable surveillance of Coretta Scott King by the FBI and causing the retirement of a powerful District Attorney after uncovering racist and sexist emails he sent to subordinates and colleagues.

Click here to view the duPont Columbia award-winning special, “Under Fire: Discrimination and Corruption in the Texas National Guard.”

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