National convention

Presentation of journalism prizes at the national congress

A Hawaiian television station, the Associated Press and a Milwaukee newspaper are each recipients of the American Legion’s Fourth Estate Award for outstanding achievement in journalism that has had a positive impact on a community.

In the Internet category, the prize was awarded to a collaborative effort by Associated Press journalists Kristin M. Hall, James LaPorta and Justin Pritchard. The trio investigated firearms and explosives that have disappeared from military inventories since 2010. The series, “AWOL Weapons,” led to congressional reforms and a new US military accountability system. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the inquiry “another example of a free press highlighting the important issues we need to address.”

“I used to have this quote I kept at the bottom of my email,” said LaPorta, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “The quote was: ‘Journalism is just as vital to the survival of democracy as the army guarding its borders.’ Journalism gives a voice to the voiceless. It exposes injustices and holds leaders accountable. That’s what good journalism does.

In the paper category, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — which has won three previous Fourth Estate Awards in recent years — was honored for its article “Military Suicides Take Toll on Wisconsin National Guard.” Journalists Katelyn Ferral and Natalie Brophy chronicled the cases of four Wisconsin veterans who took their own lives just months after serving together in Afghanistan. US Senator from Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin has lobbied Guard leaders for more transparency and data on suicides.

In accepting the award, Ferral took the time to “thank the families who have been selfless and wonderful in sharing their sons’ stories. Me and the rest of my fellow reporters can’t do journalism unless people are willing to share, talk and hang out with us. Often this can be very difficult for these families.

In the broadcast category, KHON2-TV in Honolulu, Hawaii was selected as the winner for its nine-episode series “The Forgotten.” In it, former Fourth Estate Award winner Pamela Young highlighted the significant contributions made by Chinese-American and Asian-American veterans during World War II. It resulted in the awarding of Congressional Gold Medals to hundreds of World War II veterans and their surviving family members at an event in Washington.

Young’s flight to Milwaukee was canceled and she was unable to attend the convention to receive the award in person.

“The award for the American Legion’s Fourth Estate is a tough one to win,” said American Legion National Commander Paul E. Dillard. This speaks to the demanding nature of the competition – and the quality of the entries. Not only should stories be informative and entertaining, but they should also bring tangible benefit to society.