Is this all it takes to get an award in journalism these days?
By Robin Wojtanik
SEATTLE - A story about a sex offender moving into a neighborhood near an elementary school has earned KEPR Action News Reporter Frances Watson a 1st place award. The honor is for the General News category for the awards given the the Society of Professional Journalists, Region 10.
At a gala in Seattle, the story by Ms. Watson was part of the Television Categories, for small market news. The original story can be found here. It was part of KEPR's coverage of a Level III sex offender moving into a Richland neighborhood right across from an elementary school. Ms. Watson spoke to the sex offender in her report.
Stories presented on KEPR and KIMA received four awards in all at the gala. A full list of winners may be found here (PDF).
Story that received the 1st prize?
RICHLAND - It took less than two weeks for a convicted sex offender to pack his bags and leave the home across the street from Sacajawea Elementary School.
[name withheld] said, "I'm moving out today and uh I'm going to leave."
Richland Police sent out notices about [name withheld] on September 7th. He's a rapist, a kidnapper and a level three sex offender. He's considered highly likely to re-offend.
The 61-year old is not allowed at any city parks, schools or the library.
In fact, he's a career criminal, with dozens of convictions and known for failing to register his address with police. Despite the rap sheet, he's served his time and he's a free man.
The state has modest limits on where [name withheld] can live. He was well within his right to move into the home on Catskill.
One man told KEPR, "There's an 880 foot rule in the state of Washington and this doesn't fall into that so there's something's gotta be done."
That man known as "Torch" decided that "something" would be to stand on the sidewalk with his biker buddies and make sure kids got to and from school safely knowing [name withheld] was nearby.
- These BACA bikers have their own issues, as you can see here and here.
Parents appreciated the effort. When KEPR went to check out the grassroots patrols, [name withheld] surprised us, coming out of his house to give his side of the story.
We asked, "You are, by law, technically able to live anywhere you choose so why leave."
[name withheld] replied, "Yeah, oh yeah, the law's in my favor but it's just, uh, the thing is that isn't acceptable."
- Even if you move, you will be facing the same mob mentality elsewhere. You shouldn't move, in our opinion! You are legally allowed to live there, so live there.
That's why he says he's leaving Catskill with plans to live in his car.
The news spread like wildfire on our Facebook page. Parents feel they've scored a victory getting [name withheld] to leave when cops couldn't.
One parent said, "Well, it's up to the community to gather around, takes a village to raise children."
- We are so sick and tired of hearing this! No it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes one responsible and loving parent.
Some comments included defenders of [name withheld], saying he's paid his debt to society and shouldn't be singled out.
Even so, keeping track of this highly dangerous sex offender will now be even more difficult if he's sleeping somewhere different every night.
KEPR notified the Richland Police of [name withheld]'s plans. He is required by law to register with the Benton County Sheriff's Department every time he moves or every 90 days.
Failing to do so could result in his arrest. [name withheld] has failed to register his address many times before.