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Home > Publications > Quill > Winner: WMAR-TV


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Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Winner: WMAR-TV

“Mortgage Meltdown”

Jim Poyser

For investigative reporter Tisha Thompson, the story began when she was “trying to buy my first home and almost signed up for one of the most dangerous subprime mortgages available, even though my husband and I had nearly perfect credit. I realized, despite my fancy education, I didn’t know anything about how mortgages worked … making me wonder how many other people were getting suckered into buying loans they didn’t want or couldn’t afford.”

Thompson started investigating subprime loans in Maryland and realized there was “something really ugly looming on the horizon.”

Two months after her “Mortgage Meltdown” aired, mortgage markets began to collapse.

This series of stories — presented on television as well as the Web — was the first in the nation to use federal mortgage data to create a map of foreclosure hotspots. “Mortgage Meltdown” also exposed how minorities are two to three times more likely to receive a subprime load in Maryland, even when they make more than $100,000.

The report revealed that Maryland’s “15 Day Law” is the shortest foreclosure process in the nation.

More than a comprehensive broadcast product, “Mortgage Meltdown” was also an Internet series that warned viewers how to protect themselves from the impending foreclosure crisis by educating them about lending practices and foreclosure hotspots. The project team, which included investigative photographer and editor John Anglim and Web producer Bryan Sinagra, created the first “virtual dictionary” of lending terms on the Web, where viewers could read the definitions while watching experts give advice on specific loans.

Tisha Thompson pointed out that after the story, Maryland’s governor “signed a whole bunch of laws fixing problems we were the first in the state to expose. Mortgage fraud is now a crime. Mortgage ‘rescue scams’ are now illegal. But perhaps most gratifying, Maryland no longer has the shortest foreclosure process in the nation.”

“Stories like ‘Mortgage Meltdown’ truly help thousands of people … and that is all that matters.”

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