Karen Gadbois has worked tirelessly for the city of New Orleans and NorthWest Carrollton. Nobody, but NOBODY has her energy or nose for what's really going on. It is wonderful to see Lee honor Karen for her commitment and work. Thanks to Lee for being able to listen when no one else would. Here's hoping this kind of recognition (again folks, again!) gets Karen the funding she needs to continue her work. Lest we forget Karen does this kind of work for FREE. She is currently working for a non-Profit and funding will run out any day.
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WWL-TV's Lee Zurik honored by investigative reporters and editors group for NOAH stories
Posted by Dave Walker, TV columnist, The Times-Picayune
March 31, 2009 10:05AM
A story that originated with watchdog legwork by local blogger Karen Gadbois has won WWL-Channel 4's Lee Zurik one of journalism's most coveted prizes, the Investigative Reporters and Editors' IRE Medal.
Zurik's 2008 investigation of the now-defunct New Orleans Affordable Homeownership Corp. (NOAH) also won the ire of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who called the initial story in the series "biased and inaccurate," and charged Zurik and WWL with retarding the city's recovery.
"How is that report helping this recovery?" Nagin said at a July news conference. "It is not, and it's hurting this city, and you need to stop it."
The award was announced Tuesday (March 31). Coincidentally, the New Orleans City Council was slated to receive an update the same day on efforts to recoup payments by NOAH to contractors whose post-Katrina home-remediation work could not be verified.
"Getting the highest honor from this organization and being recognized alone, I was shocked," said Zurik while en route to City Hall to report the update story for WWL. "I sent an e mail to some of the people who helped us. Obviously, Karen is the main person. I told her, 'Take a big bite out of this award. It wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for you.'"
A New Orleans native who worked as an intern in WWL's sports department as a 15-year-old student at Isidore Newman School, Zurik is a graduate of the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. He worked at TV stations in Greenville, Miss., Montgomery, Ala., and Baton Rouge before returning to WWL as a sports anchor and reporter in 2001. He moved from sports to news post-Katrina, and currently anchors WWL's weekend newscasts.
Zurik's NOAH stories "uncovered corruption in a city agency charged with helping rebuild homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina," wrote the IRE contest judges. "Zurik and his team ... found that money was paid to contractors to repair homes that never received any improvements--or didn't exist at all. WWL's investigation found close ties between agency managers, Mayor Ray Nagin, and the contractors doing the alleged improvements. The journalist stuck to the story in the face of public intimidation and strong initial denials by Nagin. In court, WWL forced the city to disclose agency records. The results were impressive: The program was suspended, the employees were fired and a federal grand jury launched an investigation."
Other media outlets honored by the IRE include the Detroit Free Press, the Seattle Times, "60 Minutes" and National Public Radio for a report about Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, two Louisiana Sate Penitentiary at Angola inmates who were held in solitary confinement for 36 years after being convicted for the murder of guard Brent Miller.
The IRE is a nonprofit formed in 1975 "to create a forum in which journalists throughout the world could help each other by sharing story ideas, newsgathering techniques and news sources," says the group's website.