RTDNF honored a distinguished group of journalists and First Amendment leaders for their commitment to press freedom at the 27th Annual First Amendment Awards. The event, held Tuesday evening in Washington at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, raised money for journalism scholarships, fellowships and training for the newsroom leaders of tomorrow.
"We're proud to recognize champions of the First Amendment," said RTDNF Chair Kathy Walker. "The value of a free press to our democracy is as clear today as it was the day the constitution was signed; perhaps even more so."
"Events like this help our foundation continue it's important work," added RTDNF Executive Director Mike Cavender. "As we train our nation's next generation of electronic journalists, we provide them with guidance, high ethical standards and the support they need to do their work without fear or favor."
Here are this year's honorees:
First Amendment Award: Mark Halperin / John Heilemann
Mark Halperin and John Heilemann served as co-managing editors of Bloomberg Politics and hosts of the news analysis show With All Due Respect, which aired daily at 5pm ET on Bloomberg TV and 6pm ET on MSNBC during the 2016 election cycle. Halperin and Heilemann are also creators, executive producers, and hosts of Showtime's weekly political documentary series The Circus. The duo are the authors of the New York Times bestsellers Game Change and Double Down, the definitive accounts of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections (respectively). Game Change was later adapted into an HBO movie which won five Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes, and a Peabody Award. Halperin is a regular contributor to NBC's TODAY and Heilemann is a frequent guest on CBS This Morning, and both appear regularly on MSNBC's Morning Joe and PBS's Charlie Rose. Prior to joining Bloomberg, Halperin served as editor-at-large and senior political analyst for TIME, and before that as political director, correspondent and analyst at ABC News. Heilemann was the national affairs editor for New York magazine and NYMag.com, and previously a staff writer for The New Yorker, Wired, and The Economist.
This award honors an outstanding individual or organization which champions the First Amendment and press freedoms.
Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award: Bill Whitaker, CBS News
Bill Whitaker has been a correspondent for CBS News since 1985. He joined 60 Minutes in 2014, after serving in posts for the network including Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Atlanta. He has covered the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney in 2008, George W. Bush in 2000 and Michael Dukakis in 1988, the funeral of Nelson Mandela, the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the pro-democracy uprising in Tiananmen Square. He also has worked for CBS Sunday Morning and won an Emmy Award for his reports on the collapse of Jim and Tammy Bakker’s television ministry. Previously, Whitaker was a correspondent for WBTV-TV in Charlotte and KQED-TV in San Francisco.
RTDNF presents this award annually to a radio or television journalist or news executive who has made a major contribution to the protection of First Amendment freedoms. It is named for the late Broadcasting & Cable senior correspondent, Leonard Zeidenberg.
First Amendment Service Award: Steve Jones, ABC Radio News
Steve Jones is Vice President and General Manager of ABC News Radio, in charge of strategic planning, business development, programming and operations for ABC-branded audio content covering news, entertainment, lifestyle and sports. Under Jones’ leadership, ABC News Radio has received some of the highest honors in broadcasting including more than a dozen Edward R. Murrow Awards, 10 International Radio Festival Awards, five National Headliner Awards and three New York Festivals Awards. Jones was twice named by the readers of Radio & Records as News Executive of the Year. Prior to leading ABC News Radio, led ABCNews.com and joined ABC News Radio in 1986 as a writer and editor covering a wide range of major news stories, including the Iran-Contra affair and the first Gulf War.
This award honors professionals in local or network news who work in an off-air, management, largely behind-the-scenes capacity.
First Amendment Leadership Award: Stanley S. Hubbard and Stanley E. Hubbard, Hubbard Broadcasting
Stanley S. Hubbard is CEO, President and Chairman of Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc. He joined HBI in 1951. Mr. Hubbard's industry accomplishments include overseeing the building of the first successful UHF television station in a VHF market with others in the Hubbard organization, creating the world's first satellite news gathering organization - Conus Communications, and establishing United States Satellite Broadcasting. He is an inductee in the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Satellite Broadcasting Communications Association's Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters. His father, Stanley E. Hubbard, founded the company, which included the first radio station in the country to become completely supported by advertising revenue, the first television station in the world to broadcast newscasts completely in color, one of the first two stations to have weather radar and the first television newsroom in the country to practice investigative reporting. The elder Hubbard, who died in 1992, was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2014. The two men received the NAB Distinguished Service Award in 1995.
RTDNF presents this award annually to a business or government leader who has made a significant contribution to the protection of the First Amendment and freedom of the press.
RTDNF Lifetime Achievement Award: Nina Totenberg, NPR News
Nina Totenberg is NPR's legal affairs correspondent. NPR received the George Foster Peabody Award for the coverage she anchored of Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and for her exclusive interview with Anita Hill. She has also been honored the George Polk Award, the Sigma Delta Chi Award, the Carr Van Anda Award and the prestigious Joan S. Barone Award for excellence in Washington-based national affairs/public policy reporting. She was named Broadcaster of the Year, honored with the 1998 Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcasting from the National Press Foundation and has received the duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton. Before joining NPR in 1975, Totenberg served as Washington editor of New Times Magazine, and was legal affairs correspondent for the National Observer.
Tuesday's awards ceremony also included tributes to three people who passed away in 2016: National Public Radio photographer David Gilkey who was killed in Afghanistan when his convoy came under fire, PBS anchor and managing editor Gwen Ifill, and George Glazer, who chaired the committee that launched RTDNF's First Amendment Awards in 1990.
Chris Matthews of MSNBC served as host for the event, which drew a large crowd and raised thousands of dollars for RTDNF's journalism scholarship, fellowship and leadership programs. Details about the RTDNF First Amendment Awards can be found on our event page.
RTDNF, a 501 (c) 3 educational foundation, was created to help RTDNA members embody and uphold the standards of ethical journalism and promote leadership in the newsroom. RTDNF offers the electronic news community professional development opportunities, an open forum for the discussion of ethics, assistance with the development of leadership skills, support of First Amendment issues and the exchange of ideas and perspectives from electronic journalists worldwide. The Foundation also provides scholarships and fellowships to aspiring and early-career electronic journalists.