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RTNDA’s Honors for Broadcast Journalism Chalk Up Banner Year for Submissions Covering a Wide Range of News Events

Oct 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

When the Radio-Television News Directors Association gathers later this month to honor the best electronic journalism of the past year, it will have plenty to celebrate. The organization hosts the 37th Edward R. Murrow Awards and RTNDA Unity Awards Oct. 15 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York.
“This year has been great for journalism,” said RTNDA Chairman Bill Roswell, director of digital news and media at KYW Newsradio in Philadelphia. “More people are aware of the Murrow Awards, and each year the number of entries keeps growing and growing.”
Award presenters include CNN’s Anderson Cooper, NBC News’ Natalie Morales, ABC News’ David Muir, NPR’s Michele Norris and CBS News’ Harry Smith. NBC News President Steve Capus will accept his network’s award for overall excellence, and CBS producer Michael Radutzky will accept the news documentary award for the network’s “60 Minutes” story on the Duke rape case.
Murrow Awards Committee Chair Kathy Walker, who is the news director at KOA Radio, said this has been a banner year for submissions and judging. The 79 awards for 52 news organizations were selected from an initial pool of 3,150 entries from 580 news organizations.
“The Murrow Awards have grown as a prestigious event because of the legacy of Edward R. Murrow and because of the explosion of broadcast outlets,” Ms. Walker said. “We have five TV stations in markets where there used to be three. We have network entries from a broad array of people doing good journalism outside the traditional bastions of journalists. Because of the proliferation of media, a lot of interesting things are happening.
“It’s been exciting to hear the quality of the work being done, from markets where you wouldn’t picture that people are doing investigative and documentary stories. It’s now the top 200 markets where we’re seeing good journalism, not the top 10,” she added.
One change implemented this year was to double the number of judges, from every region in the country. “We involved many more members as judges, and that really made the Murrow Awards process very, very rich,” said Ms. Walker. “The whole judging process was a great example of how journalists feel about the prestige of the Murrow Awards. People understand the critical nature of judging the best of the best that our industry has to offer. The Murrow Awards have grown so much that we needed to do this. This is a sign of our success.”
The process for choosing additional judges began with seeking out former Murrow Award winners and other outstanding RTNDA members. “We looked for people we really considered to be premier examples of RTNDA members—great reporters, great newsroom leaders who have experience with the Murrow Award process,” said Ms. Walker. “We asked them if they would help us, and the answer was a resounding yes. Everyone said this is important.”
Unlike last year, when news coverage related to Hurricane Katrina dominated, there was no overriding theme or story this year, Ms. Walker said. “We saw wonderful diversity in the entries and great examples of broadcast journalism.”
The awards honor major networks, large-market stations and small-market stations. In the TV network/syndication service category, NBC won seven awards, followed by three for CBS, two for CNN and one for ABC. In the large-market TV category, KYW in Philadelphia won for overall excellence; in small-market television, KVUE in Austin, Texas, won for overall excellence. For overall excellence, the radio network/ syndication service award went to CBS Radio News; large-market radio went to WBAL-AM in Baltimore; and small-market radio went to KFDI-FM in Wichita, Kan.
Celebrating Unity
The RTNDA/Unity Awards, developed with UNITY: Journalists of Color and established in 1998, honor “diversity in the newsroom through developing news content and editorial staffs that reflect the changing face of America.” This year, San Francisco station KPIX-TV is the television winner in the large-market category, for nine special reports including a feature on the threatened deportation of an 82-year-old farmer with a green card. NBC News is the TV network winner for its report “Separate and Unequal, Reported by Tom Brokaw.”
In reflecting on the growing prominence of the Murrow Awards, Mr. Roswell describes the ceremony’s evolution to a “separate, stand-alone presentation” as an outgrowth of Sept. 11, 2001. “We were about to start a convention in Nashville and the RTNDA board met in the morning on Sept. 11,” he said. “We had to cancel the convention and we weren’t able to present the Murrow Awards then. Later on that year, we launched our first ever Murrow Awards ceremony in New York at the Museum of Radio & Television.”
That event went so well, said Mr. Roswell, that the RTNDA decided to expand it and to include a dinner to accompany the awards. “It’s become a premier event, in addition to our convention in April with the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas,” he said. “The RTNDA Murrow Awards has become one of the bright spots, a chance to celebrate—on the East Coast—the best in radio, TV and online journalism.”
Next year’s awards ceremony will have a special theme, Mr. Roswell said. “It will be the 60th anniversary of Edward R. Murrow’s ‘wires and lights in a box’ speech that he gave to the RTNDA convention in 1958,” he said. “It was a historic speech, and we’re looking for a way to celebrate the Murrow Awards on this historic anniversary.”
In the meantime, the TV and radio news journalists who convene in New York look forward to celebrating the achievements of the past year. “It’s a good time to be a journalist because there are a lot of outlets for good work,” said Ms. Walker. “With the explosion of the Internet, multiple TV outlets, we see a richness in the kind of journalism being done.”

4 Comments

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