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9:35 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Oklahoma Public Media's Tornado Coverage Honored With National Journalism Award

On Wednesday, the Society of Professional Journalists honored KGOU, KOSU, and StateImpact Oklahoma with a national Sigma Delta Chi award for collaborative coverage during the immediate aftermath of the May 20, 2013 tornado that devastated Moore.

The award for Breaking News Reporting recognizes Joe Wertz's conversation with NPR's Robert Siegel on All Things Considered just hours after the twister killed dozens, including seven children at Plaza Towers Elementary School. He was inadvertently caught in the storm, and one of the first reporters on the scene.

Joe Wertz: Tornado Ravages Oklahoma City Suburb

The organization also honored former News Director Kurt Gwartney's piece on the May 21 episode of Morning Editionand KOSU Associate Director and General Manager Rachel Hubbard's May 21 All Things Considered story of one survivor allowed to return to her home for the first time.

Kurt Gwartney: Massive Tornado Takes Aim At Moore, Oklahoma

Rachel Hubbard: Moore Residents Slowly Allowed Into Tornado-Damaged Areas

By the following day, NPR reporters had arrived on the scene and joined the coverage.

In his cover letter to the SPJ describing the pieces, Gwartney highlighted how the two stations and reporting project worked together:

Together, and with the support of other staff at the stations who maintained operations and provided vital information for our audiences, we overcame staffing, personal and logistical problems during this incredible disaster to provide clear, accurate and timely news to not only our local listeners, but to a national audience.

The two public radio stations, licensed to two of Oklahoma's state universities, were already collaborating on one project. KGOU formed a consortium with all public broadcasters in the state nearly three years ago to apply for a pilot project with NPR. 

That project became StateImpact Oklahoma, a two-reporter on-air and online news service designed to show the impact of state and local government policies on individuals, with reports broadcast on KGOU, KOSU, KWGS in Tulsa and KCCU in Lawton.

Credit Society of Professional Journalists

"We've fostered collaboration among all the public broadcasters in Oklahoma in launching and maintaining the StateImpact project," said Karen Holp, General Manager of KGOU and Chair of Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, which oversees StateImpact Oklahoma and other joint projects that might come along in the future. "This news event compelled us to take that collaboration further, and to provide the best service to listeners that we could provide."

The three news organizations join an impressive list of previous winners in the Radio Breaking News category, including NPR for reports in 2012 on lucrative rental deals made by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, CBS Radio's coverage of the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and CNN Radio's coverage of Haiti's 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010.

The award will be presented June 20, in Washington, D.C.

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