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Author Archives: Florida Public Media

Jeff George Appointed Director – Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

May 12, 2022 – The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications (UFCJC) today announced that meteorologist Jeff George will join the College as Chief Meteorologist and Director of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (FPREN) on May 31, 2022.

George will have oversight over both FPREN and the South Carolina Emergency Information Network, which are partners with the states of Florida and South Carolina, respectively, to provide online weather and other emergency information to public media outlets throughout the states.

He will also oversee the WUFT Weather Department, which provides weather updates on public media stations WUFT-TV and WUFT-FM, and commercial TV station WRUF-TV. The department consists two meteorologists and a producer/editor who focuses on public safety and emergency management content for public television and radio stations in Florida and South Carolina. George will also manage the Meteorologist in Training program within the College and its various media properties.

Jeff George – FPREN Director

George most recently was chief meteorologist at KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City for 15 years. In that role, he won awards for the best severe weather coverage from the Associated Press. Prior to that, he served as meteorologist or chief meteorologist at stations in Toledo, Ohio, Abilene, Texas, and Bismarck, North Dakota.

George was active duty in the U.S. Air Force from 1991 – 2000. Starting in 2019, he served as an Equal Opportunity Advisor for the U.S. Air Force Reserve at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, and will continue in that role at a Florida base, where he will be responsible for promoting a positive human relations environment and providing advice, consultation, education, mediation, and referral services to enhance mission effectiveness.

From 2016-2019, he was a weather forecaster for the Oklahoma Air National Guard Joint Task Force, where he provided lead weather support and acted as Meteorologist Liaison assisting in decision-making regarding natural disasters. From 1995-2000, he was a weather forecaster for the U.S. Air Force.

As Chief Meteorologist in Oklahoma City, George was heavily involved in the community as spokesman or emcee for JDRF, Special Olympics, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and served as Executive Board Member for the American Lung Association, IMCI (It’s My Community Initiative), and OK Bikes 4 Kids. He created and published the cookbook Firehouse Favorites with proceeds benefiting local children’s hospital, and created a weather safety program targeted to elementary students called Future Forecasters.

WLRN Named Station of Year by Broadcasters

WLRN in Miami was named Overall Station of the Year by the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists during its annual awards ceremony in Orlando this weekend.

The station also won first place awards for Breaking News and Education Reporting (Series).

It shared a first place award with WJCT in Jacksonville for producing the statewide public affairs program, The Florida Roundup. The program is hosted by WLRN’s Tom Hudson and WJCT’s Melissa Ross.

It also shared first place awards with WUSF in Tampa/St. Pete for Series (Franchise-Hard) and Feature Reporting (Cultural & Historic).

WLRN’s Leslie Ovalle won an individual award for producing.

“The work by WLRN and all of the public radio stations in Florida is remarkable,” said Patrick Yack, executive director of Florida Public Media.
“It is deeply satisfying to see them recognized by these awards.”

WLRN also was part of a statewide news initiative, Class of COVID-19, which won a first place award for Digital Programming. Stations throughout the state contributed to the initiative.

WUSF won numerous first place awards including:

Best Radio Newscast, Continuing Coverage, General Assignment Reporting,
General Assignment Reporting (Long), Series (Franchise Light), Feature Reporting (Hard), Use of Sound, Online/Digital, Sports Reporting,
Investigative Reporting, Investigative Reporting (Series), Health Reporting (Single) and Health Reporting (Series).

Kerry Sheridan of WUSF won an individual award for reporting. WUSF also was part of the Class of COVID-19 project.

Other first place award awards won by Florida public radio stations included:

Climate/Environmental Reporting (Single). WMFE. Orlando.

Environmental Reporting (Series). WUWF. Pensacola.

Consumer, Financial, Economic Reporting. WUFT. Gainesville/Ocala.

Series/Franchise (Hard). WUFT.

Feature Reporting (Light). WGCU. Ft. Myers/Naples.

Weather Reporting. WFSU. Tallahassee.

