Public Radio Celebrates Local Journalism

Jul 1, 2012

Public media journalist Ellen Weiss is this year's winner of PRNDI's Leo C. Lee Award. Weiss, who appeared in Houston during PRNDI's annual awards banquet, reminded journalists that "public radio is resilient, but you can't take anything for granted." "You've thrived and survived because of great journalism," said Weiss. Weiss, who's now executive editor at the Center for Public Integrity, built her reputation as a news manager at NPR.

Dozens of public radio journalists were also honored last night for work done during 2012.  Here's a list:

Division A

Breaking News

Second Place

WBUR, “The Arrest of James "Whitey" Bulger”  

First Place

KPCC, “Windstorm”  Reporters did an excellent job at the scene.  Reporters described the devastation through live reporting, using eyes and ears, very descriptive. Sense of urgency in reporting and coverage.  Good interaction between hosts and reporters at the scene.  Effective use of station's resources to provide comprehensive coverage of the windstorm in Pasadena.  Breaking news coverage, as it happens.

Spot News

Second Place

Northwest News Network, “Protestors Disrupt Start Of Washington Special Session”  

First Place

WHYY - FM, “At his spot, Vento remembered wit' affection”   Good story telling and use of sound.  Reporter takes us to a cheese steak haven and makes us care.  Good actualities.  Nice eye for detail reporting.

Continuing Coverage

First Place

Vermont Public Radio, “Continuing Coverage Of Tropical Storm Irene”  

Documentary

Second Place

ChicagoPublic Radio/WBEZ, “Cops and Neighbors: Explaining the divide between police and the community”  

First Place

WBUR, “Remembering 9/11” Very strong interviews and a compelling bit of story telling.  It gave us a fresh look at a story we all have followed closely.

Newscast

Second Place

Iowa Public Radio, “12/14/2011 7:30am IPR Newscast”  

First Place

WVXU, “Newscast: November 9, 2011”   Clearly the best newscast we heard. Good mix of wraps and readers with plenty of quotes. Outstanding job!

Best Writing

Second Place

WLRN/Miami Herald News, “A Journalist Turns His Mic On Haiti’s Grievances”  

First Place

FRONTERAS LJC, “In Guatemala, A Debate On The Merits Of Illegal Immigration”   This story puts a human face on the issue of illegal immigration in the U.S.  O'Dowd's writing is conversational, succinct yet descriptively detailed.  The reporter covers a broad array of issues with the points of view of just three people:  The young man who wants to come to the U.S., the man who's been there and got caught, and the man older man who choose not to take the risks of coming to the U.S. illegally.  He created vivid imagery and put the listener in his subjects' world and head in an effective and powerful way.

Best Multi-Media Presentation

Second Place

WNYC Radio, “Explainer: Herman Cain's 999 Tax Plan - Is it Really That Simple?”  

First Place

Vermont Public Radio, “The Irene Effect: Responding To A Tropical Storm's Destruction”   Wonderfully controlled explosion of information and experience, shared with a rich variety of multi-media presentations ranging from Tweets, photos, satellite imagery, a Facebook page, as well as traditional audio.  Staff demonstrated versatility as well as sensitivity in conveying this story, that while fairly local, earns the attention and respect of audiences near and far.  Kudos to VPR's staff!

Call-in Program

Second Place

Iowa Public Radio, “The Exchange: Stuttering and The King's Speech”  

First Place

KUOW-FM, “Living in a White City”   Host Ross Reynolds anchors a fascinating conversation regarding the underbelly of Seattle.  Census data shows Seattle is one of the whitest major cities in the country.  Reynolds and the callers go beyond the stats to examine what this means in human terms.

The conversation [pun intended] quickly goes into racial attitudes.  Reynolds skillfully avoids what could become a shouting match to explore the reality of people making economic and lifestyle decisions based on unconscious or unintentional racial biases.

The judges felt this entry is an excellent example of taking a universal topic – “census data“ and creating a full portrait - good and bad - about life in Seattle.

News/Public Affairs Program

Second Place

KJZZ 91.5 FM, “The Mormon Church and Politics”  

First Place

Vermont Public Radio, “Vermont Edition: Update Of Storm Devastation”   Following widespread flooding from a hurricane, VPR dedicated this program to getting information to the people in Vermont, and giving residents a way to share what they knew about local conditions with other listeners and government officials. Having emergency management officials and the governor join the program offered a look at the seriousness of the situation, as well as a sense that even the state's leadership was still working to gather information on conditions.  Excellent public service.

