Feb 20, 2012

CPB-backed collaborators release Code of Editorial Integrity for pubmedia

The Editorial Integrity for Public Media Project has released its Code of Editorial Integrity for Local Public Media Organizations, a set of guidelines intended to serve as an ethical compass for TV and radio stations throughout the system. The Code stems from a joint effort of public TV’s Affinity Group Coalition, which began work on the guidelines two years ago, and public radio’s Station Resource Group, and it draws on guidance from a wide range of stakeholders in public media. “We think public media organizations will find much in the Code that affirms current work and makes us proud of the principles for which we stand,” wrote SRG’s Tom Thomas and Byron Knight, emeritus director of Wisconsin Public Broadcasting, in an email accompanying the release of the Code. “We know most of us will also find areas that we can address more closely.” Aspects of station activities that are covered by the guidelines include journalism, selection of programs, management, partnerships, and fundraising. Stations are encouraged to adopt the guidelines and promote their involvement on their websites.

"Frontline" takes home all four Writers Guild documentary/news awards

Frontline swept the documentary and news categories of the Writers Guild Awards Sunday (Feb. 19) in Los Angeles, winning all four honors. "Top Secret America," written by Michael Kirk and Mike Wiser, claimed the documentary — current events award; "Wiki Secrets," by Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith, documentary — other than current events; "Educating Sergeant Pantzke," by John Maggio and Martin Smith, news — regularly scheduled, bulletin or breaking report; and "Doctor Hotspot," by Thomas Jennings, news — analysis, feature or commentary. The WGAs were presented in Los Angeles by the Writers Guild of America, West. Here's a complete list of winners.

"Downton Abbey" shouldn't "go on and on forever," its creator says

Now that the second season of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic has wrapped up, creator Julian Fellowes took time for a question-and-answer session with the New York Times in which he reveals a few of his fave American TV shows (Mad Man, Sex and the City, Glee) and addresses what all Downton fans are wondering: Just how long will the hit Edwardian costume drama keep going? "Sufficient unto the day," Fellowes said, laughing. "I feel that one can’t really think much beyond that. Although I agree, I do not think it should just go on and on forever."

Ira Glass, California Watch reporters win George Polk Awards

Ira Glass of This American Life is a recipient of a prestigious George Polk Award, announced today (Feb. 20) by Long Island University. Glass won for his reporting on "Very Tough Love," an hour-long piece that showed "alarmingly severe" punishments by a county drug court judge in Georgia, LIU said in a press release. "Drug courts were set up to emphasize rehabilitation instead of incarceration, but Glass’ investigation revealed that Judge Amanda Williams strayed far from the principles and philosophy by routinely piling on jail sentences for relapses,"  it said. Williams ultimately stepped down from the bench. (For the back story on Glass's reporting, see Current's June 13, 2011, coverage).

Journalists from another public media news organization, California Watch, also won a Polk for medical reporting for "Decoding Prime." Lance Williams, Christina Jewett and Stephen K. Doig wrote a yearlong series of articles showing how a California hospital chain increased its Medicare reimbursements by classifying patients as suffering from rare medical conditions. "The stories, which appeared in newspapers across California, offered a glimpse into the broader problem of waste, fraud and abuse within the nation’s $2.5-trillion health care system," LIU said.

Honors will be presented at a luncheon April 5 in New York City. The awards have been administered by LIU since 1949, memorializing CBS correspondent George W. Polk, who was slain covering the civil war in Greece in 1948.

Pubradio manager and advocate Tim Emmons dies; was a co-founder of MEGS

Northern Public Radio General Manager Tim Emmons, a passionate pubradio advocate and mentor, and a driving force behind the Morning Edition Grad School, died Feb. 18 at home after a long battle with cancer. He was 53. He headed the five stations in DeKalb, Ill., for 15 years.

The NPR Board observed a moment of silence for Emmons at its Feb. 24 meeting in Washington, D.C., and adopted a resolution marking his passing. “The words used to describe Tim by colleagues across the country,” it reads in part, “are ‘genuine,’ ‘inspirational,’ ‘wise,’ ‘modest,’ ‘intelligent,’ ‘tireless,’ a ‘quiet giant,’ a ‘champion for public radio’ and — over and over again — ‘courageous,’ in his career, in his life, and facing death.”

Emmons arrived in 1988 as program director at WNIU, licensed to Northern Illinois University, and was instrumental in the creation of WNIJ in 1991. As p.d., he hired and supervised a WNIJ news team that won 32 national, regional and state news awards. He left to be program director at St. Louis Public Radio; during his three years there, that news team won nearly 20 awards. Emmons returned to Northern Public Radio in 1995 as station manager. Two years later, he became director and general manager. “Over that time,” the station said in a statement, “the stations experienced unprecedented growth in audience, membership and underwriting revenue.”

He was a co-founder of Morning Edition Grad School (MEGS), a national best-practice effort “aimed at assuring peak performance for Morning Edition on local stations,” funded by NPR’s Local News Initiative.

In 2009, Emmons received the Don Otto Award from the Public Radio Program Directors Association and Audience Research Analysis, honoring “public radio originals.” In a university press release about the honor, Emmons said: “Really, the best thing for me is when I see the light go on in somebody else. It’s a big thing for me when I can pass on something that I’ve learned.”

Emmons was a vocal advocate for the pubradio system, and wrote several Thinking pieces for Current over the years. In 1999, he noted the need for a program director at NPR (published Jan. 25, 1999); 10 years later, he was still tenaciously pushing the point (Feb. 2, 2009). He also wrote about what Morning Edition needed after host Bob Edwards’ departure (April 12, 2004).

In May 2005, he presented a resolution at NPR’s annual Members Meeting regarding CPB’s journalistic firewall, in the wake of the news coverage about CPB activities promoting conservative programming on public TV.

Over the past year Emmons formulated a succession plan for the stations. Staci Hoste, development director, will serve as interim general manager. “He and I prepared for this transition and feel strongly that we will preserve Tim’s legacy at Northern Public Radio, its mission, and its service to the community,” Hoste said in a statement.

Peter Dominowski and Scott Williams, longtime friends of Emmons and business associates with him in Strategic Programming Partners, which developed MEGS, are planning the Tim Emmons Memorial Mentoring Scholarship for “a fairly new program director, or someone aspiring to that position,” Dominowski told Current. The two envision selecting one candidate to mentor each year, and will provide their personal expertise to serve as a resource for the up-and-coming p.d. They expect to have an announcement with details on the national scholarship program by mid-March.

Emmons was born June 18, 1958, in Champaign, to Robert and Peggy Emmons. He graduated in 1976 from University High School in Normal, Ill., where he was a state finalist in forensics his senior year in radio speaking. He attended Moody Bible Institute for two years, and graduated from Illinois State University in Normal.

He was a past-president of the Illinois Public Broadcasting Council, and served on several advisory committees for NPR.

Emmons is survived by his wife of 33 years, Charlene, son Daniel and daughter Jordan, as well as his mother, sister Amy Bradford, in-laws Joyce Theobald and George and Mona Lohnes, three nephews and and two great-nephews.

A memorial service took place Feb. 25 at Christ Community Church in DeKalb. Emmons asked that in lieu of flowers, donations benefit his children’s education. Checks may be made to Timothy Emmons Memorial and mailed to P.O. Box 66, Elburn, Ill., 60119.