NewsChannel 9 Wins National Award for Spot News Coverage of School Bus/Train Collision

National Award for TV-9, Comings & Goings
Monday, June 25, 2001 - by Rich Bailey
The Radio-Television News Directors Association has awarded WTVC NewsChannel 9 with Edward R. Murrow Award for Spot News Coverage in the “local station, small market” category. NewsChannel 9 received the award for its coverage of the March 28, 2000 collision between a Murray County, GA school bus and a train.

News Director Steve Hunsicker says, "This is one of the biggest awards a TV news department can win and it is quite an honor. We should all be proud of the job we did. Many people were involved in making our coverage work. To the best of my knowledge, it's the first time any station in our market has ever won one of these awards."

NewsChannel 9 was the first station to air information regarding the accident and the first to air exclusive aerial video of the crash scene, according to Hunsicker. The station did numerous special live cut-ins throughout the morning, in addition to regular live reports in the 10 AM NewsChannel 9 for Women broadcast and on NewsChannel 9 Midday.

The coverage continued at 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. In addition to covering the actual events surrounding the collision and the rescue effort, the station provided viewers with a broader perspective. Those additional reports included important information for parents regarding school bus safety, a story of two children who missed the bus, a story of a school board member who survived an almost identical crash in another county years before, as well as the efforts to counsel Murray County children and parents.

"We believe it's important to look past the flashing lights and talk about the issues that affect all of our viewers," said WTVC Executive Producer Richard Simms.

NewsChannel 9 has continued to follow the case including the NTSB investigation, the state's action in erecting crossing guards, and the legal action involving the school bus driver.

In addition to winning the national Murrow award for spot news, WTVC also was awarded a regional Murrow award for overall excellence for its web site:

Comings & Goings

At the Times Free Press, David Jenkins has been taken off the Lookouts beat and put on swimming. David Paschall is now covering the Lookouts.

WTVC reports that MaryEllen Locher, is cancer free. “After battling breast cancer, weeks of chemo and the side effects that come with the disease, MaryEllen appears to be on the road to recovery,” according to the station. “That's great news! We hope you'll continue to keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers. If you wish to send a card, please mail it to MaryEllen Locher, WTVC NewsChannel 9, P.O. Box 60028, Chattanooga, TN 37406. She has read every card that has been sent to her and sincerely appreciates the support she has received from everyone.”

Also at Channel 9, reporter Amy Jo Coffey will be leaving the station in August to take a teaching position at Berry College in Rome, Ga.

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