Wendy Halloran, the Chief Investigative Reporter for 12 News was awarded broadcast journalism's most coveted national award, a 2015 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, broadcast's equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, for her investigation into the Phoenix Fire Department arson squad, in which some members falsely accused and arrested innocent people for arson fires which were not intentionally set.
The duPont Award is the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize which is also decided by a panel of judges at Columbia University in New York. As well as a 2015 National Headliner Award and a 2015 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for that same investigation.
She recently won a 2016 National Headliner Award for her year-long probe into the Paradise Valley School District which triggered a U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights investigation. Halloran exposed how school officials covered up an alleged sexual assault of a special needs student during the homecoming dance. Halloran also exposed how school administrators at that same high school misled students, staff and parents into believing the security cameras were functioning when they were actually fake.
She is a 2014 finalist for a National Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Award. Among the most prestigious in journalism, again for her dogged reporting into the Phoenix Fire Department's arson unit. Powerless people and fearless probes by a powerful institution that allowed its investigators to run amok.
She's a five-time Emmy Award-winning Investigative journalist who is passionate about holding the powerful accountable. Halloran is perhaps best known for exposing a threat to our national security when she uncovered workers in missile defense with top secret security clearance... were holders of counterfeit credentials. She got the attention of Congress.
Wendy has been honored with five Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
In 2013 she was awarded three Emmy Awards for investigative reporting, societal concerns and for digging deeper into a deadly office shooting in Phoenix.
In 2012 she was again awarded an Emmy for exposing negligence in the Arizona prison system.
In 2011 she was honored with an Emmy for investigative reporting for exposing members of the U.S. Army who embellished their resumes and personnel files with bogus credentials.
She received the 2014 "First Amendment Award" from The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Valley of the Sun for "Phoenix Fire Department arson squad members' false claims."
Halloran is the 2013 inaugural recipient of the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona S.T.A.R. Award (Supporting Transparency and Advocacy Recognition) for her pursuit of public records relating to her investigation called "Watching Tony Die." The STAR Award celebrates and honors those meritorious efforts to keep our government transparent in the tradition of the First Amendment.
In 2013 she won the coveted Freedom of Information Award from the Arizona Newspapers Association and the Associated Press Media Editors for her pursuit of public records from the Arizona Department of Corrections, again for her investigation called "Watching Tony Die." The FOI award honors journalists as a means to publicize the often difficult efforts to preserve free speech and transparency in government.
In 2012, as a result of Halloran's gumshoe reporting, The Arizona Press Club bestowed the Arpaio First Amendment Disservice Award — known as the "Brick Wall Award" — upon the Arizona Department of Corrections and Director Charles Ryan for the agency's stonewalling of Halloran and KPNX for two years the public release of a horrific video that depicted corrections officers failing to render aid to a suicidal inmate who eventually died from his self-inflicted wounds. After months of fighting for the video as public record, KPNX and Investigative Reporter Wendy Halloran went to court to force the Department of Corrections to follow state sunshine law. Arizona Superior Court Judge David M. Talamante ordered the agency to produce the video and the agency later agreed to pay more than $26,000 of the media organization's attorney fees.
Halloran came to Phoenix from WHNT-TV in Northern Alabama where the "dirt" is knee-deep. She was the Chief Investigative Reporter. Now, she is here fighting for you in Arizona.
Notable work includes holding the Arizona Department of Corrections accountable for failing to render aid to a mentally ill inmate which resulted in the retraining of nearly 9,000 correctional officers in first aid, suicide prevention and suicide response. Her investigative reports called "Watching Tony Die" garnered a 2012 and 2013 Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in addition to many other accolades.
For a decade the Phoenix Fire Department presented its arson squad as one of the nation's best. Boasting it has the highest arson clearance rate of any major city fire department in the country. In late 2012, Halloran began looking into the claims. She discovered the arson squad relies heavily on the nose of a dog trained to detect accelerants. In fact, the dog's handler has stated under oath his lab (Labrador Retriever) is better equipped to detect arson than the laboratories used by fire departments across the country which specialize in the skill. When alerted by Halloran to Phoenix's methods national experts examined the cases Halloran reviewed and challenged the Arson squad's finding. Halloran discovered the dog is fallible. At least four people were falsely accused of arson as a result. This triggered a criminal investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety which recommended felony charges against two of the arson investigators for lying under oath, engaging in criminal conduct and several acts of dishonesty. Two arson investigators and their supervisor were suspended and returned to work but were all removed from fire investigations. The arson dog was retired by State Farm Insurance, which sponsors the national arson dog program. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the arson investigators but instead banished them to the Brady List, a database of peace officers with marred integrity. The County Attorney is declining to prosecute any cases they previously investigated or rely on any work conducted by the arson dog saying, " These decisions are made in the interest of justice and to prevent any further damage to the Phoenix Fire Department Arson Investigation program." It has also requested the Phoenix Fire Department develop an extensive retraining program for all of its arson investigators. It also led to a review of all of their cases where there were arson convictions and people imprisoned by The Arizona Justice Project.
