TRENTON — New Jersey 101.5's reporting on the pandemic has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, which awarded the station its prestigious regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast.

The award specifically recognizes the "New Jersey's First News" broadcast on March 17, 2020, which aired a day after Gov. Phil Murphy made a slew of announcements regarding business and school closures.

On that day, just three deaths in the state had been reported due to COVID-19 but March 16 marked the last day of normalcy for all in New Jersey.

The award-winning newscast features live reporting from Patrick Lavery and recorded contributions from David Matthau, Jen Ursillo, Dino Flammia and Statehouse Bureau Chief Michael Symons. Frequent weather updates are provided by New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow while Bob Williams provides traffic updates for the early morning commute.

Contributing to the newscast is journalism by digital reporters Dan Alexander and Erin Vogt, then-Deputy Digital Editor Sergio Bichao and evening anchor Chad Robison.

Holding it all together is anchor Eric Scott, who has been at the helm of the early-morning program since October 1991, when it was then called "Early News Jersey."

Almost 30 years later, Scott recalls some of the biggest stories he and the news team have covered, including his first tropical storm. The “No-Name Storm” hit New Jersey just two weeks after he took the anchor chair.

“I was still relatively new to New Jersey. I had left a job covering international politics at the United Nations for NBC/Mutual Radio to join New Jersey 101.5. It was the first time I had ever covered a tropical storm and was awed by the destructive power,” Scott recalled.

Over the next three decades, Scott says the 9/11 terror attacks, Superstorm Sandy and the current pandemic all stand out as memorable.

“At its heart, ‘First News’ is designed to help New Jerseyans start their day,” Scott says. “We want to tell you what you need to know to help navigate life in the great Garden State.”

Market research has shown that the majority of New Jersey 101.5's listeners rely on the station for information – news, traffic and weather are the elements that have sustained New Jersey 101.5 through the decades and made it one of the most listened-to stations in the region.

"While what we do as a team is always important, it was absolutely critical in 2020," News Director Annette Petriccione said, adding that the award was a "nice acknowledgement" of how hard New Jersey 101.5's news staff worked throughout the public health emergency.

"It’s also an acknowledgement of the important role real journalism plays in our society," she said. "A 60-minute program focused solely on news is a rare breed these days. I’m thankful for the management at New Jersey 101.5 for recognizing how important 'New Jersey’s First News' is to our audience."

Named for the legendary World War II radio correspondent, the Edward R. Murrow Awards recognize impactful local and national broadcast reporting of the highest ethical and technical standards.

New Jersey 101.5, which competed with stations in New York and Pennsylvania, will now be considered for the RTDNA’s national awards, which will be announced this summer.

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