Nate Morabito’s investigative report, ‘Injustice in the Valley’, receives high recognition

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – News Channel 11 is very proud of our investigative team for setting high standards and achieving high honors, even among our peers. Every day, they work hard – digging deeper than the surface to find answers – with cameras in hand.

Recently, Community Watchdog Nate Morabito and photographers Phillip Murrell and Chris Greer were the finalists for the best investigative report in the Investigative Reporter’s and Editor’s (IRE) category “Broadcast/Video – Small”.

Our entry was a story that focused on abuse cases at Greene Valley Developmental Center, Tennessee’s last state-run facility for people with intellectual disabilities.

Our story, uncovered under reporting by the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. In addition, it exposed a lack of proper investigation by local police.

The story was no easy task as it took five months and relied on hundreds of pages of public records. Parts of the story continued months after the original report.

Our findings prompted two criminal investigations, the arrest of a former employee for abuse, and a change in the neglect reporting protocol in Tennessee’s Third Judicial District.

To put this into perspective, our investigative team competed in the same category as the very elite of investigative reporters in the nation. This year’s winners and finalists were selected from among more than 480 entries, according to the IRE. The contest covered a range of 17 different categories.

IRE says the awards recognize the most outstanding watchdog journalism of the year (2016).

18 winning entries were chosen and 37 were chosen as finalists. WJHL’s investigative team was recognized this year as a finalist.

The winner in the category “Broadcast/Video – Small” was “Medical Waste” by WVUE-New Orleans, Lee Zurik, Jon Turnipseed, Tom Wright, Mike Schaefer, Greg Phillips.

News Channel 11 was among the finalists:

  • “Charity Caught on Camera,” WTHR Indianapolis, Bob Segall, Bill Ditton, Cyndee Hebert, Susan Batt, Scott Hums.
  • “Injustice in the Valley,” WJHL Johnson City, Nate Morabito, Phillip Murrell, Chris Greer.
  • “Making the Grade,” WTVF Nashville, Phil Williams, Bryan Staples, Kevin Wisniewski.

Granted we did not win the award for the very best, but to be included in such a group is a high honor. We here at WJHL we can say, ‘We have the best investigative team in the region and it’s among the best in the nation!’

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