WVPB Earns 5 Regional Murrow Awards

Edward R. Murrow Awards 2021 logo

West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s news and production teams have earned an unprecedented five Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for demonstrating the spirit of excellence that famed journalist Murrow set as a standard for the profession of electronic journalism.

Trey Kay, host of Us & Them, won in the Excellence in Innovation and News Documentary categories. Dave Mistich, senior reporter, and Brittany Patterson, former environmental reporter, won in the Investigative Reporting category. Roxy Todd, producer of Inside Appalachia, won in the Feature Reporting category. Todd also won the Excellence in Video category with support from reporter Liz McCormick and video production expertise from Janet Kunicki, John Hale and Daniel Walker. Their stories now advance to the national competition, whose winners will be announced this summer.

Chuck Roberts, executive director of WVPB, says he’s not surprised WVPB brought in a record number of regional awards this year. “WVPB’s team is curious about everything around them not just trending topics,” Roberts said. “Our people have a wonderful ability to look at a trending topic like the local economy and wonder ‘How are the apple farmers faring around here?’ or think ‘How are these grandparents handling raising their grandchildren because of the opioid crisis?’ or question a coal baron filing for Black Lung benefits he fought against for his miners. I’m incredibly proud of this superbly talented team.”

Andrea Billups, news director of WVPB, says this group of reporters makes her proud. “The fact that our team won across multiple categories is a testament to the strength and depth of our reporting and news presentation. Now more than ever, strong journalism matters and we are honored to receive these awards. We appreciate the support we receive from our state and our region to offer impactful coverage,” Billups said.

WVPB competes in the Small Market Radio Division, Region 8, which includes West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. The Radio Television Digital News Association has been honoring outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Awards since 1971.

“Local journalists across the country guided Americans through a pandemic, ongoing racial reckoning and a fraught election cycle, despite facing unprecedented operational challenges and an astonishing number of physical attacks during 2020,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA executive director and chief operating officer. “The persistence of the regional Murrow Award winners we recognize today is a testament to these journalists’ commitment to their First Amendment duty.”

WVPB’s five Regional Murrow winners include:

Investigative Reporting, Coal Baron Who Fought Against Black Lung Benefits for Miners Seeks Them for Himself, by Dave Mistich, senior reporter, and Brittany Patterson, former environmental reporter, as a part of the Ohio Valley Resource regional reporting initiative focusing economy, energy, environment, infrastructure, health and agriculture in the Ohio Valley of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. When Robert E. Murray, the former CEO and president of the now-bankrupt Murray Energy, filed an application with the U.S. Department of Labor for black lung benefits, it was not lost on our reporters that for years Murray and his company fought against federal mine safety regulations aimed at reducing the debilitating disease.

Excellence in Innovation, Breaking Bread, Talking Politics, By Trey Kay, host of Us & Them, with assistance from Marisa Helms. In this episode, we host a virtual dinner party that shows political differences don’t have to be painful or polarizing.

News Documentary, Grandfamilies of the Opioid Crisis, by Trey Kay, host of Us & Them, with assistance from Samantha Gattsek. In this episode, we explore how chemical addictions and the opioid crisis have divided millions of U.S. families. Addicted parents can abandon responsibilities for their children, and when a grandparent steps in, it creates a new kind of family structure some call a grandfamily, a generational divide.

Excellence in Video, Despite Increasing Demand, Some W.Va. Apple Farmers Struggle, by Roxy Todd, producer of Inside Appalachia, with reporting assistance from reporter Liz McCormick and video production expertise from Janet Kunicki, John Hale and Daniel Walker. Inside Appalachia looks at the apple industry in West Virginia as the cider industry experiences a surge. Some people think it’s an economic development opportunity the state is overlooking.

Feature Reporting, Did West Virginia Inspire “Country Roads?” 50 Years Later, Here’s What We Know, by Roxy Todd, producer of Inside Appalachia. This episode explores the birth of our state’s most beloved song. One night in 1970, Bill Danoff and his then-girlfriend Taffy Nivert were hanging out with John Denver, and they played a few verses from a song they’d been working on. Denver immediately said he wanted to record it. That was the beginning of “Country Roads.”