Halloran did extensive reporting delving into the mental state of Tucson gunman Jared Loughner before his assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords, the murders of 6 people and wounding of 13 others during a "Congress on Your Corner" event. Then there's her dogged pursuit for justice in an elder abuse case that seemingly was making little progress at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office until she demanded answers. Halloran is also behind Arizona Senate Bill 1471 prompted by her investigative reports into the execution-style murder of a 20 year-old man at the hands of a subcontractor for Cox Communications. The three-part series revealed the need for criminal background checks on prospective employees of service companies. SB 1471 sailed through the Senate and now goes to the House of Representatives. If passed, it will be known as "Rudy's Law" in honor of Rudy Padilla Jr.
Halloran's investigations have garnered 22 Emmy nominations for investigative reporting, crime reporting, societal concerns, political, business/consumer reporting, writing, specialty assignment reporting, education, sports and enterprise reporting in addition to multiple awards from the Associated Press. Each year Halloran worked at WHNT-TV her exclusive investigations were awarded with top honors. She was awarded Best Investigative Reporter for 2008 and 2009 by the Alabama Associated Press. Twice, the Alabama Associated Press named Halloran that state's "Best Specialized Reporter of the Year," for her consumer investigations. She was also awarded Best Series by the Alabama AP for "Where's the Justice?" an investigation that exposed a loophole in Alabama's DUI law that allows drunk drivers who kill-to keep their driver's license.
In 2009 she broke a national investigation after uncovering fake college diplomas had infiltrated all levels of the U.S. Army including the Army Aviation and Missile Command. The investigative reports triggered a U.S. Army probe as well as a Commander's Inquiry on Redstone Arsenal, the premiere site of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command. In 2010, the expose resulted in a federal bill, U.S. House Resolution 4535, "The Diploma and Accreditation Integrity Protection Act." If passed by Congress, it would make using a fake diploma a federal crime. In 2011 Breach of Trust garnered an Emmy Award in the Investigative Series category.
Also in 2009-2010 Halloran's hidden camera investigation into an air duct cleaning scam by a company called Pure Kleen revealed a con that's happening all across the country. WHNT-TV teamed up with the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama and was able to expose homeowners being systematically ripped off to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars with bait and switch tactics. Pure Kleen told the homeowners they had mold in their home even when they didn't. The investigation revealed Pure Kleen was being operated by a criminal syndicate and was actually one of a large group of related air duct cleaning businesses running similar "bait and switch" advertisements. The multi-part investigation shined the light on Pure Kleen and within days of being exposed on the local newscast Pure Kleen closed its doors. After Halloran left Alabama, the BBB of North Alabama partnered with Dateline NBC for an episode of The Hansen Files which further exposed these rogue companies.
Following the deadly shootings at the University of Alabama in Huntsville by gunman Professor Amy Bishop, Halloran dug deeper into the campus police department's handling of the crisis. Not only was there almost a one hour delay in activating the emergency alert system, she uncovered how campus police officers were being persuaded or forced to change the classification of crimes so as to avoid having to report them. She uncovered corruption and a possible violation of federal law when an undercover producer was denied access to the last 60 days of the daily crime log-caught on hidden camera. The series of hard-hitting reports prompted a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.
Prior to Alabama, Halloran worked at the ABC affiliate in Las Vegas where she specialized in consumer investigations.
Her investigations have led to policy changes, legislation, resignations, internal affairs investigations, firings, grand jury indictments, arrests, jail sentences, felony convictions and prison sentences. A recent investigation called, "Deadly Grade: The Kendra Parton Story" led Scottsdale Community College to issue a posthumous A.A. degree to Parton who'd left a paper trail she was being bullied by her instructors before she committed suicide.
Wendy is passionate about holding the powerful accountable, righting wrongs and giving a voice to the voiceless.
Halloran is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, (IRE) the professional organization for investigative journalists.
She attended San Diego State University where she received a B.S. in Criminal Justice Administration with an emphasis on Criminal Law and completed the Broadcast Journalism program at the University of Nevada-Reno Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism.
Halloran is originally from the West Coast and has worked as an investigative journalist for more than a decade.
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