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KMUW's Aileen LeBlanc, Carla Eckels Win National Murrow Award


KMUW news director Aileen LeBlanc and assistant news director Carla Eckels have been awarded a prestigious national Edward R. Murrow Award for their news feature looking at the return of anti-abortion demonstrations to Wichita.

The award recognizes excellence in hard news reporting in the small-market radio category. The story also won the regional award.

Listen: Then And Now: The Summer Of Justice

Aileen and Carla reported on how 25 years after the original Summer of Mercy, protesters with Operation Save America came back to Wichita to pray, demonstrate and try to stop abortions. Organizers called it the "Summer of Justice."

Aileen LeBlanc and Carla Eckels

"When I moved to Wichita almost 4 years ago, I moved to a place that had been rocked by controversy surrounding abortion," Aileen says. "It was a battle, fought hard on both sides, and everyone took one."

Aileen previously produced a documentary and call-in show for the 5th anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, one of just a few physicians in the U.S. who performed late-term abortions.

"His clinic had been the site of many angry protests," Aileen says. "Some ugly and loud and some worse than that."

The largest had been the Summer of Mercy in 1991. Demonstrators returned in 2001, and then in 2016. "There is something quite different this time," Aileen says.

Carla reported from the site of some of the week-long demonstrations at the clinic and spoke with some of the participants. Other voices included in the piece were former Wichita mayor Bob Knight, who was in office during initial protests in 1991; Trust Women founder and CEO Julie Burkhart, who worked with Dr. Tiller and now runs the South Wind Women's Center; and Rusty Thomas, director of Operation Save America.

The Radio Television Digital News Association has been honoring outstanding works of digital and broadcast news since 1971. 

KMUW News is a team of dedicated on-air and digital reporters working to tell the stories of Wichita and its residents.