NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Friends in High Places
More than 50 individual reports and two documentaries contributed to NewsChannel 5’s three-year investigation of former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist. The investigative team’s persistent reporting on the awarding of hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts to the former governor’s friends ended in a federal fraud conviction of a Sundquist administration appointee. Dedicated to their mission of “serving the public as a watchdog of their tax dollars,” the NewsChannel 5 team was the first to expose the questionable government contracts and the only television outlet to cover the grand jury sessions. Since the investigation began in 2002, the station has continued to uncover key pieces of evidence that have resulted in an FBI investigation, the shutting down of a company at the center of the investigation, and several indictments against the former governor’s friends. Led by chief investigative reporter Phil Williams, photojournalist Bryan Staples, and anchor Chris Clark, WTVF’s investigation was named in a U.S. Department of Justice press release as the impetus for a federal task force being created to investigate the awarding of state contracts and was acknowledged by a federal grand jury as playing a key role in the indictment returned against a Sundquist Labor Department employee. For diligent and thorough reporting which led to the passage of contract reform legislation by the Tennessee General Assembly, a Peabody Award goes to WTVF-TV NewsChannel 5’s Friends in High Places.