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WTVF ‘Toxic School Water’ investigation wins first-place National Headliner Award

April 25, 2019 By Kari Wethington

CINCINNATI – WTVF, the Nashville, Tennessee-based television station owned by The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP), has won a National Headliner Award for a 2018 investigative series that uncovered toxic water in a Tennessee school district.

“NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Toxic School Water” received first place for environmental reporting in the broadcast or cable television stations category, announced by the annual National Headliner Awards competition on Tuesday.

The investigation revealed that officials in Metro Nashville Public Schools were keeping test results showing toxic lead in schools’ drinking water from parents, principals and the public. The investigative team behind “Toxic School Water” includes WTVF Chief Investigative Reporter Phil Williams, Photojournalist Bryan Staples and Assistant News Director Michelle Bonnett.

The investigative series was published as a series of digital and on-air reports that garnered attention from national news outlets, culminating in a prime-time special that aired on WTVF in 2018.

As a result of WTVF’s reporting, state lawmakers passed a law that will require every school district in the state to test for lead in its drinking water.

“An incisive piece of investigative journalism, reporter Phil Williams’ story on toxic levels of lead in Nashville’s Metro school district reminds us of the power of journalism to check unscrupulous officials and to ultimately save lives,” said the National Headliner Award judges.

“The persevering reporting by the WTVF team underscores the watchdog role journalism plays in our society and the critical impact it can have,” said Brian Lawlor, Scripps’ president of Local Media. “We applaud the team’s continued tenacity to bring this issue to light for the people of Nashville and challenging those in power.”

The National Headliner Awards recognize journalistic merit in the communications industry. Since the first National Headliner Awards were presented in 1935, more than 2,600 Headliner medallions have been presented to outstanding writers, photographers, daily newspapers, magazines, graphic artists, radio and television stations and networks and news syndicates.

View the full list of 2019 National Headliner Award winners at

About Scripps
The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP) serves audiences and businesses through a growing portfolio of local and national media brands. With 36 television stations, Scripps is one of the nation’s largest independent TV station owners. Scripps runs a collection of national journalism and content businesses, including Newsy, the next-generation national news network; podcast industry leader Stitcher; the fast-growing national broadcast networks Bounce, Grit, Escape and Laff; and Triton, the global leader in digital audio technology and measurement services. Scripps produces original programming including “Pickler & Ben,” runs an award-winning investigative reporting newsroom in Washington, D.C., and is the longtime steward of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Founded in 1878, Scripps has held for decades to the motto, “Give light and the people will find their own way.”

Media contact:
Kari Wethington, The E.W. Scripps Company, 513-977-3763,