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The best in broadcast journalism

“Bottoming Out”

The Las Vegas Sun produced this interactive multimedia piece that investigates gambling addiction in their city. The report’s main feature approaches gambling from three different angles: one examines the role a slot machine plays in feeding addiction, a second explores the chemistry of addiction, and the third, a video, tells the story of one man’s descent into addiction from his own point of view. The site also offers support resources for addicts and a slot machine simulation that charts the player’s wins and losses.

The addict’s testimonial serves as the feature’s keystone. Tony McDew, a 46-year-old audio/visual technician, documented his struggle with gambling addiction using a handheld digital video recorder. In the seven years since he moved to Vegas, Tony estimated that he had spent $35,000 — just on slot machines.

“Now I know why people go out and kill themselves. Now I know why people go out and do the things that they do. And I never understood that until I started gambling,” he says at the video’s opening.

“Bonding for Profit”

This radio piece from NPR takes a look at bail bonding, an industry that many middle-class Americans are unfamiliar with. If you fall into this category, you, too, may be asking: What exactly does a bail bondsman do?

Answer: When an individual gets arrested, he is held in jail unless he is able to post bail. For a nonrefundable payment from the accused (usually around 10 percent of the cost of bail), a bail bondsman will post bail on the accused’s behalf. If the accused shows up in court, then the bail bondsman gets the bail money back and keeps the accused’s payment, turning a profit.

In the radio piece, correspondent Laura Sullivan looks at how the industry makes sure that individuals who are unable to post bail have two choices: stay in jail, or pay them to post bail. It’s not in the industry’s interest to let the accused go free without posting bail while awaiting his court date. There’s no profit in that. So the industry’s businesses pay off local politicians to make sure their profits stay plentiful.

In her three-piece radio documentary, Sullivan exposes a system where impoverished nonviolent offenders are held at the public’s expense (9 billion dollars a year) because they do not have enough money to post bail that is sometimes as low as $50. Two thirds of people in the nation’s jails are nonviolent offenders who are there, Sullivan explains, “for only one reason — because they can’t afford their bail.”

Listen to her reports: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

“Reality Check: Where Are the Jobs?”

From Indianapolis NBC affiliate WTHR-TV, this eight-month investigation exposed a state government that was intentionally misleading its citizens. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels had promised to bring 100,000 new jobs to the increasingly unemployed state — and he was meeting with success, his government claimed. So far, some 57,000 new jobs had arrived.

Unfortunately, these numbers were wrong. 57,000 jobs had not, in fact, arrived — the government purposefully fabricated the figure to mislead Indianans. WTHR’s Bob Segall uncovered that less then 37,000 jobs had actually come to the state. The companies behind the other 20,000 jobs notified the government that they planned to come, but, for various reasons, decided not to follow through. But the government didn’t update their numbers accordingly. Segall visited location after location for what the government claimed were employment “success stories” — and found, instead, abandoned factories and warehouses or empty cornfields.

Despite government claims that WTHR was intentionally creating scandal where there was none, Segall did an impressive job representing both sides and met with an independent analyst (and a former director of the Indiana Business Research Center at the University of Indiana) who stated, conclusively, that WTHR’s investigation was accurate.

Watch Segall’s report.

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  • Matt

    Awesome, this is my dream job: To do some sort of broadcast Journalism for a major news agency like CBS, ABC, or NBC. Kind of like a radio/tv journalist personality. Communications is necessary to have, especially in the field of broadcast journalism, because people need to know what’s going on in the world today.