Winner 1998



Following an earlier story updating the progress of a recipient of an organ transplant, WANE-TV medical reporter Karen Hensel expressed to local hospital officials her desire to do an in-depth story on the organ donation process, from the point of death of the potential donor to the renewed life of the grateful recipient. A few months later, those hospital officials contacted Ms. Hensel to let her know the story could move forward. On July 12, 1998, 11-year-old Christopher Nixon was hit by a car while riding his bike, just two blocks from his home. He was pronounced brain dead the following morning. The hospital’s chaplain approached Christopher’s parents regarding not only the donation of their child’s organs but also with the request that the WANE-TV television news team document the story. The grieving parents agreed to both requests. Hensel and two photographers spent the next 12 hours at the hospital carefully and sensitively gathering images and information for the story. From the emotional first interview with Christopher’s parents as they discussed their decision to donate their son’s organs to the touching image of a nurse preparing the young boy after the harvesting operation for one last visit with his family, the WANE-TV news team documented the important process of organ donation with compassion and integrity. The result was a television news program of importance and impact. The number of organ donations has increased in the station’s service area, and many thousands of citizens have gleaned critical insight into the process. While Christopher’s family shed tears of sorrow, other families cried tears of joy because their children were given a renewed chance to live. Christopher is proof of the power of local television news to both inform and uplift its viewers, and is thus thoroughly deserving of the Peabody Award.