Atlanta's WXIA-TV has been named the winner of the 2016 Gannett Foundation Al Neuharth Award for Investigative Journalism.
The award recognizes innovative work by a journalist or a staff that creatively used digital tools in the role of being a community's watchdog. Special consideration is given to journalism that helps a community understand and address important issues.
In its investigation titled "Smart ALEC," The station caught an elected state representative asking a corporate lobbyist for “a few thousand dollars” in a hotel bar the night before those same people met in closed committee rooms where the corporations and special interests had an equal vote on proposed legislation. Chief Investigator Brendan Keefe tracked a Georgia asbestos law to its pace of birth: a Las Vegas casino where the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, allowed corporate interests to write the ‘model legislation’ that now prevents asbestos victims from suing companies in several states. Finally the investigative team was kicked out of the public areas of the conference hotel, without explanation, by uniformed sheriff’s deputies on the ALEC payroll, even though the reporter and his family had a room at the hotel. The story has been viewed more than 30 million times online, and won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting.
The winner receives a $5,000 prize and has been invited to attend Excellence in Journalism 2016 in New Orleans, where the award will be presented in a ceremony on September 19.