Today The Annenberg School at the University of Southern California awarded the PBS Newshour the 2011 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. Newshour Senior Correspondent Gwen Ifill and Political Editor David Chalian accepted the award on the show's behalf.
I've been a fan of Ifill's for many years. In 2006 she came to a Pennsylvania political event that I attended. When I went over to say hello and tell her how much I enjoyed her work she asked my opinion on a few Pennsylvania races and districts, and actually seemed interested in my answers. When the Washington Week in Review went on the road a few years later I went to the Philadelphia taping.
The show sent out a copy of Ifill's prepared remarks. Apologies for the all caps but that's how the remarks arrived.
ON BEHALF OF JIM LEHRER, JUDY WOODRUFF, LINDA WINSLOW OUR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER AND DAVID CHALIAN, OUR POLITICAL EDITOR…
THANK YOU AGAIN FOR THIS WONDERFUL AWARD, AND FOR ALLOWING US TO JOIN ALL OF THESE AMAZING JOURNALISTS ON THIS STAGE.
IT DOES US ALL GOOD TO SEE THAT – NO MATTER WHAT YOU READ, SEE AND HEAR OUT THERE – SERIOUS JOURNALISM STILL MATTERS.
IT’S ALL I EVER WANTED TO DO, AND I THINK I SPEAK FOR EVERYONE HERE IN SAYING THAT WE ARE DRAWN TO JOURNALISM FOR THE NOBILITY THAT CAN BE FOUND IN TELLING UNTOLD STORIES, OR IN SHEDDING LIGHT RATHER THAN HEAT ON THE OVERTOLD ONES. MOST OF US GOT INTO JOURNALISM TO SAVE THE WORLD…AND THEN REALIZED WE OFTEN HAD TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM US.
I REALIZE I AM PREACHING TO THE CHOIR HERE TODAY, SO I PROBABLY DON’T HAVE TO TELL THE PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM, THIS IS TOUGHER THAN IT SEEMS.
FOR MOST OF US, IT MEANS DOING MORE WITH LESS ON A DAILY BASIS. RESISTING THE LURE OF A CHARLIE SHEEN STORY ONE DAY OR ANOTHER ROYAL WEDDING CURTAIN RAISER ON ANOTHER.
AT THIS POINT IN MY CAREER, I’VE WORKED FOR NEWSPAPERS, AT A COMMERCIAL NETWORK AND NOW AT PUBLIC BROADCASTING, WHERE LIKE CLOCKWORK, WE ARE PERIODICALLY ACCUSED BY THOSE ON THE RIGHT AND THOSE ON THE LEFT
OF BIAS. TOO MANY OF THESE CRITICS DON’T ACTUALLY WATCH OR LISTEN TO WHAT WE DO.
THIS IS WHAT WE DO.
JUDY WOODRUFF AND I TAKE YOU AROUND THE COUNTRY TO GET TO THE HEART OF OUR NATIONAL POLITICAL DEBATE…MARGARET WARNER AND RAY SUAREZ TAKE YOU TO NORTH KOREA AND GUATEMALA AND EGYPT AND SOUTH AFRICA TO TALK ABOUT GLOBAL HEALTH AND GLOBAL CHALLENGES.
ROBIN MCNEIL JUST COMPLETED A SIX-PART SERIES ON AUTISM, DEVOTING THE KIND OF TIME AND CARE TO THE TOPIC THAT FILLS A VOID IN THE DEARTH OF DOCUMENTARY TELEVISION.
AND AFTER 35 YEARS, WE’RE JUST GETTING STARTED. LAST WEEK AT THE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE GULF OIL SPILL, WE LOOKED BACK AND COUNTED 232 STORIES WE’D DONE ON THE TOPIC….AND NOT JUST ON THE AIR.
OUR ONLINE OIL SPILL WIDGET WAS EMBEDDED ON MORE THAN 6,000 WEBSITES AROUND THE WORLD AND WAS VIEWED MORE THAN 20 MILLION TIMES.
WE ARE CONVINCED THAT TELLING THE STORY WELL MATTERS – WHETHER IT’S JEFF BROWN’S CONVERSATION LAST YEAR WITH THE WAR PHOTOGRAPHER TIM HETHERINGTON, WHO WAS KILLED LAST WEEK IN LIBYA… OR JOHN MERROW ON EDUCATION… OR PAUL SOLMAN MAKING SENSE OF ECONOMICS… OR HARI SREENIVASAN HONCHOING OUR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COVERAGE.
IF IT SOUNDS LIKE I’M BOASTING, YOU’RE RIGHT. WE ARE JUSTIFIABLY PROUD OF WHAT WE DO, AND ARE CONVINCED THAT EVEN IN A DRASTICALLY SHIFTING MEDIA ENVIRONMENT THERE IS A HUNGER FOR THE WORK WE DO.
WHEN I VISIT COLLEGE CAMPUSES, STUDENTS OFTEN TELL ME “I ONLY WATCH JON STEWART.” AND I TELL THEM: “JON STEWART WATCHES ME.”
NOT TO WORRY. WALTER CRONKITE ONCE TOLD ME HE WATCHED THE PBS NEWSHOUR EVERY NIGHT TOO.
THAT’S BECAUSE JOURNALISM, AND EVEN FAUX JOURNALISM, CAN ONLY FLOURISH WITH A FIRM FOUNDATION.
AT THE PBS NEWSHOUR, OUR FIRM FOUNDATION IS JIM LEHRER. FROM THE DAY HE CREATED THE PROGRAM WITH ROBIN MACNEIL UNTIL NOW, WHEN HE APPLIES HIS CONVICTIONS AND HIS CORE BELIEFS TO THE BROADCAST EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, HE IS OUR GUIDING STAR – TRULY THE CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM.
SO THAT’S WHAT WE DO. THAT’S WHAT MORE OF US CAN DO. AND ON DAYS LIKE TODAY, I AM REMINDED OF HOW MANY MORE WHO ARE DOING IT. AND WELL.
WE MIGHT NOT BE SAVING THE WORLD, BUT AT LEAST WE ARE MAKING IT A MORE UNDERSTANDABLE PLACE TO LIVE IN.
ONCE AGAIN, THANK YOU TO THE NORMAN LEAR CENTER AT USC ANNENBERG FOR THIS MARVELOUS WALTER CRONKITE AWARD.