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WFAE wins Sigma Delta Chi Award for 'Asbestos Town' documentary

Asbestos Town on Charlotte Talks

The Society of Professional Journalists recognized WFAE with a 2021Sigma Delta Chi Award in the documentary category. Reporter David Boraks produced an hour-long documentary about asbestos contamination at an old mill in a historically Black neighborhood in Davidson.

Over the years, attempts to redevelop the mill have failed. Those failed projects may have protected nearby residents who worry about gentrification.

Asbestos Town

Over the years, Boraks reported on the mill’s asbestos contamination as an environmental concern. In 2021, he produced “Asbestos Town,” a series that examined the mill’s history, tensions between Black residents and town leaders, and possible solutions.

According to the judges, “Asbestos Town” is a “great example of the kind of quality work that can happen when a talented reporter gets to cover a beat for more than a decade."

In addition to the documentary, “Asbestos Town” included web and radio stories, a “Charlotte Talks” show and a virtual community conversation.

“The environmental umbrella for ‘Asbestos Town’ has many tentacles: health, race, socio-economic status and fear of losing home,” said Greg Collard, WFAE’s news director and “Asbestos Town” editor.

Old factory complexes across North Carolina are finding new lives. But in downtown Davidson, developers for years have tried to redevelop an aging cotton mill - without success. That's because cancer-causing asbestos is buried on the site. Between the cost of cleanup and the risk of stirring up asbestos, nobody has been willing to take on the job.