The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and one of its investigative reporters were belatedly presented their 2020 American Legion Fourth Estate Awards for online journalism at the Department of Wisconsin convention in Madison, Wis. on Saturday, July 17. The newspaper was supposed to receive the honor during the 2020 national convention but the presentation was postponed when the convention was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Past National Denise H. Rohan presented the award to reporter John Diedrich, one of the main writers of the series “Turned Away.” The articles examined the controversial practice of diverting ambulances from nearby hospitals to more distant locations, usually leading to crucial delays in care. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel identified 21 cases nationally in which people died after their ambulances had been diverted. The articles maintained that profitability was a factor in some of the diversion cases.
Rohan, wearing a red past national commander’s cap as she represented current National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford, noted the delayed presentation. “Good things come to those who wait,” Rohan said. “Now that may be the case for awards, but it certainly is not the case for those being transported in ambulances.”
During his acceptance remarks, Diedrich mentioned the importance of investigative journalism. “This award just means so much to us in this field, just when talking about the role the military and the media have played in the history of this country,” he said. “It’s really integral to understand what role we have and how watch-dogging is important to our society.
“It helps to understand for everyday people that if you call an ambulance, it’s not quite as simple as going to the nearest place,” Diedrich continued. “It’s about bringing light to situations that really need to be illuminated and bringing truth to power. I am just so honored to be with all of you, thank you for that and God bless you all.”
Earlier this year, Past National Commander Dan Dellinger presented McClatchy News with its 2020 Fourth Estate Award for print journalism. Topeka, Kansas-based station KAKE-TV received the Fourth Estate Award for broadcast journalism by Past National Commander Jimmie Foster at the Department of Kansas Convention in April.
“The American Legion accomplishes many great things for veterans, current military, families and our community,” Rohan said to Wisconsin convention delegates. “But the bottom line is that we simply could not make a substantial difference without support from the media. Whether it’s publicizing an open house at your American Legion post or persuading lawmakers to pass important legislation, media coverage matters.”