Political/Government/Election Reporting (Single). WMFE.

Political/Government/Election Reporting (Series) WUWF.

WUWF’s Pat Crawford Wins Distinguished University Award

April 1, 2022 – WUWF‘s veteran executive director Pat Crawford was awarded the University of West Florida Marion Viccars Award

This award was established to recognize superior service of university employees for substantial contributions, outstanding performance, and professionalism impacting operations, service excellence, inter-departmental effectiveness, and community involvement.

WUWF Executive Director – Pat Crawford (Photo: Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media)

In addition to this milestone, 2022 marks Crawford’s 40th anniversary with WUWF Public Media.

“We are proud of Pat for winning this prestigious award,” said Patrick Yack, executive director of Florida Public Media.

“Pat has made many lasting contributions to WUWF, the university and the community. We can all be thankful for his dedicated service.”

WJCT-FM Celebrates 50th Anniversary

March 21, 2022 — JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — WJCT Public Media today announced the launch of its “50 Years of Radio That Matters” campaign, celebrating a half-century of local news and music on its flagship radio station — and a half-century of community support.

WJCT FM debuted on April 10, 1972 as “Stereo 90,” broadcasting music, news, and public affairs programming for approximately 18 hours a day. Today, after changing to an all news/talk format in 2020 that has seen the station garner some of the largest audiences in its history,  the station operates as WJCT News 89.9. Its programming includes WJCT productions such as the local public affairs call-in program “First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross,” which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020, and the new health program “What’s Health Got To Do With It,” which debuted last fall. WJCT News 89.9 is also the co-producer of the statewide public affairs program “The Florida Roundup,” and broadcasts other Florida-focused programs such as “Florida Frontiers” and “Capital Report,” in addition to local newcasts throughout the day. 

Additionally, the station is Northeast Florida’s local source for the two most popular news magazine programs in the country, “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered” from NPR News. Alongside these listener favorites, WJCT News 89.9 carries programs from a range of program producers and distributors, including National Public Radio (NPR), American Public Media, PRX and others. 

Financial support provided by listeners is the stations’ largest source of revenue. WJCT Public Media will share highlights from the station’s history across its website, app, broadcasts and social media in the weeks leading up to its golden anniversary, culminating in a one-day pledge drive on Friday, April 8, 2022. The organization seeks to raise $50,000 to support its broadcast operations.

“The media landscape — much like our local community — has changed in ways great and small since we first took to the airwaves,” said David McGowan, President and CEO of WJCT Public Media.

“Today, we reach more people in more neighborhoods of Northeast Florida than ever before. Listeners find us on the air, on their phones and on demand. Though our delivery methods have increased in number, we still hold to the singular vision that fueled our first broadcast: that serving this community matters most.”

WJCT Public Media is currently accepting messages from listeners to share on wjct.org, WJCT News 89.9, Jax PBS, and social media. Supporters can submit their congratulations, an 89.9 FM memory or their favorite “driveway moment” that kept them listening through a story’s end at wjct.org/50.

In celebration of the station’s anniversary, WJCT Public Media has also introduced:

  • Voices from the Past, a series of personal messages from the station’s hosts, reporters and producers from across the decades
  • A limited-edition line of commemorative merchandise
  • A special edition of First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross dedicated to honoring the past and celebrating the future
  • An online toolkit that supporters can use to celebrate the station’s anniversary

To learn more about the “50 Years of Radio That Matters” campaign, including opportunities to donate, click here.

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About WJCT:

WJCT is the community-owned and operated public media organization serving Jacksonville and the First Coast since 1958, using television, radio, digital media, and live events to help community members learn, share, and grow. For more information on WJCT’s in-depth programming content, log on to WJCT Online atwjct.org. Like WJCT on Facebook (facebook.com/wjctjax) and follow WJCT on Twitter (@WJCTJax) and Instagram (@WJCTJax).

