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KPLU news team wins National Edward R. Murrow Award


After winning the 2013 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award in the Best Audio News Series category for its election series, “If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life,” the KPLU News team is proud to add the prestigious 2013 National Edward R. Murrow Award to its list of accolades for the series. 

The National Edward R. Murrow Awards will be presented by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTNDA) on Columbus Day in New York.

“If it’s legal,” which aired October 8-11, 2012, was spearheaded by Keith Seinfeld, KPLU Health and Science Reporter. 

The aim of the series was to separate facts from rumors and explain what would change if Washington State ballot measure I-502 were approved, legalizing the sale of marijuana for recreational use. 

KPLU recognized that the public discussion around I-502 was narrowly focused on two opposing factions within the pro-marijuana community, with a heavy emphasis on medical marijuana users—instead of speaking to the concerns of mainstream society. 

The KPLU News team chose topics for its series that spoke to the average person, who may not ever consider smoking pot:

  • Will legalization of marijuana make police less effective?
  • Will “cannabis” lounges pop up if marijuana is legalized?
  • Will advertising make marijuana appear more “benign” or “risky”?
  • How will marijuana products be sold, and will they be safe?
  • Will legal marijuana make our roads more dangerous?

Seinfeld, Law & Justice reporter Paula Wissel, Business & Labor reporter Ashley Gross, Environment Reporter Bellamy Pailthorp and Youth & Education reporter Gabriel Spitzer spent six weeks reporting the stories before the series aired. 
“If it’s legal” reflected dozens of interviews, from legal experts to state officials, to pot growers and users.

On KPLU’s website, the stories were the most read and commented on of the election season. 

In addition, KPLU launched a separate blog to share some of the juicier sidebar stories.  Following passage of the initiative, the series was re-packaged as a one-hour on-air special (“Now that marijuana is legal, what next?”) which included new material.

"We saw this series as a public service heading into the elections of fall 2012 when Washington voters faced a choice of whether or not to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use,” said KPLU News Director Erin Hennessey.  

“Our biggest challenge was writing about something that hadn't happened yet. Each story had to help listeners imagine a world in the near future. Now that marijuana is legal in Washington, we continue to tap the research and resources we used in our series to cover the process of implementing state-licensed marijuana farms and stores."

The Edward R. Murrow Awards have recognized work of the highest quality produced by radio, television and online news organizations around the world since 1971.

Award recipients demonstrate the spirit of excellence that Murrow set as a standard for the profession of electronic journalism.  The competition for the National Edward R. Murrow Award included hundreds of entries from commercial and non-commercial, large market radio stations from around the country. Only one large market award was handed out for "News Series" and it was won by KPLU.

“If it’s legal” also garnered the 2012 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service in Radio Journalism (Society for Professional Journalists); and a second place News Series award in the 2012 Society of Professional Journalists’ (Western Washington chapter) Excellence in Journalism Competition.

Seinfeld won a 1999 National Edward R. Murrow Award in the News Documentary category for "The Whale Hunt," about how the ritual of the Makah Indians is seen as senseless slaughter by their opponents.