An ABC Action News I-Team investigation was honored with a prestigious, national award from The Society of Professional Journalists.
The comprehensive, in-depth coverage titled “Incapacitated: Florida's Guardianship Program” was recognized with the highly respected Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence in Journalism.
ABC Action News was the only large-market TV news organization in the United States to receive this award this year for investigative reporting.
This comes just days after the journalists of the Associated Press awarded the same investigation as being the “best investigative reporting” in the state of Florida.
The SPJ judges’ comments reinforce the commitment ABC Action News puts on quality journalism and investigations that make a difference in peoples’ lives.
•“Very strong story that not only exposed harm done to individual victims of the Guardianship program, but also made the case for institutional reforms to prevent injustices in the future.”
•“Thoroughly reported, well written, shot and edited.”
•“A real service to the entire community.”
The ABC Action News I-Team, specifically Adam Walser, Fran Gilpin, Randy Wright and Doug Iten, first started looking into Florida's Guardianship Program after learning 99-year-old William Berchau had been placed in an Alzheimer's unit by his guardian, despite strong evidence from those who know him best that he didn't belong there.
In Florida, guardians are not required to get appraisals before selling wards' homes or required to be accompanied while doing initial inventories of personal possessions.
Often, relatives aren't allowed to review what reportedly came out of their loved ones' homes. Judges, in some cases, have disregarded signed legal documents that delegated powers-of-attorney, medical decision-making and other legal authorities to their relatives before wards were incapacitated.
The ABC Action News I-Team interviewed friends and family members of wards, experts in the guardian field and others to get a deeper sense of what's going on within this system that remains invisible to most members of the public.
To see the I-Team stories, click abcactionnews.com/guardians
The Sigma Delta Chi Awards date back to 1932. The awards recognize the best in professional journalism in categories covering print, radio, television, newsletters, art/graphics, online and research. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.