Fourth Estate Awards presented to 2019 recipients
(Photo by Ryan Young)

Fourth Estate Awards presented to 2019 recipients

A San Francisco Bay-area television news station, a community newspaper and an influential online media outlet received The American Legion’s Fourth Estate Award during the 101st National Convention August 29 in Indianapolis.

The Fourth Estate Award has been presented annually by The American Legion since 1958 for outstanding achievement in the field of journalism. Nominations in 2019 were considered in three categories: broadcast, print and new media (Internet). They were selected by the organization’s Media & Communications Commission and announced last spring.

“The American Legion Fourth Estate Award is difficult to earn,” American Legion National Commander Brett. P. Reistad said. “It is a testament to the demanding nature of the competition – and the quality of the entries. Not only to the reports have to be informative and entertaining, they also have to provide a tangible benefit to society.”

Taking top honor in the broadcast category wasSan Francisco NBC-affiliate KNTV. In a comprehensive series titled “Failure to Report: Sex Abuse Victims Silenced,” the stationed examined allegations of sexual abuse made by student of a private high school in San Jose. As a result of the station’s reporting, the school revised its policies on the handling of abuse accusations, two teachers were put on administrative leave and the school’s president resigned.

“(The Fourth Estate Award) really represents one of the greatest pillars of this country: The fact that we have an independent and free press,” said former KNTV anchor and senior investigative reporter Vicky Nguyen, who now works for NBC News. “That we can hold the powerful accountable, and that we can provide a platform and give a voice to individuals among us who speak out to expose the truth.”

The Republican of Springfield, Mass., was recognized in the print category for its profile of World War II Army Nurse Corps veteran Louise Fleming. “There is another side of war, a time when beauty appears,” the feature said. The piece, authored by managing editor Cynthia Simison, highlights the distinguished service by Fleming and fulfills The American Legion’s longtime goal of promoting the honorable nature of military service.

“All of you here know better than I that we are losing the voices of our World War II veterans,” said The Republican Managing Editor Cynthia Simison. “I’ve made it my mission since 1991, when we did a series about the 50th anniversary of the war, to share their stories. I want all of you that you should share your stories – whether it’s Korea or Vietnam, or Afghanistan and Iraq – do not let your stories be forgotten. That way you’ll help fulfill one of the missions of your organization.”

The Fourth Estate New Media Award went to Reporter Oriana Pawlyk wrote about an Air Force policy prohibiting its pilots from using the HIV-preventative drug Truvada, despite its approval for use by members of other military branches. Shortly after the report was published, 14 members of Congress signed a letter to the Air Force secretary. The service soon after reversed its policy.

“I’m humbled to be a part of this prestigious group of journalists,” Pawlyk said. “At a time when credible, accurate reporting is more important than ever, I hope to continue this quest for this community, much like journalists who’ve broken such important stories before me and that impact servicemembers every day.”

“As a veterans organization, The American Legion cherishes the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment and the special role that a free press plays in our society,” Reistad said. “The American Legion would not be nearly as effective without media coverage of our positions and programs on the national and community level. The Fourth Estate Awards represent the best of the best. These award winners are being recognized for outstanding works of journalism that not only stand far above normal media reporting, but have also resulted in outcomes that have positively impacted the lives of people and issues. These committed journalists have devoted long, hard hours into investigating, researching, writing and producing reports that have truly made a difference."

Previous winners of the award include CNN, CBS, USA Today, ABC News, C-SPAN, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Life Magazine, among others.