AUSTIN, Texas—“Latino USA” has won the Edward R. Murrow Award in the investigative reporting category for a documentary about agricultural workers allegedly poisoned accidentally by carbon monoxide in a fruit packing plant in Brewster, Wash.
“Latino USA,” National Public Radio’s weekly radio journal of news and culture, is produced in partnership with KUT Radio at The University of Texas at Austin.
The award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association was given for the special report, "Brewster Heights Poisoning," reported by Ingrid Lobet, correspondent for “Latino USA” and now West Coast bureau chief for the public radio program “Living On Earth.” Lobet’s report is about a work shift that she said changed the lives and affected the health of many workers.
It was a workday at the height of the cherry season in 1997 in a packing plant about 70 miles from the Canadian border. Three hundred people began work at 6 a.m., and before the day was over, nearly 100 of them had become ill, filling the local emergency room with patients, Lobet said.
According to Lobet’s report, the doors and windows in the plant allegedly had been sealed to avoid outside insect contamination of the fruit. She said the propane-powered forklifts in the work area produced fumes that allegedly built up to dangerous levels, causing carbon monoxide poisoning.
The program’s executive producer, Maria Martin, said the packing plant story yielded little news coverage and little redress for affected workers.
The Radio-Television News Directors Association has been honoring outstanding achievements in electronic journalism with the Edward R. Murrow Awards since1971. It will host the Edward R. Murrow Awards ceremony on Oct. 7 in New York.