PRNDI’s annual awards banquet marked the end of an era as it was the last “PRNDI” banquet. After a name change to Public Media Journalists Association (PMJA), the organization held the banquet in an elegant ballroom at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Alicia Zuckerman, president of PRNDI, presided over the event.
Guests were treated to a menu that included port-poached pears, fig- stuffed chicken breast, and chocolate cake while awards were announced.
2019’s Editor of the Year award was given to Karen Frillmann, the executive editor at WNYC. Zuckerman formerly worked with Frillmann at WNYC.
“They called her the audio soul of the newsroom,” Zuckerman said in her introduction. “That phrase is so poetic, and of course, it’s just the kind of phrase Karen inspires people to write.”
Zuckerman then played an audio mashup of Frillmann’s colleagues at WNYC, many praising her for her leadership as an editor.
“You are extremely patient, especially when I hand you a 30-minute director’s cut, that was only supposed to be a three-minute piece,” said one colleague in the recording.
In accepting, Frillmann mentioned how she had started at WNYC nearly 40 years ago and has seen many changes in public radio.
“It feels like public radio is in a very unique position,” Frillmann said. “I would say we have more journalists on the ground than any other news organization in the country.”
She said public radio helps people connect to their local communities.
“We have three or four daily papers still in New York, but people are coming to WNYC because they crave local on-the-ground news,” Frillmann said. “All I can say is your work is really important.”
Zuckerman then introduced Martha Foley, this year’s Leo C. Lee award recipient. Foley is the news and public affairs director at North Country Public Radio and has worked there since 1981.
Zuckerman spoke about how Foley changed her opinion of what a small rural radio station can do.
Upon accepting the award, Foley spoke about the importance of keeping news local and how to grow as an industry.
“Local is our mission,” Foley said. “I want to know what’s happening. I want to be there first for my people.”
She then encouraged the news directors in the room to continue to build a healthy, thriving culture of journalism at stations.
“Because we’re just news people,” Foley said. “And other people [they do] budgets and the pencils come out, and you have to justify our existence and our business model. And you have to believe in it and trust in it, and you have to make other people believe and trust in it.”
Foley also stressed the importance of people still needing access to smaller news stations and local news. She spoke about how the shutting down of newspapers in her area has caused her to worry about the consolidation of news.
“I live in a local community; local is our mission,” Foley said. “So I don’t want to lose that. I want to participate in the larger effort, but I can’t lose that local group; I just can’t.”
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro served as MC for the individual station awards for the various category winners. Nearly 190 awards were given out to happy award winners. Some of the categories included “best use of sound,” “newscast,” and “best writing.”
And with that, PRNDI closed its final chapter, with plenty of “limited edition” PRNDI swag being given away. The first chapter of PMJA will begin in 2020 with the conference in Seattle.