This week, Channel 4 personnel will accept a Peabody Award -- arguably the highest accolade in broadcast journalism -- for a story about Army recruiting practices. As a bonus, the station is belatedly giving credit where credit is due.
The reports for which the station is being honored were dominated by the tale of David McSwane, an Arvada West student who wrote an article for his school's newspaper that dramatically demonstrated how far the military would go to sign him up. McSwane presented himself as a dropout with drug issues -- but rather than showing him the door, local recruiters urged him to get his hands on a dubious diploma, and gave him advice about how to mask any illicit substances that might linger in his urine. As documented in "An Army of Anyone," a variation on this story that McSwane wrote for Westword, his findings led to action against the recruiters who dealt with him and the May 2005 national "Stand-Down Day," during which the Army reevaluated its procedures.
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The problem? Channel 4 has run numerous promos in recent months that celebrated the Peabody plaudit, and most of them made McSwane seem like a bit player, rather than the driving force behind the pieces. Fortunately, on the outlet's June 5 morning show, Rick Sallinger, the Channel 4 reporter who helmed the package in question, went a long way toward making amends for past slights. Speaking from New York, he repeatedly praised McSwane for his work, noting that the young journalist was most responsible for the flood of acclaim that's come the station's way. Channel 4 morning anchor Tom Mustin added that McSwane is currently serving as an intern for the station -- another acknowledgement of his contributions.
Oh yeah: McSwane traveled to the New York ceremonies, too. And he certainly deserved to be there. -- Michael Roberts