Michael Sullivan, a television producer whose name has run near the top of credit rolls of Frontline almost continuously since 1987, has exited the PBS investigative documentary series. His position as executive producer for special projects has been phased out due to a funding shortfall that the series’ top executives describe as temporary. The veteran producer oversaw high-profile titles produced by filmmaker David Sutherland, including The Farmer’s Wife, the 1998 epic documentary series chronicling the struggles of a Nebraska farming family, and Country Boys, the 2006 series following two teenagers growing up in West Virginia. Sullivan also spearheaded work on Sutherland’s latest film, Kind Hearted Woman, to be co-presented on PBS by Frontline and Independent Lens April 1 and 2. His exit “is certainly a loss,” Frontline Deputy Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath told Current.
Public media outlets were cited for six 2013 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards, announced today by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. NPR received three awards, with one given to reporters Deborah Amos and Kelly McEvers for their coverage of Syria. “NPR’s series of daily news reports about the conflict in Syria was wide ranging, balanced and in depth,” the announcement said. “Veteran foreign correspondent Deb Amos provided critical context and explanation in her reporting that helped listeners understand the complex sectarian and regional factors at play. Her reporting from inside Syria at the scene of a massacre and the capitol Damascus documented spikes in violence.”
“Correspondent Kelly McEvers brought a focus on individual stories that made the conflict real in human terms,” the citation said.
Big Money 2012 is an ongoing cross-pollination between PBS’s Frontline and American Public Media’s Marketplace that works to incorporate traditional news documentaries with online multimedia reports and print investigations.
PBS topped all the other broadcast networks, as runners-up ABC and CBS each won seven. POV’s “Last Train Home,” a film about Chinese migrant workers who go home to celebrate New Year’s, won in two categories — best documentary and outstanding business and economic reporting (long form) — while “Armadillo,” which tracked Danish soldiers in Afghanistan, was cited for editing in the documentary and long form category. Also in the long-form category, “Enemies of the People,” which examined Cambodia’s killing fields, won for outstanding investigative journalism; and “Where Soldiers Come From,” about National Guard recruits from northern Michigan, was cited for its continuing coverage of a news story. All films aired during 2011, POV’s 25th season. “Many of the filmmakers honored tonight have taken tremendous risks to tell these stories of common people caught up in extraordinary circumstances,” said Cynthia López, co-executive producer of POV.
The promotion, announced during the Television Critics Association Press Tour last month, was widely reported as an indication that Aronson will succeed founding Executive Producer David Fanning atop PBS’s investigative news centerpiece.
Bellantoni to oversee all <em>NewsHour</em> political coverage
PBS NewsHour has a new political editor as of Jan. 2. Christina Bellantoni of CQ Roll Call oversees the newsroom’s political coverage on-air and online, including political analysis, elections and personalities. Her predecessor, David Chalain, departed in November to lead the Washington bureau of Yahoo News. Bellantoni has spent more than a decade covering national political and business news in Washington, D.C., and California.
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.