By now, you know how much I love the staff of this program. They are so skilled that the ten of us would never have to leave our air-conditioned environs in Washington, DC to produce a top-of-the-line studio interview program. But, bless their hearts, my producers want us to be more than that. We have boarded trains, planes and automobiles to get out into the country and do original reporting as we were all trained to do. Rapidly approaching our 5th anniversary on October 4th, we can show you a map illustrating all the places we’ve been to gather material for stories. It would not be impressive if we were NPR (where most of us used to work), a huge, 40-year-old institution with hundreds of journalists and vast resources. But we are just 10 people in a cash-strapped tech start-up. As such, we don’t waste our precious time and few dollars following the herd to do our version of the story everyone else is doing. We like to go somewhere CNN hasn’t heard about yet. And we have been richly rewarded—meeting extraordinary people with fascinating tales to tell and establishing friendships that will endure. When we launched the show in 2004, we wondered if our journalistic peers would even notice us. Well, they’ve noticed.
On Friday night, producer Ariana Pekary will be in Indianapolis to accept a Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, an organization enjoying its centennial year (I’ve been a member since 1972). This is huge, and represents a big step for our program. The SDX Award is one of the industry biggies. In October, Ariana and I will go to Los Angeles to pick up a Gabriel Award for best radio documentary of 2008. This will be the 4th year in a row that our program has been honored by the Catholic Academy of Communications Arts Professionals. In both cases, the program being celebrated is “Stories from 3rd Med: Surviving a Jungle ER.” I invite you to listen to it again.
We love the recognition, of course, but the real reward is knowing we’ve done some quality journalism, enjoying the nice comments all of you have showered upon us, and in establishing friendships with the many people we meet while doing these stories all across America. We’ve done a lot this year. Ariana’s programs on education reform have been exhaustive and outstanding. Dan Bloom, my youngest producer (age 25), jumped into the pool and did a wonderful program on Iraqi refugees in America. Cristy Meiners is working on an exciting arts documentary. And Chad Campbell and Geoffrey Redick, who did such a great job with our Space Shuttle coverage this year, are putting together a program that will absolutely make you proud of the U.S. military establishment—-and I mean it! The brass have learned from their mistakes and are now embedding social scientists with combat units. These academic civilians get to know the local Afghan and Iraqi communities, identify which locals are friends and which are foes, solve community problems and endear the U.S. to the local population. The result is that “accidents” don’t occur—cultural misunderstandings are worked out and lives are saved—-American lives as well as Afghan and Iraqi lives. Three social scientists have given their lives to this program and the guy who dreamed it up wears their bracelets on his right wrist. He’s a 30-year combat veteran Army Colonel and he cried when I asked him about those bracelets, which represent academic eggheads, not soldiers.
I have to give a shout-out here to producer Andy Danyo, now Andy Kubis, whose journalistic adventures in the first two years of our show earned us five major journalism awards and established us as an important new voice in broadcast journalism. She and ALL members of the staff contribute to each and every project that a fellow producer undertakes. Every documentary and special project is a team effort. When a producer launches a project, the other producers have to cover for that producer’s loss to the daily interview program. It helps that all of my producers genuinely like one another and they’re more than willing to do this.
I should also send some love to our Sirius XM bosses who have allowed us to travel and spend company funds to gather all this material at a time when the two companies were horribly cash-strapped during a merger process that took entirely too long for reasons you don’t want me to go into. Five hundred good people lost their jobs as a result of the Sirius XM merger—-not one of them worked for The Bob Edwards Show. That was clearly an endorsement of the program and its staff—and we continue to try to prove ourselves worthy of that vote of confidence.
Thanks to all of you listeners for your support and your story ideas. I plan to be doing this for a very long time and I hope all of you will continue listening.