Monday roundup: Polk goes to Frontline, CPB ombud calls for transparency in grant dustup

• Frontline today won a George Polk Award for "League of Denial," its investigation of the NFL's efforts to downplay evidence linking head injuries of football players to long-term brain disorders. The nonprofit newsroom Center for Public Integrity also won a Polk for "After the Meltdown," which explored the aftermath of economic crash caused by sub-prime mortgage lenders. A full list of Polk winners, presented by Long Island University, is here. • While CPB Ombudsman Joel Kaplan agrees with WNET's decision to return a $3.5 million grant for its series reporting on public pensions, he remains troubled by "the lack of transparency by both WNET and PBS" in handling the controversy. He suggests the original agreement between WNET and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation needs to be disclosed. Continue Reading

Indie producer Michael Kirk receives honorary degree from his alma mater

Kirk, a key contributor to PBS's Frontline since its inception, was cited for his body of work in producing more than 200 investigative documentaries. He joined Frontline as senior producer for its 1983 national debut on PBS; in 1987, he left the show to produce through his own independent company, the Kirk Documentary Group. His documentary films have been recognized with Peabody Awards, duPont-Columbias, a George Polk Award, national Emmys and Writers Guild of America awards. Kirk earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho in 1971 and was inducted into the UI Alumni Hall of Fame in 2000. The university presented the honorary degree Dec. Continue Reading

Grant to Frontline will create its first desk, to oversee news collaborations

Frontline is spending $1.5 million to bolster its ability to manage its news collaborations, which are growing in number as well as importance. Raney Aronson, deputy executive producer, said the investigative showcase will establish a four-person collaboration desk through a three-year, $750,000 grant from the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation. She tapped Frontline’s series budget for matching funds for the desk, which will also concentrate on transmedia efforts. “The way we do journalism has changed,” Aronson told Current. “Frontline is no longer simply a documentary series on a Tuesday night.” More than half of the films and online reports produced by Frontline are done in collaboration with kindred organizations such as the New York Times, NPR, the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica and, more recently, Spanish-language network Univision. Continue Reading

Arun Rath joins NPR as Weekend ATC host

Frontline and PRI’s The World reporter Arun Rath will join NPR in late September to host Weekend All Things Considered, which is relocating to NPR’s Los Angeles studios. Rath currently covers national security and military justice for Frontline, where he has worked since 2005. He wrote and produced three films for the doc series, with the most recent looking into war crimes allegedly committed by U.S. Marines in Iraq. Rath also reports on music for the PBS series Sound Tracks. Before joining Frontline, Rath worked as a producer for NPR’s On the Media and was a senior editor for Public Radio International’s Studio 360. Continue Reading

Pubradio contenders dominate radio division of Sigma Delta Chi Awards

Public radio reporters took all nine awards for radio reporting in this year's Sigma Delta Chi Awards, which recognize outstanding reporting on radio, TV and the Web by national and local news organizations. NPR’s Ina Jaffe, Quinn O’Toole and Steven Drummond won for breaking news reporting (network syndication) for “Los Angeles VA Has Made Millions on Rental Deals.” For investigative reporting, John Ryan and Jim Gates of KUOW in Seattle were cited among stations in markets 1–100 for “Shell's Arctic Oil-Spill Gear ‘Crushed Like a Beer Can,’” while Sandy Hausman of WVTF and Radio IQ in Roanoke, Va., won in the 101+ market category for “Naming the Fralin,” about naming the University of Virginia Art Museum. In the feature categories, Linda Lutton, Cate Cahan and Sally Eisele of Chicago’s WBEZ won for “The weight of the city's violence, on one school principal,” and Lance Orozco of KCLU in Thousand Oaks, Calif., for “My Cancer.”

NPR's State of the Re:Union, co-distributed by Public Radio Exchange, won the syndicated documentary award for “As Black as We Wish to Be,” which explored an Appalachian foothills town in Ohio where residents who look white identify as African-American; it was reported and produced by Lu Olkowski, Laura Spero, Taki Telonidis and Al Letson. Alabama Public Radio’s “Winds of Change,” coverage by Pat Duggins, Ryan Vasquez, Maggie Martin and Stan Ingold of a Tuscaloosa tornado, won for smaller-market documentary. The public service in radio journalism winners were “If it's legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life,” by the staff of Seattle’s KPLU (markets 1–100); Charles Lane and Naomi Starobin of WSHU in Fairfield, Conn., for “State struggled at fire prevention ahead of Manorville blaze.”

In the television categories, San Francisco’s KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting won for large-market (1–50) documentary for “Heat and Harvest,” a report on the effect of climate change on California agriculture by Mark Schapiro, Serene Fang, Gabriela Quiros and Craig Miller. Continue Reading