SEATTLE – KING 5 has won a 2011 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast journalism. The station was recognized for the KING 5 Investigator’s “Waste on the Water” series which exposed millions of tax dollars wasted in the Washington State Ferry system. This at the same time ferry riders faced steep price increases and reductions in service.
The duPont Awards, administered since 1968 by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, are considered to be the most prestigious broadcast journalism awards and the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes, which are also administered at the Journalism School.
Investigative reporter Susannah Frame, photojournalists Steve Douglas and Doug Burgess and Executive Producer Kellie Cheadle found tens of millions of dollars in systemic wasteful spending and a lack of accountability in the government agency at the same time the state faced a multi-billion dollar shortfall.
The series impact was fast and significant.
- Ten days after a story on special projects and travel time aired, the state announced an end to the thirty-year old practice.
- One ferry manager resigned his position and a second was forced to quit.
- The ferry director stopped paying wasteful housing expenses offered to some workers.
- An overtime policy was implemented – the first of its kind.
- The State Transportation Commission voted to freeze fare increases until reviews were complete.
State leaders including the governor promised a variety of reforms and reviews including:
- The hiring of deputy director who will hold managers more accountable.
- Developing a quarterly “red flag report” showing who’s making questionable overtime and why.
- Assembling an expert panel to review operations and make recommendations
- Ordering an agency-wide audit by the State Auditor’s Office.
“The ferries are icons of life in Western Washington so uncovering such flagrant abuses got attention,” said Mark Ginther, Executive News Director, KING 5. “We heard from hundreds of people-- ferry riders, taxpayers and ferry workers fed up with coworkers gaming the system—all thrilled to see our report bring problems to light and result in changes.”