Washingtonians of the Year 2012: Liz Crenshaw

Consumer reporting that saves lives.
Photograph by Jeff Elkins.
Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

It was the hardest phone call Channel 4 consumer reporter Liz
Crenshaw had ever made: asking a grieving father to talk about his
infant’s death from strangling on a baby-monitor cord. Crenshaw called,
and the father agreed to appear on camera to alert other parents to the
hazard.

The next day, a mother e-mailed Crenshaw to say she had watched
the interview and immediately gone upstairs to her baby’s room, where she
saw the child—who’d just learned to pull herself up by holding onto the
crib slats—about to be tangled in the monitor cord.

That’s the kind of impact few TV journalists have. But as
Crenshaw has discovered, consumer reporters get people where they live. “I
feel so grateful that I have this big megaphone,” she says.

Whether she’s reporting on the paucity of nutrition in school
lunches or excessive charges for payday loans, Crenshaw’s credibility is
increased by the fact that she doesn’t resemble the stereotypical
television news personality. As she admits, she looks like a woman
standing in line at the supermarket.

Crenshaw came to WRC as a desk assistant and served as consumer
reporter Lea Thompson’s producer for ten years. When Thompson became NBC’s
chief consumer correspondent, Crenshaw rejected suggestions that she
appear on camera. “I’m not tall enough, not thin enough, and not blond
enough,” she told her bosses.

Washington TV audiences and viewers of other NBC stations who
see her reports are glad Crenshaw was convinced otherwise.

“Liz knows every scheme, scam, and almost every scoundrel in
town,” says Thompson. “She is that very rare reporter you can point to and
say, ‘She really has made a difference in all our lives.’ ”

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