ORLANDO, Fla. – WKMG-TV News 6, the Graham Media Group-owned CBS affiliate in Orlando has been honored with the prestigious Service to Community Award.
The Service to Community Award is presented each year by the NAB Leadership Foundation (NABLF) to honor the outstanding public service commitment of local television and radio broadcasters.
WKMG News 6 was chosen to receive this national award for its tireless work to help First Responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) receive the benefits they need to deal with their illness. The station’s 21-month fight resulted in the passing of the Florida state law providing those benefits for all first responders.
“At WKMG, our purpose is to be of service to the people of our community. 'Getting Results' is not only our brand, but our mission as a local television station,” said Jeff Hoffman, vice president and general manager of the station. "Receiving this incredible award for helping the heroes of our community is the epitome of what Getting Results is all about. I couldn’t be prouder of the outcome of this work and the people of the community that came together to make it happen."
From August 2016 to March 2018, WKMG News 6 investigated and presented a series of reports led by investigative reporter Mike Holfeld that featured first responders diagnosed with PTSD. The station provided a platform for these men and women to expose what both the professionals and their families considered a failure by the state to recognize PTSD as a real medical injury.
At that time and under the existing Florida law, workers’ compensation insurance was not available for men and women diagnosed with PTSD, unless they could prove they were physically injured during the emergency call as well. Florida first responders and their families reached out to WKMG News 6 to help them bring awareness to people quietly suffering with PTSD.
WKMG began reporting on the topic in August 2016 with Orlando Police Department first responder Gerry Realin, one of the seven assigned to remove the dead from the Pulse nightclub, where 49 people were slain earlier that year. He told Holfeld that he had never experienced anything like that in his life.
“I’ve seen homicides before, but nothing like that. Nothing prepares you for that," he said.
Realin’s story led to a floodgate of first responders struggling with PTSD to come forward and share their stories when they were afraid to come forward before.
“It was a humbling experience to work with the first responders and their families as they shared the pain they had been suffering,” Holfeld said. “Allowing us to tell their stories got the support of Florida lawmakers, including CFO Jimmy Patronis, that led to passing legislation that was long overdue. I am grateful to WKMG for allowing me the time and resources to work on this for over 20 months and get results for our friends and neighbors. We made the commitment, and it paid off.”
On March 27, 2018, after almost two years of investigative reporting, Florida Gov. Rick Scott held a special signing ceremony at the Tampa Fire Fighters Museum for Senate Bill 376: Workers’ Compensation Benefits for First Responders. On October 1, 2018, Senate Bill 376 became law in the state of Florida, providing first responders who are diagnosed with PTSD the same medical benefits provided to a first responder who sustains a physical injury.
“Sharing the untold stories of our first responders proved to lawmakers that PTSD is very real, not
only on the battlefield, but in the communities where our first responders protect, serve and live,” said WKMG News Director Allison McGinley. “We were proud to be the conduit for change in the state of Florida.”
The awards ceremony will be held in Washington, D.C., so members of Congress can see firsthand the great work being done for and by their constituents. The winning stations are further honored by their congressional members and FCC commissioner participation.
In addition to honoring broadcasters, NABLF presents the Service to America Leadership Award to a high-profile individual who has performed extraordinary service in bettering the lives of others. Past recipients include President Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali, Sir Elton John, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder and Sharon Stone.