This past weekend at the Public Radio News Directors (”PRNDI”) conference in Salt Lake City news folks from around the nation gathered for the PRNDI Awards [link]. Below are the winners in the Call-In Talk Show category. It was my pleasure to be the lead judge for this category.
In April we reported [link] on the judging process. We withheld announcing the winners until now. The competition, particularly in Category A – the largest newsrooms, was close because of the consistent high quality of the entries. Congratulations to the winners!
2015 PRNDI TALK SHOW WINNERS
CATEGORY A – FIRST PLACE
Radio Boston [link]
School Desegregation Four Decades Later
In 1974, Boston’s public schools were desegregated by a court order. When school buses began to roll, Boston was in turmoil. America watched and listened to voices of anger and a few voices of hope. Nobody had more at stake than the residents of Boston. This entry allows them to talk about what happened in 1974 and lessons learned forty years later.
Radio Boston combines archive audio with new first-hand accounts of the first days of bussing. Witnesses and participants tell their stories with same raw emotion they felt in 1974. These accounts have been splendidly edited and put into context. Guests include local historians and a former mayor of Boston.
The most memorable voices are those of the callers. All of the elements of this program are superior but the caller’s voices and stories are exceptional. This edition of Radio Boston got enthusiastic “thumbs up” from the judges.
CATEGORY A – SECOND PLACE
CONNECTICUT PUBLIC RADIO
Where We Live [link]
Waking Into the Flames: Connecticut Firefighters
This program is both great radio and valuable public service. John Dankosky and his team interviewed several local firefighters about their experiences. They talk about what motivated them to become firefighters and what keeps them on the job.
The result is an hour that puts a human face on these incredible public servants. Listener calls open discussions of memorable Connecticut fires. The guests tell behind-the-scenes memories – some hilarious – that only a firefighter could know.
CATEGORY B – FIRST PLACE
First Coast Connect [link]
Michael Dunn Verdict
The shooting Jacksonville teen Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn after the two had an altercation over loud music was a major national new story. In Jacksonville it was also a unforgettable local story. This edition of First Coast Connect aired shortly after Dunn was convicted of first-degree murder. The progran promotes an event happening on the evening of broadcast featuring noted criminal defense attorney Mark O'Mara, who defended George Zimmerman, and sociologist Dr. Jerry Wilder.
|MELISSA ROSS • HOST FIRST COAST CONNECT|
The judges were unanimous in their praise for host Melissa Ross and how she handled this emotional case. Nerves were still raw in Jacksonville. One of the judges asked: What size market is Jacksonville? [It is #50 according to Nielsen]. Melissa Ross sounds bigger than the market – she could work anywhere, including NPR. Partly because of Ross’ work, she and WJCT are essential Jacksonville.
CATEGORY B – SECOND PLACE
Cincinnati Edition [link]
City Prepares for Fallout After Ferguson Grand Jury Decision
Calming. Informative. Respectful. Those were just a few of the judge’s comments about this program. Host Mark Heyne does a really, really good job of keeping things from boiling over.
The events in Ferguson brought a shadow over Cincinnati because a similar situation happened in 2001. Cincinnati was Ferguson in 2001, one guest said. Guests included the Cincinnati Police Chief, local civil rights attorneys and community activists. One judge said: I get the feeling I am getting the truth – good and bad.
CATEGORY C – FIRST PLACE
Newark Today [link]
The New Mayor of Newark
There have been a lot of changes at WBGO in the past couple of years. Former Mayor Cory Booker was elected to the US Senate. While he was mayor, Booker was an excellent guest and sometimes talk show host. This entry features the new mayor of Newark (Ras Baraca) and a new program host: David Cruz.
Cruz is also a public television host who excels at radio interviewing. He is confident, good listener and keeps the program pace moving. The premise of this program is “Ask the Mayor.” Cruz uses listener suggestions to form his questions. This approach creates lots of takeaway for listeners, particularly residents of Newark.
CATEGORY C – SECOND PLACE
Moving Beyond Bitterness
Charlie Molden, a Knoxville resident, was gunned down in 1968 while he was fishing. The man charged with shooting Molden walked free because of a legal technicality. In 2014 Knoxville News columnist San Venable went through trial transcripts, witness statements and conducted new interviews. Venable’s reports appeared on the front page of the paper., telling the true story of what happened 46 years earlier. Molden and Venable appear on the program hosted by Matt Shafer Powell.
Powell’s interviews are remarkable because Molden has moved beyond bitterness about the incident. Powell guides the conversation through universal themes such as racism, violence, friendship and the power of forgiveness. By the end of the program Powell is clearly in awe of Molden, as are Venable and callers. One of the judges said: If you are having a bad day, listen to this program. You can’t help but smile.