Best Stories

Teachers failing and frustrated

Florida investigative team, WFTS, WPTV, WFTX

Scripps Florida investigative team uncovered how some Florida teachers are failing state certification tests at unprecedented rates. Changes to the state tests were made in the past few years to make it more rigorous. Questions continue to mount over the exams' validity and fairness, as well as the costs involved to take the test. Many are concerned the testing is forcing good and intelligent teachers out of the classroom and classes are now often being taught by long-term substitutes. The state maintains it has a lot of research that shows the exams are not flawed. After the investigation began the Florida Department of Education proposed millions of dollars approved by the state legislature to help pay for initial teacher certification and renewal certification fees.

Staff:
Katie LaGrone, Investigative Reporter
Matthew Apthorp, Investigative Photojournalist

Excessive force

WCPO, 9 On Your Side, Cincinnati

The story is part of an ongoing investigation of local law enforcement. WCPO reviewed thousands of records to discover how police are disciplined after they violate department policy, and in some cases the law.

The investigation took a close look at allegations of excessive force at the Hamilton County Justice Center (jail). Through a series of open records requests investigators obtained internal investigations of the incidents, video of incidents recorded by cameras installed at the Justice Center, audio recordings of interviews with witnesses and additional detailed reports that are often not released because they are not part of the personnel files or internal affairs reports.

Staff:
Craig Cheatham, Investigative Reporter
Scott Wegener, Photographer/editor

Geopolitics series

Newsy - Washington, D.C. Bureau

Newsy has an engaging explanatory series "Geopolitics[newsy.com]." "Geopolitics" is a deeply reported series exploring under-covered global issues. The bimonthly series contains some of Newsy's best graphics-driven explainers to date. Episodes like Why Most World Maps Are Very Wrong[newsy.com] demonstrate how common maps have distorted our view of the world for centuries. After ISIS Falls, What Happens To Its Digital Caliphate[newsy.com] looks past the headlines around ISIS' physical borders to its important digital influence. The unique approach to visualizing complex concepts highlights Newsy's commitment to beautiful, memorable enterprise reporting.

Staff:
Jake Godin, reported, voiced and produced in Newsy's Washington Bureau
Andrew Lawler, graphics
Zach Toombs, Sr. policy editor

Caught in the act

KSHB, Channel 41, Kansas City, Missouri

The story started with a tip about the very long time public works director for the city of Merriam, Kansas leaving. Months later, we eventually found out he was fired for stealing gas from the city and there were videos of him doing it. We followed his criminal case through court where he pled guilty to misconduct and then repeatedly asked for the videos of him stealing gas. Scripps and 41 Action News took the city of Merriam to court. In a summary judgment, the judge ruled in our favor. We then obtained the videos and city records of the money spent on court costs and put this final story together.

Staff:
Andy Alcock, Investigative Reporter
Rex Harris, Photographer
Asst. News Director, Melissa Greenstein

Sex offenders on social media

WPTV, Channel 5, West Palm Beach, Florida

In Florida, sex offenders and sex predators can use social media, as long as they register all their accounts names and email addresses with their local Sheriff's office. That information then goes to the state, which is supposed to post an online database for public access.

WPTV's Contact 5 Investigators found at least 32 sex offenders on Facebook, who didn't register their accounts with anyone. Law enforcement did not know about it until WPTV investigator Sam Smink told them. One sex offender coordinator with a local police department said he's not surprised and that it's just too hard to keep up with sex offenders.

The sex offenders found breaking the law are now under investigation, facing up to 5 years in prison for failing to register, a felony in Florida.

Staff:
Sam Smink, Investigative Reporter
Niels Heimeriks, Producer
Jim Sitton, Investigative Photographer/Editor

Imposter doctor

KNXV, ABC15, Phoenix

He called himself "Dr. Craig." For months, he treated patients in a salon suite on the ground floor of a popular downtown high-rise. Dr. Craig's business offered a lot of services, including Botox, laser hair removal, tattoo removal, and shots of human growth hormone (HGH). But there was a problem: Dr. Craig wasn't a real doctor. An undercover ABC15 investigation exposed that Craig Allen Scherf was a convicted felon, who didn't have licenses or training to perform any of the medical and cosmetic services that he was performing. ABC15 tracked down dozens of victims and uncovered that Scherf had a long history of deceiving people in bogus schemes with bogus credentials. After the station's reports, the Arizona Attorney General's Office arrested Scherf. He's currently awaiting trial and faces 29 criminal charges.

Staff:
Dave Biscobing, Investigative Reporter
Shawn Martin, Investigative Producer
Courtney Holmes, Investigative Producer
Gerard Watson, Investigative Photojournalist

Wayne County nepotism

WXYZ, Channel 7, Detroit

WXYZ's investigation takes a look at the position Wayne County Executive, Warren Evan's wife has with the County Treasures office. The investigation looked into when she was appointed to the position, her qualifications, the raise she received and the raise she was in talks to potentially be awarded. Some say it "stinks of nepotism." Their initial report ultimately lead to the resignation of Mrs. Evans.

Staff:
Ross Jones, Investigative Reporter
Ramon Rosario, Photographer
Johnny Sartin, Photographer
Randy Lundquist, Editor Jodie Heisner, Producer

Disorder in the court

WTVF, NewsChannel 5, Nashville

WTVF's investigative team has been tenaciously covering the questionable activities of a Nashville, Tennessee judge for more than a decade. It includes the FBI looking into allegations of improper relationships and actions by long-serving General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland and his subsequent arrest in March. The team's ongoing in-depth coverage not only gives viewers breaking news but also extensive historical details of the scandals. So trusted is WTVF that court officials used NewsChannel 5's reporting to argue that Judge Moreland remain locked up after his arrest.

Staff:
Phil Williams, Chief Investigative Reporter
Ben Hall, Investigative Reporter
Kevin Wisniewski, Executive Producer
Bryan Staples, Investigative Photojournalist

Tortured boy's life

KSHB, Channel 41, Kansas City, Missouri

In 2015, police announced they found the remains of a child in a pigpen at a home in rural Kansas City, Kansas. That little boy was 7-year-old, Adrian Jones. Adrian's father and step-mother were arrested for his murder.

KSHB conducted an intense search for information. Through working with multiple sources, journalists were able to obtain exclusive surveillance footage from inside the home that detailed Adrian's abuse.

Adrian's parents watched the little boy's every move. Adrian was often placed in handcuffs, forced to stand with his hands over his head for hours and left outside overnight to stand in a filthy swimming pool. The last hours of Adrian's life were spent locked in a shower stall, which ultimately became his coffin. Adrian died from starvation.

KSHB did a three-part series on what happened to Adrian. The week the series aired, KSHB went to Topeka where they spoke with several lawmakers about the flaws within the system. That same day, State Rep. Louis Ruiz introduced Adrian's Act. If passed, it will strengthen child abuse reporting laws by holding adults criminally responsible for reporting abuse if they live in the home where the abuse is occurring.

Staff:
Jessica McMaster, Investigative Reporter
Chase Lucas and Rex Harris, Photographers