SEATTLE KING 5 TV has won a 2011 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award forits Waste on the Water seriesby the KING 5 Investigators,which exposed millions of tax dollars wasted in the Washington state ferry system.
The duPont Awards, administered since 1968 by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, are considered the most prestigious broadcast journalism awards and the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes.
Investigative reporter Susannah Frame, photojournalists Steve Douglas and Doug Burgess and Executive Producer Kellie Cheadle uncovered tens of millions of dollars in systemic wasteful spending and a lack of accountability in the government agency when the state faced a multi-billion dollar shortfall.
The series led to several significant changes in the Washington State Ferry System:
*Ten days after a story on special projects and travel time aired, the state announced an end to the 30-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 Governor Christine Gregoire, promised a variety of reforms and reviews:
*The hiring of deputy director to hold managers more accountable
*Developing a quarterly red flag report that tracks questionable overtime and why
*Assembling an expert panel to review operations and make recommendations
*Ordering an agency-wide audit by the Washington State Auditor s Office
The ferries are icons of life in Western Washington, so uncovering such flagrant abuses got attention, said Mark Ginther, KING 5 TV Executive News Director. 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.
The KING 5 Investigators team is one of the largest investigative units at a television station in the country. This is the fourth duPont-Columbia award given to KING 5 in the past 25 years.
A special year-end show will feature highlights from the KING 5 Investigators work from throughout 2010. It will air Dec. 30 at 10:00 p.m. on KING 5.