WGCU Receives Award for Hurricane Ian Coverage and Media Collaboration

Corey Lewis

Corey Lewis, General Manager of WGCU Public Media, painted a clear picture of the challenges of housing his staff and other journalists for days at the WGCU Studios following Hurricane Ian at the Jan. 24 program jointly presented by the Press Club of Southwest Florida and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)-Gulf Coast Chapter.

Thanks to advanced emergency preparedness agreements between WGCU and Scripps, owner of WFTX-TV Fox 4, WGCU welcomed WFTX staff who were forced to evacuate from the station’s Cape Coral facility. WGCU also hosted reporters from the Naples Daily News and News-Press during and following the hurricane.

WGCU reporters offered a critical source of on-the-ground reporting to national and international news networks throughout Hurricane Ian and during recovery.

At one point, nearly 80 people were sleeping in the studio, which had no running water. With high levels of adrenaline and knowing they were in the center of the news stream to the rest of the world, staff members often worked around the clock. While it was a time of crises, new relationships were forged and collaborations will continue to benefit the local news scene.

Corey, who joined WGCU as general manager in May 2021 after 18 years with NPR in Boston, came into his role with ambitions to grow the local NPR and PBS services to keep pace with the growth of Southwest Florida. WGCU has embarked on a five-year plan to brand the NPR and PBS portfolio of programs with a new emphasis on locally originated content. To that end, Corey plans to grow his team from 40 to 72 staff members. At one time, there were four local voices on his team, and now there are 16. Currently, WGCU offers 12 straight hours of news.

Because our region has been diversifying with a blend of different cultures and perspectives, Corey believes that WGCU has the unique opportunity to bring people together through an understanding of the world around them. Humanity, empathy, tolerance, civility, and progress are built through shared knowledge and holding those in power accountable. The stories we tell through news, arts and culture, science and technology, health and medicine, history and drama inform and enrich our community.

Julie Pedretti, President of the Press Club, and Courtney Jolly, President of PRSA, presented Corey Lewis with the first-ever “Excellence in Public Service Award.” The award was given to WGCU Public Media “In Recognition of Outstanding 2022 Hurricane Ian News Coverage.”

Several journalists and other members of the media were recognized for their hard work through the hurricane, and students from FGCU also received enthusiastic support from the audience. A large number of the more than 60 attendees participated in a tour of the studio provided by Anne Stavely, who coordinates WGCU’s community engagement and education.

Attendees then gathered together for a “Media Mixer” to reconnect and enjoy refreshments and snacks.

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