Commentary

Second Place

WUWM/Milwaukee Public Radio, “The Latino Vote”  

First Place

Vermont Public Radio, “Doherty: First Days”  Commentaries often tell the listener; she shows us. The use of short, but visually descriptive sentences really creates a series of images in the listeners mind.  The theme of "first days" remained prominent throughout the commentary, yet the meaning of 'first days' changed throughout. The urge for life to get back to normal gave this essay broad appeal.

Interview

Second Place

WSHU Public Radio, “A talk with Jules Feiffer”  

First Place

KPCC, “Parenting on the Edge-Cancer”   We listened to some great conversations while judging the category. This one stood out. It's an interview with an ordinary person talking about an extraordinary event.  The interviewer helped her paint the picture without taking over the discussion. It just a quality listen.

Enterprise/Investigative

Second Place

Northwest News Network, “Silver Valley Profits Come With Losses”   

First Place

Capital Public Radio, “Toxic Town”   The reporter stands in for the town's residents who had been living with extreme health reactions to the toxic pollution. He also gives company and government officials the opportunity to explain. The web coverage added to the depth and importance of the solid reporting.

Series

Second Place

KPCC, “Secure Communities”  

First Place

KPCC, “Grocery Series” Great pacing.  The series moved well from story to story.  Great coverage of something we interact with every day...but rarely examine.

News Feature

Second Place

Vermont Public Radio, “Plymouth Rallies Around Residents Who Lost Homes To Irene”  

First Place

WNYC Radio, “Cellphone Ban is a Tale of Two City Schools”   This piece is full of great moments: "...my phone, my baby, my heart" or the image of a student sliding her phone into her Uggs to hide it from security and teachers.  The sound never stops and the writing always keeps us in the scene.

Best Use of Sound

Second Place

Vermont Public Radio, “Tapping Backyard Maples”  

First Place

KPCC, “Pot Raid”   From the first moments of this story the reporter took me deep into the Angeles National Forest and kept me there until the helicopters carried me back to civilization.

Soft Feature

Second Place

KPLU, “I Wonder Why...Seahawks fans are loudest in league”  

First Place

ChicagoPublic Radio/WBEZ, “Electric barrier, last line against invasive species”  A clever opening to the story -- and it made me care about what happens to the invasive species.


Division D

Spot News

Second Place

KUWS - FM, “Fleeing senator returns home”  

First Place

WFUV, “Egyptian Elections Local Reax”   Nice delivery.  Remember to fade in and out of cut.. especially when there's an active background.

Newscast

Second Place

WFUV, “Katie Moore -- 1/26/11”  

First Place

WFUV, “Jake Neher -- 11/18/11” Seems very engaged with story.  Nice delivery. Good use of sound.

Soft Feature

Second Place

Iowa Public Radio, “The Low Pheasant Population Hurts More Than Hunters”  

First Place

Iowa Public Radio, “The Tiniest Babies Registry”   I just really like this story. Simple, but neatly produced. It gets my attention immediately, but has a gold nugget near the end.  Proves you don't need to guild the lilly.

Hard Feature

Second Place

WFUV, “Men: Hidden Victims of Domestic Violence”  

First Place

KVNO, “Unassisted: Home Birth in Nebraska” A most impressive investigation not just into a law, but an entire state's debate over a health care mandate and personal choice.


Division C

Best Multi-Media Presentation

First Place

KRCC, “Western Skies: July 3, 2011, “Cowboy Myth and Culture””  

Best Use of Sound

Second Place

Aspen Public Radio, “Composting is Heating Up”  

First Place

WCAI, “Fado is Life”   With a piece about music, you expect a certain use of sound.  But this piece does so much more.  Listening to the woman sing along with the CD gave a certain insight into the importance of Fado as more than an art form, but a way of life.

Series

Second Place

Northeast Indiana Public Radio, “Snapshots of Breast Cancer”  

First Place

WKNO - FM, “Gangs in the City” Wonderful voices and a raw look at a growing problem.  Nicely done.

Best Writing

Second Place

KLCC, “McKenzie River Drift Boats Via the Grand Canyon”  

First Place

KVNO, “The value of urban art”   The writing is the right balance of lilting description and straight ahead delivery of fact.

