Winner 1997

Military Medicine


The Peabody Awards have often rewarded the courage of local television stations in uncovering damaging truths against high-profile institutions in their service area. Military bases are a pivotal and important presence in central North Carolina, and investigative reporter Stuart Watson spent portions of two years documenting how some military doctors in that state, and across the country, have been found to be “inept, unqualified and incompetent,” but do not have to meet the same accountability standards as their civilian counterparts. The theme throughout the piece is powerful: America’s Armed Forces are committed to serve the nation, but in turn, America may not be serving them. This seven-part series deftly wove gripping stories of personal tragedies into its detailed documentation of the bloated bureaucracy that hinders accountability for malpractice by military doctors. Mr. Watson established that the situation has persisted primarily for two reasons: a Supreme Court ruling (the Feres Doctrine), which exempts military health facilities from reporting malpractice claims to a national database network, and the fact that the victims themselves are powerless because active service personnel cannot sue the federal government. However, because of the superb investigative work of Mr. Watson, assisted by producer and photojournalist Richard Adkins, and journalists from The Dayton Daily News and Cox News Service, members of Congress called the Surgeons General of the Army, Navy and Air Force to a meeting at the Capitol. This unprecedented action led the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to present 13-point plan for improving military health care. For presenting an investigative series with grit, compassion and results, a Peabody Award is presented to WRAL-TV for Military Medicine.