Meadows Journalism Alumna Wins Regional Edward R. Murrow Award
“Poison in the Water” series reveals danger in North Carolina water supply, triggers government action
Charlotte Huffman, investigative reporter with NBC-TV affiliate WNCN in Raleigh-Durham and a 2007 graduate of the Division of Journalism at SMU Meadows, was a key member of the news team that won the regional Edward R. Murrow Award, one of journalism's most prestigious honors. The award was given in April in recognition of Huffman’s investigative work on groundwater contamination in North Carolina and the failure of multiple government agencies to notify citizens.
In the “Poison in the Water” series, Huffman revealed approximately 2,000 sites in North Carolina where known cancer-causing chemicals are contaminating the ground and likely spreading into water used by unsuspecting families.
“When I first began digging into this story I had no idea the impact it would have,” she says.
As a result of the series, state lawmakers introduced a bill to require government agencies to notify residents living in harm's way, and N.C. Governor Pat McCrory is using the investigation to launch a statewide campaign to encourage residents to test their water.
National groundwater advocate Erin Brockovich caught wind of the investigation and visited families in Wake Forest, N.C.; “Poison in the Water” was picked up by the Huffington Post and NBC News, where it had 1.5 million page views and prompted calls from people across the nation asking Huffman for help with similar issues.
Meadows education prepared Huffman
Huffman says the hands-on education she received during her time as a journalism student at Meadows laid the foundation for the work she does today.
“Meadows faculty never failed to believe in me and push me forward,” she says. “I remember Lucy Scott once told me, ‘Believe in your work and you are going to do great things.’”
Her professor’s advice rang true during countless hours while Huffman dug through 800 pages of internal government emails pertaining to the investigation. “When the rest of the media had disappeared, I believed there was more to the story,” says Huffman. “I never stopped asking one simple question, ‘Why?’"
Huffman believes that journalists must strive to ask the tough questions, give a voice to the voiceless and hold the powerful accountable. “If we are not doing that then we are failing to do our jobs as journalists.”
About the Edward R. Murrow Award
Since 1971, The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) 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.
Each year, RTDNA identifies honorees in 14 regions. In 2012, 645 Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards were given and of those, 99 went on to win National Edward R. Murrow Awards.