Good work is its own reward, but once in a while it's nice to get some recognition, especially when it comes from "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon or former MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann.
That's what members of the KUT News staff experienced on Oct. 10 when they, along with 400 other journalists from around the country, traveled to New York City to celebrate the best of the best at the annual Radio Television Digital News Association's (RTDNA) 2011 Edward R. Murrow Awards Dinner. KUT News Director Emily Donahue and senior reporter Nathan Bernier were there to pick up KUT's first-ever National Edward R. Murrow awards for two stories produced last year.
"Winning a National Murrow Award is a huge honor, especially because it's given in the spirit of one of the defining men of broadcast news, Edward R. Murrow," explained Bernier who won a Murrow Award for his profile of Douglas Curran, a doctor in Athens, Texas, who treats up to 50 patients a day. The three and one-half minute story, "Doctors on Healthcare," gave human voice to how congressional legislation could impact rural Texas doctors and won in the RTDNA's "audio reporting: hard news" category.
"When I first got into radio I used to listen to Murrow's WWII broadcast archives," said Bernier. "I never would have imagined being honored with an award named for him -- and receiving it from Keith Olbermann."
Donahue accepted the Murrow Award for the NASA End of the Space Shuttle feature, which she produced. A collaborative effort, the story was reported by Bernier, Mose Buchele, Matt Largey, Ben Philpott and Jennifer Stayton.
The 30-minute retrospective on the NASA Space Shuttle program won in the "audio news series" category. The story featured archival audio clips from nearly every decade of the space program, highlighted the shuttle program's triumphs and tragedies, interviewed some of the employees being phased out and emphasized the program's impact on the state's economy.
"Earning two National Murrow Awards really demonstrates the caliber of our news team," said Donahue, who established the KUT News department in 2002. "This is a group of extraordinarily talented, hard-working news professionals dedicated to telling the story of central Texas to our audience and the world."
Both projects won regional Murrow awards in April to qualify to compete at the national level.
"For me personally, it's a humbling experience and only makes me want to keep working hard so I can live up to the high expectations attached to this recognition. If anything, it forces me to raise the bar on my own reporting storytelling," concluded Bernier.
KUT is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to The University of Texas at Austin and operates as a service of the College of Communication. KUT supports the mission of the university to educate and foster a more civil society, and provides public radio service to Central Texas via 90.5 FM in Austin and globally through its website.