This yearlong, five-part investigation followed a paper trail hundreds of pages long and resulted in a couple of phrases you rarely see in the same sentence: “investigative reporting” and “local TV sports.”
Indeed, Jeff Hirsh, Eric Gerhardt and Dan Hurley investigated how a taxpayer-supported charter school named Harmony claimed the right to use public dollars to build a sports powerhouse, using out-of-state students. This report revealed how high school graduates were brought in to play basketball in a high school, and how ineligible athletes turned a 2-8 football team into a 9-1 juggernaut.
The reporters also showed how top officials in the Ohio Department of Education are letting Harmony continue turning out-of-state students into Ohioans, despite it should not be allowed.
“Without our investigation, this would simply have been another ordinary sports story,” the reporters said. “Taxpayers would never have known. … Ohio education officials would not have faced tough questions, and the whole debate over what truly defines residency for tuition purposes would not have happened.”
The issues raised in this investigation are now before the legislature and the state auditor.
Judges praised WKRC-TV its “aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act and dogged gumshoe detective work. … The drumbeat of well-researched and damaging facts broadcast yields an impressive indictment of abuses of trust by both school officials and public servants. While this series lacks the cosmetic razzle-dazzle of some other entrants, it more than compensates with tenacious investigative reporting of great substance that is often missing from local TV journalism.”
Said the reporters: “Serious investigative reporting truly fulfills what journalism is supposed to do: raise questions, go beyond the obvious and hold decision-makers accountable for their actions.”