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WLRN Named Station of Year by Broadcasters

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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.

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.”

WUSF, WUWF Chosen for CPB’s Digital Transformation Program

WUSF Public Media (Tampa/St. Petersburg) and WUWF Public Media (Pensacola) were chosen by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to take part in the 2022 Digital Transformation Program, a “virtual program developed by the Poynter Institute to educate, assist, and coach public media senior leaders and their staff on the best strategies and tactics to transform their organization’s digital operations and culture. “

“The program includes online coaching and training to the station CEOs, along with the leaders of the five National Multicultural Alliance organizations, and their staff members, to accelerate their digital transformation efforts.”

“CPB’s commitment to advancing innovation and diversity continues to be reflected through our strategic investments helping system leaders advance a digital-first, audience-centric approach,” said CPB President/CEO Patricia Harrison in a release.

“The program will provide coaching and resources to help stations become more agile and leverage digital content, platforms, and data to grow and engage new and existing public media audiences,” she said.

WFSU, WLRN, WUFT Win National Murrow Awards

The Radio Television Digital News Association today announced the national winners of the 2021 Edward R. Murrow Awards. These awards recognize more than 100 outlets for outstanding work in digital, radio and television journalism in technical and editorial categories.

WLRN (Miami) was received a national award for Overall Excellence.

WUFT (Gainesville) won national recognition for video reporting in the small market radio and students categories. You can watch the feature story, Beyond the Finish Line.

WFSU (Tallahassee) won a national award for it series, Committed: How and Why Children Became The Fastest Growing Group Under Florida’s Baker Act.

“A core pillar of RTDNA is celebrating the best in journalism, and one of the ways we do that is through the Edward R. Murrow Awards,” said RTDNA Executive Director Dan Shelley.

“This year especially, we are honored to recognize outstanding achievements in broadcast and digital journalism. The past 18 months have been some of the most challenging in the history of our profession, and these recipients — among thousands of other journalists — clearly fulfilled their obligations to serve the public.”

There were more than 5,200 entries this year. In May, RTDNA recognized more than 750 winners of the Regional Murrow Awards, which automatically advanced to the national competition.

WJCT Wins Major CPB Grant to Address COVID-19 Misinformation

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 19, 2021) – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is awarding a total of $275,000 in emergency grants to 14 public media stations across the country to address COVID-19 misinformation in their communities. The grants – up to $20,000 each – are being awarded to public television and radio stations in areas with low vaccination and high infection rates, or in emerging hotspots for coronavirus infection.

“Public media stations, locally operated, work with their communities through partnerships of trust. General managers of stations serving America’s communities that are hard hit by the pandemic are committed to breaking through the cycle of misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and are providing information that is saving lives,” said Patricia Harrison, CPB president and CEO. “CPB is committed to funding their work as part of our stewardship and mission.”

WJCT Public Media will use digital engagement and texting tools to reach people in targeted areas with high levels of vaccine reluctance. WJCT will develop personalized, branching information trees to provide users accurate, accessible information on vaccine safety; connect users with coverage by their award-winning news team; and incorporate updates from local doctors and pharmacists to provide answers to specific questions.

Public media organizations are using the funding to produce or extend programming about the coronavirus pandemic, to develop multiplatform public service announcement campaigns, and to organize community outreach efforts regarding the pandemic and vaccines. Many stations are working with local partners to reach specific audiences with low vaccination rates, through communication methods ranging from public affairs programming to text messages to viral TikTok videos.

You can read more about the CPB grants here.

President Biden Nominates Liz Sembler for CPB board

Elizabeth Sembler, Member, CPB Board of Directors | CPB

President Joe Biden has nominated three people to serve on CPB’s board of directors.

The nominees are Elizabeth Sembler, Kathy Im and Tom Rothman. They will join the board if confirmed by the U.S. Senate. CPB’s board has four vacant seats.

Sembler, a retired educator and administrator, most recently worked 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 was a board member for America’s Public Television Stations.

More information about President Biden’s CPB nominees is available from the Current.