Steve Bell will be honored with the 2017 Indiana Broadcasters Association Lifetime Achievement Award Friday.

Bell worked in television news for over 30 years, including 19 years at ABC News. During his time with ABC, he worked on a story that he says is the most important one he ever covered.

Bell covered the Cambodian-Vietnamese War in 1970. Bell said he and other journalists traveled to war zones in limousines. 

“The tourists had fled when Cambodia got into the war … the tourist limos hired themselves out to those of us who were covering the war. We went to war every day in a stretch Mercedes limo with an ice chest in the trunk with cold beer and soda [and] air conditioning,” Bell said. 

During his time in Cambodia, Bell began to hear rumors that ethnic Vietnamese people living in Cambodia were being placed in concentration camps. His team couldn’t find any, but a rumor led them to break a story.

“We came into this town where we had been before, just a few miles from the Vietnam/Cambodia border, and suddenly on the right hand side, in the schoolyard that we had passed before, there were 97 men, women and children massacred,” Bell said. 

Two print journalists were in another car and also discovered the massacre.

“We got video and were able to break the story for the world. Two more massacres were discovered in the next two weeks. And world opinion, based on our reporting, is what stopped it. We really did have an essential role to play in making the world aware of what was happening,” Bell said. “That is, by far, the most important story I ever covered because we made a difference.”

Later in his career, Bell spent 15 years teaching at Ball State as the first Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Endowed Chair in Telecommunications. 

“I had always intended to teach — I went to college to be a coach and a teacher. I used to tell my students, I just got diverted for 30 plus years,” Bell said. 

Bell said he loved teaching at Ball State, and he likes to think his years at BSU are part of what will be recognized on Friday. Bell was surprised to find out he won the award, but also grateful.

“I was delighted to hear about it. I accept on behalf of all the people who spent a lifetime in journalism. You tend to get more criticism than praise,” Bell said.

Contact Michelle Kaufman with comments at mekaufman@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @mkaufman85