Graham Media Group's WKMG-TV has been selected as the "Service to Community" award-winner in the large-market television category, for its work serving as a legislative lifeline for first-responders.
The National Association of Broadcasters Leadership Foundation (NABLF), formerly the NAB Education Foundation, just this week revealed the winners of the 2019 Celebration of Service to America Awards, which recognize outstanding community service by local broadcasters.
WKMG-TV presented a series of investigative reports featuring first-responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, providing a platform for these men and women to expose the state’s failure to recognize PTSD as a real medical injury.
Under Florida law at the time, workers’ compensation insurance was not available for those diagnosed with PTSD unless they could prove they were also physically injured during the emergency call.
The station’s reporting began with the story of one of the officers assigned to remove the dead from the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
This segment led to a flood of responses from first-responders struggling with PTSD who had been afraid to come forward.
On March 27, 2018, then-Gov. Rick Scott signed the Workers’ Compensation Benefits for First Responders Act into law.
Scott said WKMG-TV’s reporting was instrumental in the passage and signing of the new law.
WKMG, among the other winners, will be honored at the Celebration of Service to America dinner, held June 11 at The Anthem, a riverside venue in Southwest Washington.
“America’s local radio and television stations have a deeply rooted commitment to public service,” said NABLF President Marcellus Alexander. “This year’s STA winners epitomize broadcasters’ devotion to positively impacting their communities and creating a lasting difference. We look forward to recognizing their exceptional work.”
From August 2016 through March 2018, WKMG-TV investigated and presented its series of reports. Florida first-responders and their families reached out to WKMG-TV to help them bring awareness to people quietly suffering with PTSD.
News 6's reporting marked an opportunity to build community awareness of the unseen injuries that left a trail of broken souls and suicides. It all began with Orlando Police Department first-responder Gerry Realin, one of the seven assigned to remove the dead from the Pulse Nightclub. His story led to a floodgate of first-responders struggling with PTSD, but afraid to come forward. That was the constant theme of the reporting, and the evidence was clear: These victims needed someone to recognize PTSD as a real illness deserving of medical compensation.
“Stories about the people affected made the difference," Scott said. "That’s how legislation gets passed.”