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Mark Herz’s Murrow

To many Americans, Edward R. Murrow is a vague name — a pioneering journalist or something.

To Mark Herz, he’s a professional inspiration — and the name on an award that Herz just won.

Herz — a Staples graduate, WSHU Public Radio reporter and local host of “All Things Considered” — has won a prestigious 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for a story called “Policing the Mentally Ill.”

Mark Herz (left) accepts his Edward R. Murrow Award from "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon.

The honor — bestowed by the Radio Television Digital News Association — came in the Audio News Series category.

Herz’s 2-part story explored how police are trained to deal with mentally ill people.  The 1st piece took listeners to a session where officers experience what it’s like to hear auditory hallucinations.  The 2nd brought listeners on patrol with a charismatic New Haven officer, who put his training into practice.

The sounds and voices were perfect for radio, Herz says.  The piece also benefited from Herz’s own background:  While in school, he studied psychiatry.

Before he became a cop, Ray Hassett — the man Herz rode with — was an actor.  “He’s streetwise and gruff,” Herz says.  “He can be tough and intimidating when he has to.”

Because Hassett commented so skillfully on his work with mentally ill people, Herz decided to structure the piece without narration.  “That takes a lot more work,” the reporter pointed out.  “But it turned out to be a great package.”

His 1st national award was “extremely gratifying,” Herz says.

“Journalism is like a 2nd life for me.  It’s nice to get this kind of validation.”

(This is not Mark Herz’s only award this year.  He earned 2 first prizes from the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcasters Association, for “Policing the Mentally Ill” and “Yale Carillon.”)

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