RTCA Hands Out Awards for Journalistic Excellence

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) closed the Radio and Television Correspondents Association awards dinner Wednesday night at Washington’s National Building Museum with a big “thank you” to the radio and TV journalists “who refused not to tell the story” of her city when the levees broke after Katrina.

She said they had never left and continued to speak from their heart about the tragedy. While she said the White House didn’t seem to get it, “we had you.” When the city was eerily silent — no birds, no crickets — “you weren’t silent,” she said, and as a result, FEMA acted.

Silence was certainly not the order of the night, which appropriately celebrated a New Orleans theme, from the Emeril Lagasse-prepared menu to the Mardi Gras masks and beads that adorned each table to the jazz that poured from the balcony and snaked its way among the tables.

But the primary celebration was for the hard work of journalists. BBC correspondent Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway received the David Bloom award for enterprise reporting for their coverage of the conflict in Syria. The award was presented by the children of Bloom, the late NBC News correspondent who died covering the war in Iraq. Pannell said those children reminded him of the sacrifice that families make, and thanked his own for allowing him to do the job he has chosen.

He also thanks he bosses for believing in foreign news and backing it up with the necessary resources.

He gave a shout out to the 28 journalists who have lost their lives covering Syria in the last year, and others still missing in that conflict.

Dana Bash and Deirdre Walsh continued to collect awards for their story, pointing out that a bill to prevent members of Congress from insider trading included a loophole that allowed family members to continue to do so. This time it was the Joan S. Barone award, named after the late CBS Evening News and Face the Nation producer. Bash thanked her colleagues at CNN, in the process providing a lighter moment when the camera cut to the CNN table, where Wolf Blitzer had nodded off. She also pointed out that Walsh was the one that got the tip on the story. Earlier in the year, the pair got the Everett McKinley Dirksen award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress from the National Press Foundation.

Bash also gave Congress credit for moving “at warp speed” to close the loophole — the story was reported in July 2012 and the loophole closed by August.

CNN cameraman Tony Umrani received the Jerry Thompson Memorial award, appropriate since it is named after the late CNN cameraman with whom Umrani worked for a dozen years. Umrani fought back tears as he remembered his colleague, but lightened the moment with a gentle jab at Blitzer: “Wolf, I hope you stay awake for this one.”

The career achievement award went to Dave McConnell of WTOP radio in Washington, whose career at the station stretches back to 1965. In a video tribute, a parade of politicos including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski praised his professionalism.

McConnell pointed out that the Building Museum was built as the Pension Building in the 1880s during the Administration of Chester A. Arthur. “I did not cover Chester A. Arthur,” he joked and, ever the newsman, after thanking his colleagues said he had to leave to “go off and write a show.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.