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Washingtonians of the Year 2012: Liz Crenshaw

Consumer reporting that saves lives.

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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