Ohio Valley ReSource reporters and their colleagues at partner stations won two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, or RTDNA, which is the world’s largest professional organization devoted to broadcast and digital journalism.
The winning stories focused on a Kentucky town in a moment of reckoning over its racist past, and a notorious coal baron who sought the type of workplace compensation he had fought to deny to his miners.
ReSource reporter Liam Niemeyer, based at partner station WKMS in Murray, Kentucky, won the Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion category for his December 11, 2020, piece “A Blackface Photo Resurfaces, And A Kentucky Town Confronts Its Racial Trauma.”
ReSource reporter Brittany Patterson and her colleague Dave Mistich, both at partner station West Virginia Public Broadcasting, won in the investigative reporting category for their September 30, 2020, piece “Bob Murray, Who Fought Black Lung Regulations As A Coal Operator, Has Filed For Black Lung Benefits.”
Niemeyer’s story was based on a Paducah, Kentucky, school official who appeared in blackface as part of a Halloween costume. But rather than make the school official the main focus, Niemeyer framed his story within the context of the larger Black community experience in Paducah. The result was a richer view of the small city’s racial history, and a deeper understanding of just why the use of blackface by a trusted public official was so hurtful. The piece launched an occasional series that’s continuing at the ReSource, called “Black Lives in Red States.”
In their investigation, Mistich and Patterson learned that the former head of Murray Energy, once the country’s largest privately owned underground coal mining company, had filed for compensation benefits due to black lung disease. As the reporters point out, Bob Murray and his company had long fought against regulations that added protections for miners exposed to rock and coal dust, which causes black lung, and the company had often sought to deny benefit claims by miners.
A full list of the winners is here.