WLRN Radio and the Miami Herald have been collaborating on multiplatform news production for eight years, but the investigative-reporting package that they published this month, “Neglected to Death,” took their partnership to a new level. The package of radio reports by WLRN’s Kenny Malone and articles by Herald reporters grew out of a year-long computer-assisted reporting project that revealed systemic failings in the regulation of Florida’s assisted-living facilities. Over several months, Malone followed up on the Herald investigative team’s findings of incidents of negligence and abuse to produce two character-driven radio features, the first of which aired locally and on NPR’s Morning Edition. Malone’s first piece focused on the case of Aurora Navas, an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient and facility resident who wandered outdoors one night without supervision and drowned in 18 inches of water. It was one of many accidental deaths for which Florida regulators failed to probe or prosecute.
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.
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.
Frontline sometimes comes on like a multimedia prosecutor, revealing the evidence in pictures, voices and logic, and driving toward a conclusion. It’s usually a very sobering conclusion, too, because the series has increasingly specialized in reminding us of our society’s worst failings — war, cheating and lying in high places, racism, crime and predation of all kinds. On Nov. 5, , Charles Stuart’s “Don King, Unauthorized” went after the boxing promoter — a man with two killings in his little-known past, who has collaborated with the media to paint himself as a harmless jokester with a funny haircut. On Nov.