Who I named to the Public Media Honor Roll and why

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Each year, Current invites readers to nominate people who’ve made a difference in their careers or to public media to our Honor Roll. We began doing this in 2017 as part of our annual end-of-year NewsMatch campaign, when donations to Current are doubled through a matching gift program.

We created the Honor Roll to inspire a spirit of gratitude in our community ­— to give you an opportunity to publicly express thanks during a season of giving.  People in public media have so much to be grateful for: a purpose-driven career, a chance to improve the quality of life in their communities, and the gift of working with talented, devoted peers.

When the NewsMatch period comes around, I think about whom in particular I want to thank this time. In the past, I’ve named people who over the past 35 years have offered me opportunities, nurtured me and supported my leadership. I’ve given to honor the staff of Current who bring their best selves to work and who challenge me to be a better boss. This year, I chose to honor a group of individuals I admire for their courage in making themselves vulnerable, telling their stories and leading our field on diversity, equity and inclusion by calling on all of us to be accountable to this mission.

These are the friends and colleagues who have spoken with me about their experiences as a person of color in public media who too often found themselves the only one in the room. These are the people to whom I turned to hear hard truths and to gain perspective on what public media must do to do better. These are the people who informed or participated in our popular summer webinar series “The Imperative of Inclusion.” (You can watch those webinars or read the summaries here.) In a year filled with painful conflict over systemic racism and implicit bias in public media, I feel privileged to have earned the trust of these colleagues. And I feel compelled to honor them by putting their names on the Public Media Honor Roll.

Here are my honorees in alphabetical order: Ronnie Agnew, Ernesto Aguilar, Carlos Barrionuevo, Paul Buckner, Liz Cheng, Bill Johnson, Jefferi Lee, Jordan Lee, Deanna Mackey, Ju-Don Marshall, Matt Martinez, Doug Mitchell, James Muhammad, Sreedevi Sripathy, Donald Thoms and Vinnee Tong.

It might seem weird that the executive director of Current is so public about being a “major” donor to the nonprofit news organization that employs me (quotation marks intentional, since my donations probably wouldn’t qualify as “major” for most nonprofits). But I’ve always been transparent about Current’s revenues and consistently generous with my views. I contribute because I consider Current not only worth my time and creative energy, but also deserving of my own financial support. I give because it feels good. But ultimately, it’s an expression of my personal ethics: It doesn’t seem right to ask you to do something that I don’t do myself. In my (humble) opinion, donating as much as I can is a reflection of the kind of leader I strive to be. 

And so, again this year, I am asking you for your leadership. Who do you think deserves to be named to the Public Media Honor Roll for 2020, and why? Who encouraged and inspired you? Perhaps they are co-workers who have retired or have passed away and must be thanked and remembered.  When you think about a person who went above and beyond to accomplish something truly remarkable in this most challenging of years, whose face do you see? Who will you name to the Public Media Honor Roll of 2020?

Everyone I know is eager for the clock to strike midnight Dec. 31 and finally bring one of the worst years ever to a close. That moment also marks the end of our NewsMatch campaign.

I can’t wait for 2021 for a list of reasons at least as long as my list of honorees. Current has exciting plans in the works ­— new initiatives to strengthen our connection to you and deepen our service to the field. Your contribution now helps make these projects possible. I’ll share more about our 2021 plans in an upcoming column. Thanks for reading and thanks for supporting Current with your donation. Give and feel good today.

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