KING 5 TV has won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award — the broadcast equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize — for investigative reports highlighting millions of dollars wasted by Washington State Ferries.

KING TV has won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award — the broadcast equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize — for investigative reports highlighting millions of dollars wasted by Washington State Ferries.

“We’re thrilled,” said Mark Ginther, KING’s executive news director. He said the award acknowledges broadcast organizations’ responsibility “to keep a spotlight on government and hold people accountable.”

The “Waste on the Water” series, which aired throughout 2010, featured the work of investigative reporter Susannah Frame, photojournalists Steve Douglas and Doug Burgess and Executive Producer Kellie Cheadle, and prompted a number of changes in agency policies and practices.

Among its reports, the series uncovered how certain ferry workers were paid for the time it took them to get to work, how others were paid questionable housing expenses and overtime.

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KING said one ferry manager resigned as a result of the series, another was forced to quit and the state enacted a variety of reforms and reviews.

KING’S award was among 13 announced by Columbia University on Wednesday, although recipients were informed several weeks ago and required to keep the news confidential until it was formally announced.

Other winners for the 2011 prizes include ABC News, CBS News and National Public Radio. A number of the winners were cited for investigative work.

“Despite the economic challenges and rapid changes facing the news industry, this year’s powerful and innovative winners show that broadcast news continues to have an important and vital place in people’s lives and in society at large,” said Ann Cooper, director of the broadcast program at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.

For the first time, one of the awards went to a multimedia project by a print-based organization. The Las Vegas Sun was honored for its “Bottoming Out: Gambling Addiction in Las Vegas,” which looked at the human toll of compulsive gambling, and the science of the gambling industry.

This is the fourth time in the past 25 years that KING TV has received one of the awards, Ginther said. The last was for a series on health care in 1991.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com.