Winner 1999

ABC News 20/20: Those Were Our Children

ABC News

One of a series of strong investigative reports produced by ABC News 20/20 in 1999, Those Were Our Children reveals how one family’s tragedy can have a huge societal impact. Reverend Scott Willis and his wife, Janet, lost six children, all burned alive in a horrific accident when their minivan was unable to avoid a metal part that had fallen off a truck traveling ahead of them on the highway. The driver of the truck that killed the Willis’s six children was just one of the many unqualified non-English-speaking applicants who gained their commercial driving licenses by cheating on their license tests with the help of state employees. In this eye-opening report, ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross detailed an ongoing scandal where state employees were allegedly exchanging truck-driving licenses for bribes and campaign contributions. One of the presumed beneficiaries of these political contributions is the sitting governor of Illinois, who oversaw the licensing of truck drivers while Secretary of State. Following this broadcast, criminal indictments were obtained on former state employees, and the investigation is continuing. As revealed by this report and by his previous Peabody Award for investigating the B.C.C.I. banking scandal in 1991, Brian Ross is fearless in taking on big business and big government. From the powerful telecommunications industry (Worry About Your Wireless?) to the Chinese and American governments (The Shame of Saipan), Mr. Ross is relentless in the pursuit of truth and wholly deserving of the Peabody Award.