WASHINGTON, D.C. — Saturday night was a special one for Gray Television, a Graham Media Group property, and radio stations owned by Townsquare Media, Bonneville International, Alpha Media and a growing privately held operator in Missouri.
That’s because all are owners of broadcast stations honored during the National Association of Broadcasters Leadership Foundation’s 2020 Service to America Awards.
The event recognizes outstanding community service by local broadcasters, and the winners were announced during the Celebration of Service to America Awards program, which aired on various broadcast media stations on August 22.
Earning three awards is Gray Television.
The company took the award for “Service to Community Award for Television – Ownership Group” for its “Measure of Hate” campaign, which exposed significant flaws and omissions in the FBI’s annual hate crime report, ultimately leading the FBI to overhaul policy and ending the agency’s decades-long illegal practice. Through the investigation, Gray Television discovered that the FBI wasn’t accurately reporting its own hate crime cases and that national statistics were based on voluntary reports from local agencies.
Gray also took the “Service to Community Award for Television – Small Market” honor for a series produced by its WJHG-7 in Panama City, Fla., “Remembering the Forgotten.” It chronicled how “the Forgotten Coast” had waited 236 days for the passage of a federal disaster relief package following Hurricane Michael, which devastated much of Bay County, Fla., on Oct. 10, 2018.
In addition, the “Service to Community Award for Television – Medium Market” award was presented to WNDU-16 in South Bend, Ind., also a Gray station.
The series “Never Again: Preventing Bus Stop Tragedies” saw the station go beyond news coverage to advocate for stronger school bus safety and awareness following the deaths and critical injuries of four children trying to cross a highway to board a school bus. The efforts led Indiana’s governor to sign legislation dubbed the MAXSTRONG School Bus Safety bill into law.
The lone non-Gray station honor goes to WKMG-6 in Orlando, Graham’s CBS affiliate in Central Florida. It earned the “Service to Community Award for Television – Large Market” award for its series “Driving Change: Florida’s Texting and Driving Law.”
The series was prompted by serious injuries sustained by news anchor Matt Austin after he was struck and seriously injured by a texting driver. In response, the station initiated a multi-faceted, multi-year campaign led by Austin to strengthen Florida’s texting and driving law. WKMG gathered stories from viewers, created partnerships with law enforcement and legislators and confronted those lawmakers who were creating roadblocks to a piece of legislation designed to save lives on Florida’s roadways. After three years of work, on July 1, 2019, those efforts resulted in a new law, making texting and driving a primary offense. In the end, many legislators, including those who were originally against a more robust law, credit WKMG with being a major factor behind its passage.
RADIO’S SERVICE HONOREES
The “Service to Community Award for Radio – Major Market” award was given to Bonneville International Sports Talker KIRO-AM in Seattle, for “710 ESPN Seattle and Coaching Boys Into Men.”
With a goal of ending domestic violence, KIRO’s campaign aimed to prevent domestic violence by teaching high school coaches and athletes how to be community leaders.
The “Service to Community Award for Radio – Medium Market” honored Alpha Media‘s WSGW-AM in Saginaw, Mich., for its “Sharing Hope Radiothon.” To help curb increasing homelessness in the area, it initiated 12-hour campaign that exceeded its fundraising goal and raised more than $47,000 while also educating the community.
The “Service to Community Award for Radio – Small Market” award went to a station with an outsized role as a nationally recognized spoken word leader: Townsquare Media‘s “New Jersey 101.5” — Talker WKXW-FM in Trenton, N.J.
The station was singled out for “New Jersey Judges,” a series of reports airing in July 2019 highlighting misconduct within the New Jersey Family Court regarding rape and sexual assault cases.
As a result of this series of investigative reports, the state Supreme Court accepted the resignation of one of the judges, took action to remove another from the bench and implemented mandatory sex crime training for all judges.
Lastly, the “Service to Community Award for Radio – Ownership Group” honor was presented Zimmer Radio of Mid-Missouri, for its “Miracles for Kids Radiothon.”
The 2019 event raised $309,000, bringing the total amount raised for a local hospital to $2.81 million.
The annual Celebration of Service to America Awards, hosted by the NAB Leadership Foundation, highlight and honor exceptional community service exhibited by local radio and television stations across the U.S. The 2020 event, produced in partnership with Trailer Park Group, distributed by Disney Media Networks and encoded for measurement by Nielsen, premiered August 22 as a one-hour televised program featuring high profile guests and award presentations in eight categories.