WFSU, WJCT, WGCU Chosen for Poynter’s Table Stakes Program

The Poynter Institute

March 15, 2022 – The Poynter Institute, a global leader in journalism, fact-checking and media literacy education, announced the 14 news organizations selected for Table Stakes: Poynter’s Local News Innovation Program in 2022.

Among the newsrooms selected include Florida public radio stations: WFSU (Tallahassee), WJCT (Jacksonville) and WGCU (Ft. Myers/Naples).

This is the fifth year of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation-funded and Poynter-facilitated initiative to accelerate digital transformation and sustainability in local news.

More than 60 newsrooms across the United States have realized their performance challenges through Poynter’s program since 2017, while also adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, intensifying racial reckoning and ongoing business model changes.

The Florida initiatives include:

Jacksonville Today, a product of WJCT Public Media, Jacksonville,

FloridaParticipants: Jessica Palombo, Editorial Director; Ray Hollister, Digital Director; and Pete Havens, Local Journalism Business and Donor Relations Manager

Our new digital news offering, Jacksonville Today, launched in October 2021 as a weekday email newsletter, giving readers a concise rundown of top local news, along with original reporting, ways to get civically involved, opinion columns and more. As we build on our initial success, we are hoping the Table Stakes challenge tracking process will help us grow our base of subscribers and engage our audience in new ways, all while building a more diverse team within our newsroom.

WFSU Public Media, Tallahassee, Florida

Participants: David Mullins, GM; Lynn Hatter, News Director; Patricia Moynihan, Digital Director; Kim Kelling, Director of Content; and Crystal Cumbo, Corporate Support

This program is critical in helping us reorient our newsroom on the importance of building our digital audiences. We know that growing audiences will translate to more members and better future outcomes for the station.

WGCU Public Media, Fort Myers, Florida

Participants: Amy Shumaker, Associate General Manager of Content; Corey Lewis, General Manager; and Pamela James, Executive Producer of Content

Our Executive team is leading our entire staff through organizational change to meet the changing needs of our audience. Poynter’s 2022 Tables Stakes program ensures that we will meet our goals and ambitions with greater ease and clarity. Poynter has been there before and we are happy to take their guidance.

Zimmerman Named GM of WMNF – Tampa

Randi M. Zimmerman has been named General Manager of WMNF-FM in Tampa.

Zimmerman, who previously worked for WMNF as a headline news anchor between 1998 and 2005, will assume her role on February 21, 2022.

Randi Zimmerman – WMNF – Tampa

“Randi is a seasoned professional and we are proud to welcome her back to WMNF and our Tampa Bay community,” said WMNF Board President Isha Del Valle. 

Zimmerman co-created and anchored the WMNF Evening News with Mitch Perry, winning the “Exceptional News and Public Affairs Programming” award for her work.

She also developed and taught a practicum in broadcast management at the University of Tampa, teaching students to run their radio station from a non-commercial perspective.

WMNF if a member of Florida Public Media.

Smelser Named President, GM of WMFE – Orlando

Veteran journalist and broadcaster Judith Smelser has been named President and General Manager of WMFE-FM in Orlando.

Judith Smelser – President and GM – WMFE & WMFV

Smelser had been serving as WMFE/WMFV’s interim President and General Manager since September 2021.

She has a long history with the station as an award-winning reporter and news director, according to an announcement by the station’s board.

“After a nationwide search and interviewing a number of well qualified candidates, we have selected Judith as the person to lead the station on a permanent basis,” said Donna Mackenzie, Chair of WMFE/WMFV’s Board of Trustees.

“Judith embodies the qualities and experience we believe will allow the station to reach its full potential, enhancing and building the focus on journalism and service to our community.”

Mackenzie announced Smelser’s permanent position to station staff on February 8.

“My ambition was never to lead a station,” Smelser said. “But for me, WMFE is not just any station. My career has taken me all over the country and given me a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing public media and journalism; now I get to put that experience to work for an organization and a community I love and consider my home.”

WMFE broadcasts throughout the greater Orlando area. WMFV broadcasts in The Villages and surrounding communities.

