by Cris Ritchie — Editor
HAZARD – For news outlets covering areas of Eastern Kentucky affected by the March 2, 2012, tornadoes, that storm was a big story. Lives were lost, property damage reached well into the millions of dollars, and the public had a definite need to know how the region was coping with such devastation, and how the recovery from such a terrible loss would begin.
WYMT-TV in Hazard responded with extensive coverage of the disaster, culminating in an hour-long special the day after the tornadoes struck detailing the plight of the people who were affected the most, and what they would need to begin what has been a long recovery in places like Salyersville and West Liberty.
This past weekend the producers of that newscast, Steve Hensley and Brandon Robinson, were singled out for their effort to keep the people of Eastern Kentucky informed about the toll these storms had taken, and in the process brought home WYMT’s very first Emmy award.
“It’s a huge honor,” Robinson, who is also one of WYMT’s meteorologists, said of receiving the award. “To say we’re pleased is an understatement. We’re very happy and kind of humbled and awed, and proud to serve the mountains.”
As producers, Robinson and Hensley were presented their awards in the category of Best Newscast during the regional Emmy ceremony in Cincinnati on July 20. They were in competition against stations in the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, comprised of 13 markets in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana, most if not all of which represent bigger markets than WYMT.
Robinson, a Harlan County native, noted that while receiving the award was a tremendous achievement, it was a bittersweet recognition considering the tremendous toll those storms took on the region. But at the same time, this award meant the station had done things the right way and ensured the people of Eastern Kentucky had received the information they needed in relation to the storm and its aftermath.
“It’s one of those situations where you hate that it has to be a situation like that for us to submit to try to get that award,” Robinson said, “but it was still an honor that they thought our coverage of that event was good enough to be considered.”
Hensley, a native of Perry County who serves as WYMT’s news director, said it was a surreal feeling to win an Emmy award, and while his name is on the statuette, he gave credit to the reporters, production crew, and everyone involved who put in a lot of time to make sure the correct and necessary information got out to the station’s viewers.
“It was one of those things that just came together, it was nearly a flawless newscast and the direct result of just a lot of people putting in long hours,” Hensley said. “Even though this was a terrible event for our region, it was nice to be recognized for your hard work.”
For a television broadcast originating in Hazard to win in direct competition with stations in much bigger markets also was not lost on Hensley, who actually said he never thought he would win an Emmy award. Hensley began his career at WYMT and also worked closely with the late Tony Turner, the station’s former news director who died following a motor vehicle accident in 2002. Hensley said this award is recognition of the service the station has provided not only during the storm of 2012, but also during WYMT’s 28-year history.
“I think about Tony, and how proud he must be somewhere,” Hensley said. “I hope he’s looking down and smiling. Everybody that’s been here before, I think, shares in this award. It’s just a proud moment.”