WGCU Wins Top Honor at Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists Awards Ceremony

The following article is excerpted from WGCU’s announcement on Friday, April 28, 2023. Editor’s Note: In related news, the Press Club of Southwest Florida and the Public Relations Society of America presented an award for “Hurricane Ian Coverage and Media Collaboration” to Corey Lewis and WGCU on January 24 at their joint program at WGCU Studios. See link to story: https://pressclubswfl.org/2023/01/wgcu-receives-award-for-hurricane-ian-coverage-and-media-collaboration/

WGCU staff, Orlando

WGCU was named Florida’s “Radio Station of the Year” at the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists awards ceremony for work in 2022. The event was held Saturday, April 22, 2023, in Orlando. It celebrated excellence in broadcast journalism and recognized some of the most impactful and memorable storytelling from across the Sunshine State.

More than 55 radio and television stations submitted more than 650 entries in the contest, which featured content produced in the year 2022. The panels judging entries are composed of professional broadcast journalists located outside of the State of Florida.

The Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization, supported by broadcast journalism professionals employed by commercial and public television and radio stations, as well as those employed by and/or enrolled in college-level broadcast journalism operations.

The association’s top award, Overall Radio Station of the Year, was presented to WGCU at the end of the four-hour-plus awards ceremony.

“I am so grateful to the expanded staff where our veteran WGCU journalists have blended with veteran journalists that we brought on board from so many different places, and our youngest homegrown talent, to earn Overall Station of the Year,” said Corey S. Lewis, the station’s General Manager. “Getting this distinction against competition, both public and commercial in significantly larger markets, like Miami, Tampa, and Orlando having significantly more resources, is a testament to our dedicated team in our small little corner of the world.”

Amy Schumaker, Associate General Manager of Content, added, “WGCU’s wins were focused on being a lifeline for our community before, during and after Hurricane Ian. When the power is out and cell service is down, WGCU FM is there.”

WGCU also won awards in the following categories:

General Assignment: Long — “Pine Island Evacuation Draws Strong, Mixed Feelings,” Pamela James (Executive Producer of Content), Eileen Kelley (Investigative Reporter), Thomas James (Videographer).

Feature: Hard news — “Many In Dunbar Have Little Faith In Getting Help From FEMA, SBA,” Bryant Monteilh (Radio host/reporter).

Hurricane Ian Coverage Applauded

During the ceremony Karan Deardorff, a FABJ board member and senior photojournalist at WFTX Fox4 in Fort Myers, honored Southwest Florida media, specifically, NBC2, WINK-TV, ABC7, FOX4 and WGCU, for resilience in the face and aftermath of Hurricane Ian: “As journalists, we often forget we have a front row seat to history … and this past year provided many opportunities for those of us in Southwest Florida – there will be no forgetting September 28, 2022, and Hurricane Ian. The storm reminded us about the importance of what we do – as we weren’t only telling the stories of our communities – but we were now telling our stories. The hours and days of Ian are forever branded into the minds and hearts of those in our community and those in our newsrooms, including WBBH NBC-2, WZVN ABC 7, WINK TV, WFTX FOX 4 and WGCU Public media among others.

“I know many of you can relate to working storm season 12 hours on, 12 hours off. Sleeping on air mattresses in conference rooms, office cubicles – or any cubby hole that can be found. The days blurred one into the next. Ian hit Southwest Florida as a strong category 4 storm flattening and destroying everything in its path. Our coverage was wall to wall. And the challenges were many, but we overcame them.

“WBBH WZVN combined newsrooms and broadcast from a single studio. There were challenges, but they overcame. The team at WINK watched their studio and building flood, being taken off the air and forcing evacuations. They broadcasted from their transmitter site. There were challenges, but they overcame. WFTX was forced to evacuate and broadcast from WGCU on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University –having their shows remotely controlled from hubs in Detroit and Indianapolis.

Collectively – no one backed down – no one gave up! There were challenges, but we overcame. The sun rose as the storm cleared, and the damage was indescribable. We were hit hard. We were hit hard but we kept going, we kept standing, we kept reporting, we kept informing. We were hit hard, and we kept going even though among those homes that were damaged or destroyed were our own. We were hit hard – we’re still going – still recovering – but we’re still reporting.

“In that spirit, the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists wishes to recognize the tireless efforts of our Fort Myers colleagues who showed no matter what is thrown our way, we will remain standing, we will remain reporting, we will remain serving our communities,” Deardorff concluded.