National Edward R. Murrow Awards Presented to Two Journalism Alumni in Texas and Nevada
Eva Parks (’03) and Ben Briscoe (’09) win recognition for investigative reporting with regional and national impact
Two Meadows alumni working at separate television stations have each won a prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award from The Radio Television Digital News Association for in-depth investigative reporting. Both alumni’s work precipitated positive changes in their respective communities.
Eva Parks (B.A. Journalism, ’03) is the producer for a four-person investigative news team at NBC affiliate KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth. Her team won in the Continuous Coverage category with "Driven to Distraction," a nine-month series revealing the dangers of law enforcement officers who drive while typing on their dashboard computers. Footage from police car dashboard cameras showed cruisers crashing into cars, a motorcycle and barricades, sometimes resulting in significant injuries. NBC Nightly News broadcast the story nationally; leadership from the International Association of Chiefs of Police sent the story to state police commanders in all 50 states. As a result, many jurisdictions are now reviewing and revising their policies on law enforcement officers’ use of dashboard computers while driving.
Some law enforcement agencies are now including elements from the series into their training. Crash footage from the KXAS series is now part of mandatory safety training for every state highway trooper in Missouri.
“We shed light on a situation that exists in virtually every police car across the country,” says Parks. “To have police departments take notice, thank us for our coverage and change policy made me feel like I was truly doing something for people.”
Reporter Ben Briscoe (B.A. Journalism and B.A. Sociology, ’09) of CBS affiliate KRNV in Reno, Nevada, won in the News Series category for his five-part "Silver State Secrets" series, which examined three issues: the legal infrastructure that allows Nevada politicians to forego reporting trips abroad paid for by lobbyists; bills that are passed before legislators and the public have enough time to fully understand them; and agencies that charge thousands of dollars for simple public records because of legal loopholes written by a five-person, non-elected committee.
The series drew statewide attention, and Nevada lawmakers are now trying to change three state statutes.
Parks says winning the Murrow was a great honor for her and her coworkers. “You don’t ever do stories hoping you’ll win an award,” she says. “For me, it means our stories truly have the power to make an impact.” Briscoe adds that it’s an honor to be recognized by industry peers, and that winning the national award has allowed him the freedom to pursue future stories that could positively impact the community.
Meadows preparation for a meaningful journalism career
“SMU taught me more than just how to do the news,” says Briscoe. “My professors shaped my thoughts on why I should do the news. They reminded us every day that journalists have an obligation to try and make their community a better place.”
Parks says her days as a journalism student working on the Daily Update student-run news show prepared her for her career. “The access and resources that SMU provided were amazing,” she says. “I had access to incredible internships and took as many as I could. I advise current students to get as many internships as possible.”
Briscoe adds that he learned a lot from his professors and his fellow classmates as well. He continues to stay in touch with many, especially those who work as journalists. “Even living across the country, we’re constantly on the phone bouncing ideas off each other,” he says. “It’s an amazing alumni network.”
Both Parks’ and Briscoe’s series advanced to the national level of competition after competing on a regional level earlier in the year. A third Meadows alumna, investigative reporter Charlotte Huffman (B.A. Journalism, ’07) with NBC-TV affiliate WNCN in Raleigh-Durham, was a key member of the news team that also won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award. WNCN’s award was given in recognition of investigative work on “Poison in the Water,” a series about groundwater contamination in North Carolina and the failure of multiple government agencies to notify citizens.
About the Edward R. Murrow Award
Since 1971, The Radio Television Digital News Association has honored outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Award, named after American broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, who first came to prominence with a series of radio news broadcasts during World War II. Murrow was highly regarded and followed by millions of listeners in the United States. Fellow journalists considered him one of journalism's greatest figures, noting his honesty and integrity in delivering the news.
A ceremony honoring all 2013 national Edward R. Murrow award winners will be held on October 14, 2013, in Manhattan.