WMFE is a member of Florida Public Media, the professional association of public broadcasters in the state.

Florida’s Sembler Confirmed to CPB Board

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 3, 2022) –The U.S. Senate has confirmed the nominations of Thomas E. Rothman and the renominations of Laura Gore Ross and Elizabeth M. Sembler to the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Sembler, of Seminole, Fla., is a retired educator and administrator, most recently as director of engagement at Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg, Fla. She served on CPB’s board of directors from 2008–2020 and was board chair from 2014–16. Sembler has also been a board chair for WEDU PBS in Tampa, Fla., where she is still a serving board member, and is a former board member for America’s Public Television Stations. She will serve a term expiring in 2026.

“Liz is a great friend and supporter of public media not just in Florida but throughout the country,” said Patrick Yack, Executive Director of Florida Public Media. “We thank her and her colleagues for the work they do in our behalf.”

America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) president and CEO Patrick Butler called Sembler extraordinarily effective champion for local public television and radio stations, both on the local and national level.”

Sembler joins fellow Floridian, Robert Mandell who was appointed to the board by President Donald Trump and was confirmed by the Senate in 2019. He is a retired U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg and currently serves on the boards of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., and Human Rights First in New York City.    

Ambassador Mandell currently is a partner in Velocitas Venture, a medical device company, and ReactiveCore, a technology company. He previously was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Greater Construction Corp. from 1998 until 2005 and served as Chairman Emeritus of Meritage Homes of Florida, Inc. until 2007.

Photos from left: Thomas E. Rothman, Laura Gore Ross and Elizabeth M. Sembler

Rothman, of Los Angeles, is Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group. He has held numerous executive positions in the film industry and is a longstanding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and board member of the California Institute of the Arts. He has served on the National Council on the Arts is also an emeritus member of the Corporation of Brown University and of the Sundance Institute Board. He will serve a term expiring in 2026.

Ross, of New York City, is a retired attorney with a career in public service. Her professional experience includes the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, MFY Legal Services, eight years as Chief of Staff to the Attorney General of the State of New York, and subsequently, Legislative Counsel to a New York State Senator. She began government service at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and was appointed by President Obama to represent the United States at the 64th United Nations General Assembly. She has served as a Trustee of New York Public Media (WNET, WLIW, and NJTV), a Trustee of WNYC Public Radio, and President of NYANA, a refugee resettlement agency. She will serve a term expiring in 2028.

Photos from left: Thomas E. Rothman, Laura Gore Ross and Elizabeth M. Sembler

WFSU Wins NETA Award for Community Engagement

WFSU Public Media won a NETA Award for its “Summer Challenge 2021 Mountains, Hills and Mounds.”

The Summer Challenge was “interactive virtual event for kids and families to watch and do engaging and educational activities, while also learning from WFSU’s many friends and partner organizations.

Each year, this event launches your PBS KIDS station’s longest-running summer learning initiative – and a major tool for parent and teacher toolboxes for combatting the summer slide! Read on to learn about the Summer Challenge checklist and how it can keep the fun going all summer long.”

Public media’s achievements were celebrated at the 53rd Annual Public Media Awards Gala on January 25, held virtually at the NETA Conference and CPB Public Media Thought Leader Forum.

The National Educational Telecommunications Association is a professional organization of public media stations.

Florida Public Media Stations Win Suncoast Emmys

Five Florida Public Media stations were honored with 14 Suncoast Emmy Awards this year.

They included: WEDU PBS, WFSU Public Media, WLRN Public Radio and Television, WPBT2 South Florida PBS, and WUCF TV.

The Suncoast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is a nonprofit Florida corporation dedicated to excellence in television.

It offers the annual Regional EMMY® Awards called The Suncoast Regional EMMY® Awards to television markets in the entire State of Florida, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles and New Orleans, Louisiana, Mobile, Alabama, Thomasville, Georgia and Puerto Rico.

“The Chapter is composed of professional people who work in television or students who are studying television in colleges or universities and aspire to become professionals.”