KVUE investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti bound for Atlanta

KVUE's Andy Pierrotti
KVUE’s Andy Pierrotti

Add KVUE’s Andy Pierrotti to the list of TV journalists leaving town this summer.

After four years in Austin, the investigative reporter says he has accepted a similar position at WXIA, Atlanta’s NBC affiliate.

Both KVUE and WXIA are owned by the same company, Tegna.

Pierrotti’s final day at KVUE will be June 22. He starts in Atlanta on June 27.

“I wasn’t expecting to leave KVUE or Austin anytime soon,” Pierrotti said. “It’s the best city and TV station I’ve worked for in my career so far. When an opportunity to join 11Alive (WXIA) in Atlanta presented itself, however, it was a no-brainer. I’ll be joining one of the best investigative units in the country and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

During his time in Austin, Pierrotti and his KVUE Defenders colleagues have been honored numerous times for their work, including becoming the first Central Texas station to win a coveted Peabody Award.

“I’m proud to say our KVUE Defenders investigative unit has accomplished a tremendous amount over the past four years,” Pierrotti said. “We compelled Texas lawmakers to change two state laws; helped an orphan boy stuck in Haiti join his parents in the U.S.; resolved numerous incorrect medical bills for viewers; shed light on a broken mental health system and always held those in power accountable when needed.”

In addition to the professional challenges his new gig will bring – Atlanta is the nation’s ninth-largest TV market, while Austin ranks 39th – Pierrotti said the shift also comes with a number of personal benefits.

“Moving to Atlanta puts me closer to family and my partner,” he said. “It’s not often life gives you the opportunity to grow professionally and be closer to those you love. I’m grateful for both.”

Last week, another member of the KVUE news team, recently retired news director Frank Volpicella, also announced a move to Atlanta, where he’ll be news director at CBS affiliate WGCL.

 

KVUE wins prestigious Peabody Award

KVUE took home a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award over the weekend for a special report on the state of mental health care in Texas.

Investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti, executive news director Frank Volpicella and others traveled to New York City to accept the honor.

This is the first time an Austin TV station has won a Peabody Award, according to KVUE.

“To be recognized with the George Foster Peabody Award is affirmation that our work can affect positive change within our community by shedding light on issues of great importance,” KVUE president and general manager Patti Smith said. “It’s one of the highest honors in the broadcasting business to be recognized with this prestigious award and one that will underscore our commitment to excellence as we go forward.”

The 30-minute special, “The Cost of Troubled Minds,” aired in September. It was the result of seven months of digging, Pierrotti said in an interview last year.

“The issues impacting the mentally ill in Texas are mind-blowing,” he said, “and there’s certainly no easy fix.”

Many of those issues are due to repeated budget cuts in past years, the station found.

“The plight of the mentally ill and the lack of resources to care and treat them is a problem not only in Austin, but across the nation,” Volpicella said. “We are grateful that our documentary inspired a state senator to file legislation to address the shortage of mental health workers in Texas. We hope ‘The Cost of Troubled Minds’ will continue to spark legislative action to solve this growing social problem.”

Established in 1940, the Peabody Awards are presented annually by the University of Georgia.

KVUE special looks at state’s failing nursing homes

KVUE's Andy Pierrotti
KVUE’s Andy Pierrotti

Aging is a fact of life.

Another fact of life, sadly, is that many of the nursing homes where elderly Texans reside rank among the worst in the nation.

Families for Better Care, an advocacy group, gave Texas nursing homes a failing grade in 2013 and 2014. Both years, our state ranked last – 51st place – on a list released by the group.

KVUE investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti is one of several people hoping to change that.

In a 30-minute special that airs Saturday at 5 p.m., Pierrotti takes a look back at some of the station’s recent reporting on the state’s troubled nursing homes and offers a preview of some of the solutions that could possibly come out of the current legislative session.

“We’re talking about people who have outlived their savings and are living in homes that accept Medicaid or federal funding,” Pierrotti said. “These facilities are getting millions in taxpayer money and they’re not being held accountable.”

KVUE found that common problems include physical abuse and medication errors that can sometimes prove deadly.

“We have an opportunity to change this – and we should,” Pierrotti said. “I wanted this to air during the session because there’s proposed legislation that can help fix a lot of what we’re seeing.”


‘State of Neglect’

5 p.m. Saturday

KVUE Channel 24

KVUE special looks at state of mental health care in Texas

KVUE's Andy Pierrotti
KVUE’s Andy Pierrotti

KVUE investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti takes an in-depth look at the state of mental health care in Texas during a 30-minute special this weekend.

“The Cost of Troubled Minds,” set to air at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, is the result of seven months of digging, according to Pierrotti, who joined the station about two years ago.

What he and a pair of KVUE photojournalists found is likely to surprise many viewers, Pierrotti believes.

“The issues impacting the mentally ill in Texas are mind-blowing,” he said, “and there’s certainly no easy fix.”

Pierrotti said that the poor are particularly at risk because state budget cuts in past years have severely impacted services that are available to them. While some funding has been restored, advocates say more money is needed.

“They may have helped a little, but there’s still a long way to go,” he said. “All the Legislature did essentially was add back about the same amount that was taken away 10 years ago.”

KVUE also found there’s a shortage of psychiatrists in many parts of the state that’s making the situation even worse.

One woman featured in the special has checked herself into emergency rooms hundreds of times because she had no other access to mental health services she required. Those frequent visits potentially cost taxpayers as much as $1 million, Pierrotti said.

“Austin is doing a little better than some other parts of the state because we’re a fairly progressive city, but this is still something we’re dealing with here, too,” he said. “With the population gains we’ve been seeing, it’s not going to go away any time soon, either.”