In 2011, as partisan critics attacked NPR, Frontline chief David Fanning urged public media to specialize in strong journalism. Fanning, who was accepting Quinnipiac University's annual Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, quoted the famed CBS News producer: public TV's "most precious right will be the right to rock the boat."
... This is our deepest embarrassment as public broadcasters. I have heard the arguments, and I understand the imperatives, but to think that, hucksters aside, we spend more of our energy and on-air promotional time, pushing programs that have nothing to do with our mission, is shameful....
The primary figures in the histories of the PBS series Frontline and Sesame Street were saluted by PBS
CPB Ralph Lowell Medal: Frontline auteur David Fanning received CPB's 38th annual Lowell medal May 18 during the PBS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas. The prestigious honor has been presented since 1975 for outstanding contributions to public television. Fanning began his career in journalism at a newspaper in his native South Africa before shifting to American pubTV in 1973. PBS "Be More" Award: Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) and prime creator of Sesame Street, received the award recognizing contributions to society that exemplify the PBS spirit of “Be more” — “expanding horizons, opening up possibilities and exploring new ideas.”
Cooney commented that she’s especially proud that Sesame Street hasn't backed away from tough topics such as a parent’s military deployment, unemployment or the death of friends and relatives. "Muppets have a way of making these hard subjects a little easier to grasp," she said.
Children's television pioneer and Sesame Street creator Joan Ganz Cooney is the recipient of this year's Be More Award from PBS. She accepted her honor at the PBS National Meeting, continuing in Austin. From the podium, PBS President Paula Kerger said Cooney's work from 1968 to 1990 at her Children's Television Workshop makes her "one of the single greatest educators of children in the world." Former Be More winners include Bill Moyers and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Frontline's David Fanning received the 38th annual Ralph Lowell Award from CPB last night in Austin.
Producers for public broadcasting — and developers for its websites — received 14 Peabody Awards, announced March 31, 2010
Regarding websites, the judges honored two in public media:
Sesame Street’s (“prodigious adaptability . . . delightfully educational, interactive,” the Peabody announcement said) website
NPR’s (“one of the great one-stop websites. And there’s music you can dance to”) website
Peabodys went to six PBS programs — double the number won by any other organization:
“Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About,” about the great New York choreographer, from WNET/American Masters, produced and directed by Judy Kinberg, with Susan Lacy, e.p. — website
“The Madoff Affair” from RAINmedia and WGBH/Frontline, written and produced by Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith, edited by Jordan Montminy, with Chris Durrance, co-producer — website, watch online
two films on Independent Lens—
“The Order of Myths,” about the black and white Mardi Gras traditions of Mobile, Ala., by Margaret Brown, with Folly River Inc., Netpoint Productions, Lucky Hat Entertainment and ITVS (“highly original, moving and insightful”) — website
“Between the Folds” from Green Fuse Films and ITVS about the art of paper-folding (“makes you gasp at the possibilities — of paper and of human creativity”) — website
“Endgame,” a dramatization of secret talks that helped end apartheid in South Africa, from Daybreak/Channel 4/Target Entertainment, presented on WGBH’s Masterpiece Contemporary — website
“Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times,” from KCET, Los Angeles (“drama enough for several feature films”), written, directed and produced by Peter Jones, with Brian Tessier, supervising producer, and exec in charge, Bohdan Zachary — website
KCET also scored with with its regional broadcast SoCal Connected—specifically two reports on the medical-marijuana conflict (“lively, eye-opening coverage”)—“Up in Smoke” by correspondent Judy Muller, producer Karen Foshay and editor Alberto Arce, and “Cannabis Cowboys” by reporter John Larson, producer Rick Wilkinson, editor Michael Bloecher, and associate producer Alexandria Gales.
David Fanning, e.p. of Frontline, discussed the WGBH program's evolving use of the Web Aug. 23, 2010, in accepting the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism at Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. At the same time, the Center honored the winner and finalists for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. One of the four finalists was a reporting project, including a Frontline doc, "Law & Disorder." The film about white vigilante activities in New Orleans was prepared in collaboration with ProPublica, the Nation Institute and the New Orleans Times-Picayne.
David Fanning, the founding executive producer of PBS's Frontline series, gave this talk in 2009 as the annual James L. Loper Lecture in Public Service Broadcasting sponsored by the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Thank you, Geoff Cowan and Dean Wilson, for your kind words, and especially for your invitation to come here to the Annenberg School to give the annual Loper Lecture. This also gives me a chance publicly to thank Jim Loper, for the years of work he gave not just to KCET but as a leader in public broadcasting. It’s an honor to be invited in his name. I would also like to thank Mr. Russell Smith for his sponsorship of this lecture.
Following a very public dustup, Frontline and correspondent T.R. Reid have parted ways. The split leaves series producers and freelance on-air correspondents examining their complex and sometimes contentious relationship.
Frontline knows how to shake things up in North Carolina. Last week, less than a month after the series aired Ofra Bikel's 90-minute documentary "An Ordinary Crime," about 21-year-old Terence Garner, a state court granted Garner's motion for a new trial. He posted bond and went home with his mother and family for the first time in more than four years. Garner had been serving a sentence of 32-43 years for robbery and attempted murder—the "ordinary crime" he insisted all along he had no part of. Bikel—whose award-winning trilogy "Innocence Lost" led the state to drop charges in 1997 in a major child abuse case in Edenton, N.C.—again turned the spotlight on criminal justice in the state.