KMUW wins four Murrow awards

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KMUW award recipients Carla Eckels and Sean Sandefur work in the studio at KMUW Tuesday.

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KMUW, Wichita Public Radio 89.1, recently won four Edward R. Murrow Awards for excellence in broadcast journalism.

The Radio Television Digital News Association has given out Murrow awards for outstanding achievements in journalism since 1971, according to rtdna.org, the association’s website. Murrow Awards are given out nationally and regionally, with Kansas being in Region 5. News TV stations KWCH-DT and KSN-TV also won Murrow awards.

Aileen LeBlanc, news director of KMUW, said she enters the station for Murrow awards to help bring attention to the station and the work the news team does on a daily basis.

“Sometimes, you can do your best work in the world, and if somebody doesn’t tell you that you did good, it doesn’t matter,” LeBlanc said. “It really helps when you’re recognized by other stations and other people across the country.”

LeBlanc said each entry is judged by people with no connection to the station. Otherwise, there would be bias, she said.

KMUW’s four Murrow awards were in breaking news, hard news, sports and best use of sound. Reporter Sean Sandefur covered the story that won the hard news story, when the “No Ferguson Here” movement happened in Wichita.

“It’s always a good honor to win an award named after such an icon,” Sandefur said. “Murrow [awards] are important to public radio stations — the award is not anything to be taken likely.”

Sandefur said his story was one he treated like a typical news story.

“It was a pretty organic story of me covering something that was happening in the city,” he said. “You interview the people you need to interview, and you tell the story.”

Debra Fraser, general manager of KMUW, said she is proud that all but one of the stories that won an award happened in the last six to nine months. Fraser has been with the station since July. She said the awards for recent stories are a result of the station doubling the size of its news department.

“It gives people more time to work on stories and more time to get really in-depth and find all the perfect sounds and everything — that’s really fulfilling,” Fraser said. “I’m just terribly proud. I’m very, very proud.”

Fraser said she was especially proud of the breaking news award. The station won the award for its coverage of a plane crashing into a FlightSafety training building in October at what was then Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Fraser said the story involved every person in the news department.

“We don’t chase breaking news in that sense,” she said. “To be able to tell a story in a really reasonable matter, but thoroughly, that’s a privilege for us.”

Murrow awards won by KMUW:

Breaking News: Plane Crashes into Building Near Mid-Continent Airport, by KMUW News Team

Hard News: No Ferguson Here, A Community Discussion in Wichita, by Sean Sandefur

Sports: Shocker Men’s Basketball — A Candid Look, by Carla Eckels

Best Use of Sound: This is Your Life, Hanna Bloch Kohner — The Story of a Holocaust Survivor, by Aileen LeBlanc

Note: While three stories had individual reporters, the Murrow Awards go to the station, not the individual reporter.