Frontline’s producer on pledge shows and online ads

... 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....

Ralph Lowell Medal and others, May 2010

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.

Cooney, Fanning honored in Austin

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.

George Foster Peabody Awards for 2009


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.

Fanning on a ‘big bang’ moment for Frontline: bringing online depth to reporting

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’s Loper Lecture, 2009

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.

Convict free after Bikel’s latest doc

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.

For subjects, documentary is “strong form of family therapy”

Various people tried to prepare Juanita Buschkoetter for the public reaction to The Farmer's Wife, filmmaker David Sutherland's cinema verite depiction of the real-life struggle to keep her husband's farm and their marriage afloat, but the reponse to the show's debut this fall was far beyond her expectations. "I had no idea how many people would actually watch it," she said in a recent interview--let alone the folks who would go far out of their way to drive by the Buschkoetter house, or send the family generous gifts. "Since the film, people come by to take pictures, pull in and talk," Buschkoetter added. It's gotten so she doesn't want to leave her three daughters at home alone anymore. Since the eldest is now 12, she previously had found it safe to do so.