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Florida Public Media Wins National Murrow Award

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (August 11, 2022) – Florida Public Media is honored to announce the statewide public media collaboration, “Class of COVID-19: An Education Crisis for Florida’s Vulnerable Students,” has won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.

In this statewide project, public media journalists from across the state explored the high costs of the pandemic for children and young adults who faced some of the greatest obstacles to success.

The national Murrow awards recognizes excellence in journalism. The Radio Television Digital News Association presented Florida Public Media the Digital award in the large market radio group.

Participating stations included WLRN (Miami), WGCU (Fort Myers/Naples), WFSU (Tallahassee), WUSF (Tampa/St. Petersburg), WMFE (Orlando), WUCF (Orlando), WPBT (Miami), WJCT (Jacksonville), WEDU (Tampa/St. Petersburg) and WUWF (Pensacola).

“We are very proud of this work,” said David Mullins, general manager of WFSU and chair of Florida Public Media. “It took a special, in-depth look at how the pandemic affected our state’s students and schools. The project reflects the strength of collaboration among Florida’s public media stations.” Florida Public Media is the association of the state’s 24 public radio and TV stations.

The program highlighted stories across the state including:

  • In Tampa, migrant education advocates are worried about nearly 300 students — children of farmworkers — who “haven’t quite surfaced anywhere” in the last year.
  • In Tallahassee, Brady Wilson’s hard-won ability to speak in complex sentences devolved to two- or three-word phrases after schools closed last spring. The 18-year-old has Potocki-Shaffer syndrome, which causes developmental delays.
  • In Fort Lauderdale, a Broward County Public Schools social worker knows she has to “hit the pavement … and knock on those doors” to find the nearly 800 kids who haven’t logged on or shown up for in-person schooling in months.

The project included a magazine-style narrative radio program, airing statewide, an hourlong statewide television special and a series of stories and interactive multimedia content at classofcovid.org.

WUCF and WUFT (Gainesville/Ocala) also won awards in the student category.

WUCF collaborated with the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida to produce The Road to Freedom Avenue – The Legacy of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore. The project highlighted the story of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore, a Black couple from Brevard County who were instrumental in the modern civil rights movement in 1951. The project won for Excellence in Digital Reporting.

WUFT reporter Victor Prieto’s story — Run, Regas, Run — earned student honors for Excellence in Video Feature Reporting. The multimedia piece documented Ocala Paralympian Regan Woods’ journey to the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

A WUFT team project — Rising From the Rubble — earned the student award for Excellence in Video Hard News. The stories showcased Louisiana’s recovery from Hurricane Ida.

WUFT Wins Two National Student Murrow Awards

By WUFT News (August 12, 2022)

WUFT/FM-TV was honored with two national awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) for work produced in 2021.

Reporter Victor Prieto’s story — Run, Regas, Run — earned student honors for Excellence in Video Feature Reporting. The multimedia piece documented Ocala Paralympian Regan Woods’ journey to the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

A team project — Rising From the Rubble — earned the student award for Excellence in Video Hard News. Students Landry Baliton, Elizabeth Biro, Jill Colombo, Meleah Lyden, Guamay Martell, Anthony Montalto, Samantha Narson and Alexander Someillan collaborated on stories about Louisiana’s recovery from Hurricane Ida.

WUFT, the public radio and TV station in Gainesville, is located on the campus of the University of Florida.

WUCF-TV, Central Florida’s PBS station, in collaboration with the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Floridain Orlando produced The Road to Freedom Avenue – The Legacy of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore, a project featuring audio, visual and written content from UCF journalism students. 

This project won the award for Excellence in Digital Reporting.

UCF Student Journalism Project Wins National Murrow Award

Digital Project launched Feb. 22, featuring the story of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore 
in collaboration with WUCF  

ORLANDO, Fla. (August 11, 2022) – A student-produced multimedia journalism project spotlighting the story of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore, a Black couple from Brevard County who were instrumental in the modern civil rights movement in 1951, has been honored with an Edward R. Murrow Award. 

WUCF TV, Central Florida’s PBS station, in collaboration with the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida produced The Road to Freedom Avenue – The Legacy of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore, a project featuring audio, visual and written content from UCF journalism students. 

Of the awards given to journalists, the Murrow Awards are among the most respected journalism awards in the world. WUCF was named the winner of Excellence in Digital Reporting for the Moore project in the national student awards. 

The Moores were educators and activists in Mims, Fla., with Harry Moore establishing the first NAACP chapter in the county. Their anti-racist efforts challenged the status quo that discriminated against them. On Christmas night in 1951, their house was bombed by white supremacists while they slept, causing their deaths. A replica of their home was built on their street, Freedom Avenue; several markers, a cultural complex museum, and many local residents still carry their message today.  

WUCF executive director Jennifer Cook said digital platforms are a vital way to share important stories of our history out to the world. 

“Partnering and collaborating with journalists and producers throughout our community allow us to fulfill our role as Central Florida’s Storytellers,” Cook said. “Students at the University of Central Florida are doing some great work. We are honored to join them in getting these important stories out to larger audiences, especially the untold stories that help educate and engage our audience.”  

Rick Brunson, UCF Senior Instructor of Journalism, said the project started with a Facebook post. Moved to action after reading about the racism and domestic terrorism under the color of law in the 1940s and ‘50s, Brunson visited the Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex in Mims to learn more and pay his respects. Upon returning to the classroom Brunson turned the story into a class project for students in his RTV 3301 Electronic Journalism 1 class. 

“We are so grateful to WUCF for suggesting and fully supporting this partnership,” Brunson said. “It was so gratifying for the students and such a privilege to honor the Moores’ legacy and the impact their lives continue to have on Central Florida and beyond.”  

WUFT-TV in Gainesville also won two awards in the student category.

Run, Regas, Run won the Excellence In Video Feature Reporting award for portraying Regas Woods’ attempts to represent Team USA at the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics.

Rising from the Rubble won the Excellence in Video Hard News award for capturing the story of Louisiana’s recovery from Hurricane Ida.

The 2022 National Murrow Awards will be presented in New York City in October. 

To learn more about The Moore Project, please visit wucf.org/themooreproject/

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.”

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.


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