Phil Williams, an honors mass-communication graduate of MTSU, leads the investigative news team at Nashville’s WTVF-NewsChannel5 that has received a 2012 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for excellence in local reporting.
The local CBS affiliate was one of 14 duPont winners nationwide announced Dec. 21.
The award was for the team’s investigation of drug interdiction units operating along Tennessee’s interstates. The story exposed police agencies using questionable tactics to confiscate money along the interstate from out-of-state drivers suspected of drug involvement.
This marks Williams’s and the station’s third duPont Award in nine years.
“It hit me that very few people can say that they are three-time duPont winners,” noted Williams, who graduated from MTSU in 1985 and joined WTVF in 1998, “so I’ve got a real sense that this is special, and I don’t want to take it for granted.”
MTSU’s Department of Mass Communication, founded in 1971, became a School of Mass Communication in 1988 and was elevated to full college status in 1989.
“The College of Mass Communication at MTSU is very proud of our alumnus Phil Williams and NewsChannel 5 in winning this highly prestigious national award,” said Dr. Roy Moore, dean of the college.
“Phil illustrates the high quality of our electronic media communication program and its graduates, and this award is the latest in the many accolades our alumni and faculty have received over the years. The duPont prize is, without doubt, one of the top awards in broadcast journalism.”
In addition to the duPont Awards, Williams has earned two George Foster Peabody Awards, the George Polk Award for TV Reporting, a National Headliner Award and three IRE Awards (including the IRE Medal) from the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization.
He is in his fourth year serving on the IRE board. In his days as a print reporter, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Williams’s alma mater has taken note of his successful career. In 2003, he was inducted into the MTSU College of Mass Communication’s Wall of Fame. The Columbia, Tenn., native returns to MTSU on occasion to speak to students and conduct master classes.
Nashville’s “NewsChannel5 Investigates” team includes Williams; Bryan Staples and Iain Montgomery, photojournalists; Kevin Wisniewski, producer; and Sandy Boonstra, news director.
Other stations receiving duPont Awards for reporting were Detroit Public TV, WFAA-TV in Dallas and WSB-TV in Atlanta. Several awards for international reporting went to Al Jazeera English, CBS News and NBC News. HBO received two awards, and The New York Times and MediaStorm received awards for digital reporting.
The DuPont Awards ceremony will be held Thursday, Jan. 19, at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library. Scott Pelley, CBS News anchor and managing editor, and Michelle Norris from National Public Radio will serve as hosts.
“For me, the secret has been dedication, dedication, dedication.” Williams said when asked what he would say to aspiring journalists. “It can’t be just a job. It’s got to be your passion, something you live after your shift is over.”
— Tom Tozer (Thomas.Tozer@mtsu.edu)