NewsState of the Commonwealth


LEX 18 wins Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for State of the Commonwealth series

Posted at 1:03 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 06:51:15-04

(LEX 18) — The Radio Television Digital News Association has honored WLEX-TV with a 2020 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award in the News Series category for "State of the Commonwealth."

"State of the Commonwealth" is a program that focuses on Kentucky politics and important issues across our state.

When asked to describe the series, this was said about "State of the Commonwealth, "At LEX 18 News, our team took an in-depth look at the state of the Commonwealth by examining some of the widespread issues facing our state. In this entry, you will see snapshots, looking at the following issues: the state of the economy, the opioid crisis, the fight for medical marijuana and funding Kentucky’s two largest state pension funds.

Blackjewel Mining declared bankruptcy in July of 2019, closing mines across the country and leaving hundreds of miners without jobs. Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky took a stand in the form of a two-month protest that gained global attention. In our series, we looked at the effect the bankruptcy had on the economy. The closure took a toll on the entire community, drastically changing the unemployment rate. We hear the stories of just two miners laid off in the closure and learn their plans moving forward.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdose and two-thirds of those were opioid involved. Those 2017 statistics show Kentucky as the state with the fifth highest drug overdoses in the country. The CDC reports there were 37 overdoses per 100,000 deaths that year and those numbers are only climbing. In our series, we follow the cautionary tale turned inspirational story of Alex Elswick, a Lexington man who slipped into opioid addiction, but worked his way into recovery. We learn how he is returning the favor to chip away at the epidemic affecting so many.

A hotly contested issue in Kentucky: the fight to legalize medical marijuana. The topic triggers emotional arguments from both sides. In some states, people use marijuana for medical reasons and do it legally. In Kentucky, that is a crime. Some Kentuckians say they want to be able to use marijuana to treat their pain, without fear of going to jail. While many of those people were afraid to go on camera, two men tell us their stories, because they say they’re willing to fight for medical marijuana.

In 2015, Governor Matt Bevin said, “We have the highest level of unfunded pension liability in America, but Kentucky is better than that,” in his inauguration speech. He vowed to change the pension systems, but since that promise was made, arguments have been made by lawmakers and stakeholders, especially teachers. Teachers flocked to the State Capitol by the hundreds chanting, “find funding first,” demanding what they say was promised. In our series, we examined the battle between lawmakers and teacher come to a head over the course of nearly 18 months.

The state of the Commonwealth is one theme, but is multifaceted. Our series examines some of the overarching issues that Kentuckians face daily. While our team cannot fix these problems, our series hopes to shed light and inform our community."

Regional winners move on to the national round of the competition.

The Radio Television Digital News Association has been honoring outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Awards since 1971. Award recipients demonstrate the spirit of excellence that Murrow set as a standard for the profession of broadcast and digital journalism.