Breaking News

Second Place

KVNO, “Mavericks reel after UNO's surprise move”  

First Place

KLCC, “City Council Tells Occupy Eugene to Leave Park”  

Call-in Program

Second Place

WCAI, “radioactive”  

First Place

Northeast Indiana Public Radio, “Midday Matters - "Brown-Mackie / 12 Cities Project" The judges had high praise for the enterprise shown by this program that shines a light on questionable claims by a local for-profit trade school. An investigative newspaper reporter provides the facts and context.  Callers advance the story by relating their own experiences with the school.  The result is compelling radio and valuable public service.

It took guts to cover this story because of the potential legal blowback. The host and producers carefully walk the line to safeguard the public while being fair to the school.

Commentary

First Place

KLCC, “Eugene's Funniest Person Dies”   Riveting. Gave us chills. Somehow was charming, tragic, sad and funny all in a very short time period. It tells a difficult story extremely well, and does the near-impossible by being heartfelt without being overly sentimental. It made us want to learn more about the man who was being memorialized, and we commend the commentator for this excellent work.

Continuing Coverage

Second Place

WPSU - FM, “Coverage of the Jerry Sandusky Child Sex Abuse Scandal”  

First Place

WFIU, “Franklin Township Busing”   Well-rounded, in-depth coverage of a topic most people take for granted or pay little attention to.  Ripple-effects to community well demonstrated through writing and voices shared.

Documentary

Second Place

KGNU, “Fire on the Mountain: How Gold Hill was Saved”  

First Place

WYSO Public Radio, “A Clear Day In September” Compelling. Held our interest all the way through. Great use of archival tape, music and nat sound. Skillful editing.

Enterprise/Investigative

Second Place

WUKY, “Lexington Family's Tragedy Results in DOD Changes”  

First Place

WCAI, “The Falmouth Experience: The Trouble with One Town's Wind Turbine”   An impressive and thorough set of stories, looking at the side effects of wind turbines originally praised by neighbors.  Fair but still compelling reporting.

Interview

Second Place

WYSO Public Radio, “WYSO Weekend July 3rd 2011: Segment 1, Tony Powers & Synesthesia”  

First Place

WCAI, “Jennifer Wright Knust”   Interesting subject, engaged guest and host.

News Feature

Second Place

WRKF, “Floating Islands Project Aims to Restore Coast”  

First Place

WFIU, “How YouTube Is Changing The Classroom”   back and forth between reporter and tape gives this story pace -- I was not interested in the subject matter until I heard the piece - kept me all the way through.

News/Public Affairs Program

Second Place

WFUV, “Cityscape: Fighting Back Against Domestic Violence”  

First Place

KRCC, “Western Skies, March 6, 2011: “Military” Western Skies' program on the Military is a compelling exploration of the topic. With a creative beginning, middle and end, the program goes far beyond the "expert" interview by including a dramatic reading and a retrospective on the "ghost army." From the serious to the light, the arc of the program is fulfilling to the listener, the content is illuminating and the solid production makes the time fly by.

Soft Feature

Second Place

WYSO Public Radio, “The Art of Threshold Singing”  

First Place

WPSU - FM, “Bike Month: Beating the Beast”   I was surprised by this story. I didn't think it would impress me. But it was written and delivered very conversationally. I felt I was sitting with the reporter, talking with the couple. Also, it's a cool and interesting idea - riding more miles than driving. Excellent job!

Spot News

Second Place

KLCC, “Occupiers Clean up Camp”  

First Place

KLCC, “State Plans Herbicide Testing on Triangle Lake Residents”   Good writing.  Delivered well. Nice choice of sound bite.


Division B

Breaking News

Second Place

North Country Public Radio, “All Before Five, 08/29/11”  

First Place

WBGO, “Hurricane Irene”   Breaking news from WBGO  demonstrated the power of public radio to respond to an emergency after Hurricane Irene roared through. In more than a dozen timely reports on everything from flooding deaths to travel problems to power outages and beach erosion, this was an essential service in action. The station also had the governor on the air to describe what he had seen.

Spot News

Second Place

WFDD, “Funeral Begins for 5 Murdered Children of Guilford County Shooting Rampage”  

First Place

WBFO, “Bullied to Death: The Bullying of Jamey Rodemeyer”

Continuing Coverage

Second Place

North Country Public Radio, “Spring Flood - 2011”  

First Place

WBGO, “Hurricane Irene And Its Aftermath”   Judges really liked this coverage because there were tons of actualities (everyone from frustrated and scared boat/home owners to Janet Napolitano.) Good use of sound in many shorter spots, which felt to be the right length.  It was exciting to listen to, informative, good descriptive writing and it felt like you were there.

