Overall Excellence "Alabama 2016" Alabama Public Radio

Feb 13, 2017

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for Overall Excellence, Small Market Radio. Our submission is titled “Alabama 2016.” Web site examples are at the bottom of the page.

2016 saw high profile court trials of two powerful Alabama politicians and a sex scandal involving the Governor. The four member Alabama Public Radio news team was the only radio news operation “on the scene” to cover the ethics trial, guilty verdict, and expulsion of State House Speaker Mike Hubbard. APR also brought its listeners the trial and suspension of State Chief Justice Roy Moore for ordering Alabama’s county Probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriage. Alabama Public Radio also covered the indictment of a former NASA astronaut for the fatal traffic accident that killed two girls near Tuscaloosa.

Alabama’s prison system and justice system are in the national spotlight and not for good reasons. The State’s prisons are one hundred percent overcapacity. Alabama is criticized for spending the least amount of money per inmate per day for rehabilitation, housing, and supervision in the nation. This $26 daily amount is blamed for the State’s 30% recidivism rate. Alabama is also the only state where a judge can overrule a jury in a death penalty case. Here, a judge can sentence a defendant to death, even if the jury says life in prison is more appropriate. Alabama likes to trumpet its Wrongful Incarnation Act, which is supposed to compensate people sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. However, in the fifteen years since the passage of the Act, only one person has been paid, and that was under a court order. Finally, the Southern Poverty Law Center is suing the Alabama Department of Corrections for being indifferent to the mental health needs of inmates. The key inmate witness in this case committed suicide shortly after testifying. The Alabama Public Radio news team spent six months investigating these issues. Within a month of the initial airing of our series, the U.S. Justice Department announced an official investigation into conditions at Alabama’s prisons. A federal lawsuit over mental health care for Alabama prisoners, featured in our series, was granted class action status. The inmate who served as star witness in the case committed suicide shortly after testifying. Alabama House and Senate bills have been introduced to revoke the Judicial death penalty override law.

2016 was also the 5th anniversary of the 2011 tornado outbreak on April 27th, which prompted over 150 tornado warnings in Alabama, killed over fifty people in Tuscaloosa, and destroyed ten percent of the city. APR spent four months re-interviewing the people we profiled immediately during the storm’s aftermath to see how life had changed for them five years later. News Director Pat Duggins spoke with Steve Miller, the very person APR listeners heard from. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and compared his experience to that of Mayor Mike Siebert of Joplin, Missouri. Both towns were hit by killer tornadoes within weeks of each other. Maddox had been criticized in national media for his slow approach to rebuilding, while Siebert issued reconstruction permits quickly. We compare the two.

APR’s Stan Ingold revisited the city of Phil Campbell which was nearly wiped out by an EF-5 twister that day five years ago. Reporter Alex AuBuchon followed researchers with a weather study called VORTEX. Their goal is to improve tornado forecasting and learn why more fatal twisters strike the southern part of the United States than any other region. Finally, APR’s MacKenzie Bates revisited WVUA-TV weatherman Richard Scott, who was on the air when the EF-4 tornado struck Tuscaloosa. He continued warning viewers about the storm, even as his own home that he shared with a WVUA producer was being destroyed.

Entry List

Michael Anderson inmate death case

Speaker Mike Hubbard Convicted

Former NASA Astronaut Indicted for Murder

Crimson Tide wins College Football Title

Chief Justice Roy Moore goes on trial

ROSER from Roy Moore Trial

Chief Justice Roy Moore Suspended

World's Oldest Polo Player

Harper Lee Candlelight vigil in Monroeville

Alabama Blues Project anniversary

Crimson Tide Wins SEC Championship

Wrongful Incarceration Act

Prison Overcrowding Crisis

“When the jury says life in prison and the judge says death”

Prison Health Care lawsuit

Inmate Re-entry into society issues

Tuscaloosa tornado 5 year anniversary—Steve Miller

Weathercaster watches his own house be destroyed

VORTEX—Why storm hit the South more?

Phil Campbell revisited

APR Newscast