iPost, WGRZ win prestigious Murrow award

A team project by Investigative Post and WGRZ broadcast last year about Buffalo’s failure to solve most of its murder cases has won the Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting.

The project was selected as the best investigative work broadcast in small television markets in the New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey region by the Radio-Television Digital News Association. The stories were reported by Jim Heaney, Investigative Post’s editor, and Steve Brown, investigative reporter with WGRZ. Video was shot and edited by Andy DeSantis and Bob Mancuso. Their work is under consideration for the Murrow national award, which will be announced in June.

The stories broadcast Feb. 5-6 on WGRZ; a companion story also published on Investigative Post’s website.

Key findings, as previously noted by Investigative Post, were:

Our city’s homicide rate is among the highest in the nation — and the solve rate is among the worst. Over the past five years, police have cleared only 39 percent of homicides, and that rate has been steadily dropping, to just 23 percent last year.

Gang violence and a resulting lack of cooperation from witnesses, and the community at large, partly explain the low clearance rate. But shortcomings in the city’s homicide squad also come into play.

The problems are pronounced enough that Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita took the unusual step of going on the record with his concerns. The problems, he said, include incomplete detective work, an insufficient command structure, and personnel policies that enable seniority to trump ability in staffing assignments.

The award is named by Murrow, who came into prominence as a European radio correspondent prior and during World War II. He is best remembered for his reporting and commentary for CBS during the 1950s, particularly those that took on the red baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy and contributed to his censure by the Senate. His career was the subject of the film “Good Night and Good Luck,” a 2005 film directed by George Clooney.

Mayor Byron Brown, the Common Council and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda have yet to publicly address the problems exposed by the Investigative Post/WGRZ series. Heaney noted the lack of progress in his Real State of the City address two months ago, in which he shared data that showed Buffalo has one of the highest murder rates and second-worst clearance rate of comparably sized cities across the nation.

The Murrow Award marks the second time in the past year that Investigative Post and WGRZ have been honored for their joint work. Last April, Investigative Reporters & Editors, the world’s leading professional organization of investigative journalists, recognized their coverage of pollution in Scajaquada Creek as reported by Dan Telvock. The coverage was honored as one of three finalists for multi-platform reporting in the small market category.

Investigative Post’s work has previously been recognized by the New York State Associated Press Broadcasters Association.

Investigative Post is a 501 c-3 non-profit investigative reporting center based it Buffalo. It distributes its work through its website and WGRZ, the NBC affiliate for Buffalo; WBFO, the region’s NPR outlet; and The Public, an alternative newsweekly. Investigative Post has working relationships with a number of other news organizations, including The Capitol Pressroom and ProPublica.