I am currently leading the judging for one category for the upcoming public radio news directors PRNDI Awards. The awards ceremony is part of the annual PRNDI Conference [LINK] Wednesday 6/24 – Saturday 6/27 in Salt Lake City.
I’ve been a friend (and sometimes a member) of PRNDI since the early 1990s when I was Director of News at Public Radio International (“PRI”). Since I started my own business in 1997, I have supervised the judging for Category 102 – station-based talk shows.
Over my years in the biz I’ve judged many competitions: student contests, festivals and lots of advertising awards. (I loved the plot line about ad awards a couple of years ago on Mad Men: Next we have the nominees for the best floor wax ad. Seriously, this really happens.)
I have promised the folks at PRNDI that I will not identify the entrants, their stations or their programs. I will not reveal the names of the other two judges. Of course I won’t tell anyone the winners. I am doing this to provide guidance for folks running and entering these competitions.
FIRST: START WITH THE BASICS
We are judging Category 102 – Call-in Program. Here is how the category is defined:
Call-in Program - One news/public affairs program with a call-in component.
There are three sub-categories: 102A – The biggest newsrooms; 102B – Medium size newsrooms; 102C – The smaller newsrooms.
On note about the category’s name, over the past few years I have advised PRNDI to change the name of the Category to Interview & Talk Program.
In February, I reported on the major decline in call-in talk shows in the past 10 years [LINK]. The number of call-in talk shows between Morning Edition and ATC on NPR News stations decreased by 37%. The trend is towards magazine shows with interview segments or network programming such as Here & Now.
SECOND: REVIEW THE ENTRIES & DETERMINE THE PLAN OF WORK
Most of the entries are in Category 102A, the big shops. This year there are around 30 entries and I know many will be really, really. So category A will be time consuming.
Categories 102B and 102C have fewer entries – about half a dozen in each group.
TIP: Look for categories with a history of fewer entries. Odds are, you have a better chance of winning.
THREE: FOCUS ON THE DELIVERABLES
The judges’ task is to winnow down the entries in each sub-category and determine First Place and Second Place winners. We’ll pick up the story here tomorrow.
102 – CALL-IN PROGRAMS
WLRN & MIAMI HERALD
The Florida Roundup
Examining Child Deaths Under the Dep’t of Children & Families
The Florida Department of Children and Families – “DCF” – has been under scrutiny for many years. A Miami Herald investigation uncovered the recent deaths of 16 children who were involved with DCF. Host Tom Hudson explores years of mismanagement and neglect, cuts to DCF’s already limited funding and resistance to inquiries by Governor Rick Scott, who saids he is protecting patient confidentiality
Hudson’s guests, including the Herald reporter who broke the story provide the details, but is the callers are unforgettable voices the program. They share first hand experiences working at, or being clients of, DCF. The program does not place blame. The goal is to raise awareness. As one caller said: "Is anybody here not outraged?"
IOWA PUBLIC RADIO
River to River
The Crime of Stalking
Host Ben Kiefer focuses on stalking, which became a crime in Iowa in 1994. Kiefer interviews two victims of stalking who had very different experiences after reporting their situation to authorities. Stalking is often an “invisible crime” – hard to investigate and even harder to stop.
This program is great radio and notable public service. The most gripping moment is a caller who was convicted of stalking and is now trying to make amends. His honest depiction of how he evaded arrest adds to the takeaway for listeners. Even listeners who have not been stalked learn the impact of the crime.
Gulf Coast Live
Writing About Parenting Children With Down Syndrome
Host Amy Tardiff interviews two local moms who have children with Down Syndrome and are nationally known bloggers on the subject. Tardiff uses each woman’s personal story to show the difficulties families in this situation have finding resources and support.
The judges praised the focus on solutions. Tardiff takes a sad subject but never lets the discussion slide into a “pity party.”
First Coast Connect
Crisis In Cairo
Host Melissa Ross demonstrates solid enterprise by combining the developing unrest in Egypt with local analysis and perspective, including a Jacksonville resident who now lives in Cairo. Ross is skillful at getting foreign policy experts to make their comments conversational, not academic or bureaucratic. A few callers make it on the air and they are brief and prepared. Extra credit goes to an excellent call screener.
I’m Still Here: My HIV Life
In October 2013, WUOT journalists Matt Shafer Powell and Leslie Snow produced I’m Still Here: My HIV Life – a documentary about five East Tennesseans living with HIV. Immediately following the broadcast of the doc, WUOT aired this special edition of Dialogue featuring two of the people profiled during the doc who talk about their HIV-positive lives.
Powell gently guides the conversation. The two guests have haunting, urgent voices and tell their stories in a candid manner. Powell rightly acknowledges the courage of the participants to go public. Callers are well chosen and expand the scope of the conversation.
WCAI, Cape Cod
The Point With Mindy Todd
Preventing Breast Cancer: The Latest Research
Here is a terrific example of taking a topic from the day’s news and making it vital for local listeners. Mindy Todd interviews two breast cancer experts about Angelina Jolie's decision to undergo a double mastectomy because genetic testing showed she carries a defective gene that put her at high risk for developing breast cancer.
Mindy and her guests examine possible causes for higher rates of the defective gene occurring in women living on Cape Cod. There is plenty of takeaway and the judges praised the hopeful tone of the program.