NBC 4 New York/WNBC was honored Tuesday with the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for its continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its extreme impact on the tri-state.
Considered the broadcast equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize, NBC New York earned the duPont Award for its coverage entitled "The Epicenter of the Coronavirus Pandemic." The extensive, six-month collection of breaking news, feature and memorial stories captured the rapid evolution of COVID-19 as it escalated from public health threat to a full-blown, generational health crisis in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
“Covering the evolution of the coronavirus outbreak was one of the toughest challenges our newsroom had ever faced. As our journalists came to work every day, they were personally coping with the effects of the virus on their families as well,” said Amy Morris, NBC 4 New York Vice President of News. “Every member of our news team played a critical role. Our mission was to inform our viewers and along the way were also able to find some moments to share incredible stories of hope. It’s a story that continues to touch all of us deeply, which makes this duPont incredibly special to all of us at WNBC.”
The months of continuing coverage detailed major decisions that impacted day-to-day lives, bringing an inside look at topics ranging from from school shutdowns, neighborhood lockdowns and restrictions on many small businesses, such as bars and restaurants. Investigative reporting brought to light the lack of PPE available for first responders and front-line workers, black-market attempts to profit amid the shortage and the burial delays faced by morgues and funeral homes. Community-focused features such as “Grateful 4 You” highlighted the unsung heroes in our communities, giving viewers hope during a difficult time.
The I-Team was the first to bring the rare, deadly condition in children called MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) into the public eye, prior to the attention of health regulators and subsequently leading to government action.
"Throughout the pandemic, WNBC viewers turned to local news in record numbers. Our news team was there throughout it all, delivering vital – and at times, life-saving information,” said Eric Lerner, President and General Manager. “This special recognition by Columbia University is fantastic. Our team earned it and deserves it.”
The awards committee specifically recognized the station for having “created a 360 view in real time of the coronavirus pandemic, with courageous and thorough reporting on the virus’s explosion in New York City.” David Ushery, a member of the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame who anchors the 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. nightly broadcasts, accepted the prestigious “Silver Baton” on behalf of the station in a virtual ceremony Tuesday evening.
"It is hard to believe COVID-19 rages on as we approach the one-year mark of our first recorded case in New York. We're honored to be recognized for our coverage of the pandemic, the Baton is humbly accepted on behalf of a talented group of journalists at WNBC-TV driven to provide life-saving information to the tri-state area in the face of an unprecedented heath crisis," Ushery said in accepting the award. "There will be an appropriate time and place to celebrate this achievement — for now, we thank our healthcare workers and first responders working tirelessly to save lives. We encourage those who are sick to fight with everything they've got to get better, and we honor those who have lost loved ones to this insidious virus."
WNBC was one of 15 winners recognized for excellence in reporting in the public interest. NBC News Digital was also awarded for its online documentary "A Different Kind of Force — Policing Mental Illness," which detailed the strained relationship between law enforcement and the mentally ill.
It is the first time WNBC has received the ultimate broadcast honor in its storied history, and the second honor awarded to the station in the past four months. In October, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) honored WNBC with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for top large market television newscast.