The USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism announced that WSOC-TV is a recipient of one of the 10th biennial Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. The Channel 9 Eyewitness News team and reporter Joe Bruno were awarded Special Achievement for National Impact for their breaking news investigation that uncovered election fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
In supporting their choice, The Cronkite award judges cited, “This was original reporting at its best that blew the lid off of election fraud in a small town. It should give pause to all of us about the potential abuses of power in any election.” WSOC-TV was also acknowledged by the judges as, “dedicated to the task of digging out the real story along with who was behind it. What they found led to a bigger change than any story we’ve seen recently.”
“To be recognized and awarded for the in-depth, investigative approach we take with every story is an honor,” said Cedric Thomas, WSOC-TV Vice President and General Manager. “We are committed to make sure our viewers see the entire story and will always go further to make sure everyone is held accountable.”
Channel 9’s Joe Bruno began his investigation after noticing North Carolina’s Board of Elections refused to certify GOP candidate Mark Harris as the winner of the 9th Congressional District from the November election.
The first major development happened just two days after the board opted to investigate the race. Two hours before the five o’clock news, a source provided Joe Bruno with six sworn affidavits alleging fraud in the District 9 election. A team of more than a dozen WSOC employees pored over the affidavits, which claimed people in Bladen County were picking up ballots for others – an act that’s illegal in North Carolina.
Joe Bruno was the first local reporter to arrive in Bladen County and on his second day there, he and his team threw themselves into another major development: a source had provided them with photocopies of 159 absentee ballot envelopes. After several hours they identified a pattern of the same people signing as witnesses. Joe Bruno went door-to-door and found those witnesses.
To help viewers keep up with this important story, WSOC created a special section on its website and aired a one-hour live special. Just hours before that special aired, Bruno landed the first interview with Democrat Dan McCready, who broke the news that he was withdrawing his concession.
Following a four-day evidentiary hearing in late February, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously to hold a new election for the 9th Congressional District. WSOC-TV’s reporting is being credited for exposing the election fraud that helped lead the NCSBE to this conclusion.
The election fraud scandal, with its daily developments and surprises, drew national interest. The Washington Post called Joe Bruno’s work “the shoe-leather reporting boosting North Carolina’s explosive election fraud investigation.”
The awards were presented Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
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