Newscast

Second Place

WBAA, “WBAA News February 2, 2011”  

First Place

WBFO, “WBFO NEWSCAST”   Great diversity of stories. The nat sound in the Occupy story was particularly good. Host is authoritative and friendly at the same time.

Best Writing

Second Place

Wyoming Public Radio, “Land Conservation, a boom time”  

First Place

WBGO, “Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On”   The judges found the writing clean and strong and in full support of the audio. We felt like we were there, from beginning to end. Great sense of place.

Interview

Second Place

WBFO, “85 year old pianist releasing first album”  

First Place

WFDD, “9th Wonder”  This is a fascinating interview that holds the listener's attention for the duration and leaves one wanting more.  Denise Franklin has great chemistry with 9th Wonder, putting him at ease and drawing him out, eliciting open and honest answers.  This is a great look at a local producer with national range and is conducted with expertise, enthusiasm and good humor by Denise Franklin.

Best Multi-Media Presentation

First Place

Prairie Public, “High Risk High: Youth Drinking in North Dakota”  

Call-in Program

Second Place

WBGO, “Newark Today, September 8, 2011”  

First Place

KERA - 90.1 Dallas, “Social Media's Impact on the Law”   During the judging, one of the judges commented: “I wish this program was live now so I could call in a question.”  This engaging program brought high value to listeners – including the judges.  The host, guest and callers keep the focus on real world examples that illustrate the latest Internet, privacy and intellectual property law.  But the conversation never descends into “lawyer speak.” Instead it mixes common sense with precedent to deliver valuable takeaway for listeners.

News/Public Affairs Program

Second Place

WBGO, “The WBGO Journal, June 3, 2011”  

First Place

Wyoming Public Radio, “Open Spaces 8-5-11”   While both the opening story and follow-up interview could have been shorter - it was a great "package" to start the show. We got a sense of both emotion and policy implications. The pacing and selection of stories throughout speaks well to the local audience, and those who live far away. A very good public affairs program.

Commentary

Second Place

WBHM - FM, “Alabama Immigrants: Skilled or Unskilled Labor”  

First Place

WFDD, “Small Waves of the Future”   Simple, heart-warming, and memorable story of adolescent trailblazers in a difficult time and environment.

Documentary

Second Place

WMFE - FM, “Final Flight: A WMFE News Special”  

First Place

WVTF Public Radio, “Fear of Fracking”   Informative while still having great storytelling and a real sense of place.  We learned new things about fracking and its dangers in a controlled but compelling way.

Enterprise/Investigative

Second Place

Wyoming Public Radio, “Insurance Pool Concerns”

First Place

Wyoming Public Radio, “Possible uranium contamination on Wind River Reservation” This story combined the investigative and narrative elements to do something really special -- uncover a wrong and then make me care about it. Superb work!

Best Use of Sound

Second Place

WIUM/WIUW - FM, “Home Soil”  

First Place

NashvillePublic Radio, “Transitioned - Nobody Can Survive Without Backup”  

Series

Second Place

N-E-T Radio, “Gang Fight: Nebraska”  

First Place

Alabama Public Radio, “"Oil & Water: Recovering from the Spill"”   Great mix of affected voices, ambient sound, and writing that conveys the aftermath of one of America's worst oil spill disasters.  Smart, engaging storytelling.

Soft Feature

Second Place

WIUM/WIUW - FM, “Roller Derby Queens”  

First Place

Wyoming Public Radio, “A venture into the 23rd annual Wyoming Taxidermy Competition”   An interesting peer into the world of taxidermy.  Nice, descriptive writing. Great characters.  We appreciated the context given to a subject that can be perceived as a little creepy.

News Feature

Second Place

WBGO, “Newark Roll Call”  

First Place

NashvillePublic Radio, “Getting Back to Battle with a Brain Injury” Great use of scenes, from the hook (explosion noise, followed by "Jesus....") to the simulation of a triage. Well-focused, effiicient use of tape and scripting.  There are many features about PTSD, but this one focuses not on the injury, but the challenge of deciding if and when a soldier can return to battle. The piece flows naturally and gets the listener from being interested to understanding the challenges.