KARE-11 wins American Legion award

By Tim Engstrom

INDIANAPOLIS — A Minneapolis television station and a Kentucky newspaper will receive American Legion Fourth Estate Awards during the 105th National Convention of the nation’s largest veterans organization in New Orleans on Aug. 29.

The Fourth Estate Award has been presented annually by The American Legion since 1958 for outstanding achievement in the field of journalism. Nominations in 2024 were considered in broadcast and print categories. They were selected by the organization’s Media & Communications Commission during its meeting in Indianapolis last week.

Taking top honor in the broadcast category is KARE. In its series, “Broken Promises,” the NBC affiliate examined the high rate of denials veterans received when applying for benefits after examinations from one particular neurologist at the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisc.  Investigative reporter A.J. Lagoe exposed a system in which 649 claims denied by Dr. Mary Jo Lanska were later reversed. Some of the claims included veterans diagnosed with serious illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

The denials led to an apology to the veterans by Secretary of Veteran Affairs Denis McDonough.  Lanska was also removed as an examiner.  KARE and Lagoe were previously recognized with a Fourth Estate Award in 2018.

The Courier Journal of Louisville, Ky. is being recognized for its 2023 series “Safer Sidelines,” which explored the many ways high schools, athletic associations and lawmakers have failed to prepare for worst-case scenarios of sudden deaths on athletic fields. Lead reporter Stephanie Kuzydym built a searchable “deadly games” database, which includes more than 100 years of such incidents.

“I am looking forward to presenting KARE and the Courier Journal with their well-deserved Fourth Estate Awards,’ said Daniel J. Seehafer, national commander of The American Legion. “The American Legion is extremely appreciative of the importance of a free and independent media. As veterans, we defended the freedoms guaranteed by our nation’s Constitution. Our Fourth Estate winners represent the best in their field. These award winners are being recognized for outstanding works of journalism that not only stand far above normal media reporting but have had a positive impact on society.”

Previous winners of the award include CNN, CBS, USA Today, ABC News, C-SPAN, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Life Magazine, among others.