ROCKFORD (WREX) — 13 WREX has been awarded six Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, the most the station has ever won in this competition.
The awards were announced Thursday morning by the Radio Television Digital News Association. The Edward R. Murrow Awards recognize outstanding achievement in electronic journalism.
This is the seventh straight year 13 WREX has been honored with multiple Regional Murrow Awards, marking 21 regional awards, plus two national, since 2015.
“Not even a pandemic was going to get in the way of our team providing important information and meaningful storytelling to our viewers,” said 13 WREX Vice President & General Manager, Josh Morgan. “In fact, it inspired them to go above and beyond. These awards are just further validation of their commitment to excellence.”
The 13 WREX team was honored in the following categories: Breaking News Report, Investigative Reporting, Continuing Coverage, Hard News, Digital and Excellence in Writing. This was the first time WREX was honored in four of those six categories.
In the “Breaking News Report” category, 13 WREX was honored for its coverage of the May 30th Black Lives Matter protest in Rockford. The 13 News team documented and reported from the scene for more than 12 straight hours as a peaceful protest and march turned violent at Rockford Police District 1 Headquarters.
This protest, which took place five days after the murder of George Floyd, was the catalyst for an ongoing racial and social injustice movement across the city that continues to this day.
“In the days after George Floyd’s death, scenes across the country looked like Rockford did on May 30th, said 13 WREX News Director, Audrey Moon. “But when it’s your community, and for our viewers, it was the 13 News team that stepped up to deliver responsible and trustworthy journalism.”
13 News anchor and investigative reporter, James Stratton, was honored with a Regional Murrow Award for “Excellence in Writing.” James took a unique approach in covering several different stories in 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic, racial and social unrest, as well as a record number of murders that happened in the city of Rockford.
This is the first time a member of the 13 WREX team has been honored with a Regional Murrow Award in this writing category.
“The last year was unlike anything we’ve seen before, I am forever thankful to the doctors who let me into the ER and the families who lost loved ones from COVID and violence who shared their stories,” Stratton said. “Without their bravery, this would not have been possible. It’s an honor to serve them.”
In both the “Investigative Reporting” and “Continuing Coverage” categories, former 13 News anchor and investigative reporter, Kristin Crowley, was honored for her multi-part investigation into excessive force allegations against the Belvidere Police Department.
Through public records and several interviews, Kristin found that Belvidere Police had been named in at least 15 lawsuits for police misconduct, it had paid tens of thousands of dollars to settle many of those claims, and two officers — who combined were named in more than half of those lawsuits — are still on the force today.
After calls by several members of the community for body cameras following our initial investigation, the City of Belvidere approved a new contract for police body cameras in December 2020.
“It was impossible to ignore the cries for help from people in Belvidere, which lead to this investigation,” Crowley said. “Their courage in sharing their stories is what helped bring this issue to light and spur the beginning of much needed change in the city.”
Crowley also received a Regional Murrow Award in the “Hard News” category for her special report on an increase in violence on one city block in Rockford.
Since 2017, the shootings on the 500 block of Webster Avenue have outnumbered the seven homes that sit on it. Gunfire has erupted at least nine times, although neighbors believe the actual number is much higher than police records show.
Over the course of 2020, the 13 Weather Authority team used our digital platforms to their fullest extent, producing two major severe weather education projects for our website.
Project: Tornado was created in the spring and Project: Blizzard was created in the winter. These projects included countless digital elements for students to learn from as well as two 30-minute specials that aired on our website and Facebook page.
“Due to the pandemic, we couldn’t visit students in their classrooms to talk about severe weather safety like we usually do,” said Chief Meteorologist Alex Kirchner. “Weather safety is too important of a topic to skip for a year, so we got creative on how to spread our message and help students studying from home.”
You can view all the Regional Murrow Award winners here.
All six regional winners will now advance to the national competition. Winners of that competition will be announced later this summer.