Eight television luminaries were named Giants of Broadcasting and Electronic Arts by the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation Tuesday in New York, with Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy, TV/radio host Ryan Seacrest and Tegna President/CEO Dave Lougee among the inductees.
Juju Chang of Nightline hosted the event.
Abernethy, also named B&C’s Broadcaster of the Year earlier this fall, mentioned discussing his latest honor with his son. “The others are so accomplished,” Abernethy mentioned his son saying. “And then there’s you.”
Abernethy quipped that “Giant” maybe wasn’t the best description for him. “I’m barely 5’ 11”,” he confessed.
The Fox Stations chief singled out broadcasters for doing “a damn good job” covering significant local events. “Broadcasting will continue to do that at a time when we perhaps need it most,” said Abernethy.
The other inductees at Gotham Hall were Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks; actor Ed Asner; Elizabeth Murphy Burns, Morgan Murphy Media president and CEO; John David, senior advisor, NAB; Bill Whitaker, 60 Minutes correspondent; Paula Zahn, producer and host of On the Case with Paula Zahn on Investigation Discovery; and Eugene McDonald, founder of Zenith Radio Corp., who was awarded posthumously.
Asner was unable to leave his Southern California home due to the fires in the region, but sent along a video in which he said he was proud to “bring journalism to the forefront for millions of viewers” on Lou Grant, which saw him play a newspaper editor.
Murphy Burns saluted local news outfits for being “town criers.” “I love our industry and think it’s vital to our world,” she added.
Lougee, for his part, talked about the “digital fragmentation” going on, and how that hasn’t done much to enhance the news game. “We reach virtually everybody in a local community,” said the Tegna chief, who spoke about local television reporting the nation’s opioid crisis before other media did.
He also said Tegna’s local news decisions come from the stations, not from corporate. “We protect that local decision-making with a passion,” Lougee said.
Kelly Ripa, host and executive producer of Live with Kelly and Ryan, then came out to introduce her co-star Seacrest, mentioning that he’s the youngest ever recipient of the Giants award. If Merv Griffin and Dick Clark had a baby, she joked, and Dinah Shore was the midwife, that would be Seacrest.
Seacrest mentioned landing an internship at an Atlanta radio station as a nerdy teen as being pivotal in his career. “That internship changed the course of my life,” he said, before urging those in the ballroom to give some thought to the letters and emails they get from young people looking for a break into the business.
Bill Whitaker stressed how democracy needs an informed citizenship to work, and talked up how important the role of journalists is in a society that often sees the truth bent and twisted. “I am fortunate,” he said, “to play even a small part in that.”
Paula Zahn then stepped to the stage for her award, citing the likes of Barbara Walters, Dan Rather and Harry Smith as influences. “We must persist,” she said. “We must keep doing the work...we must keep telling stories that matter.”
Pictured above: Back Row left to right: Commander Eugene McDonald (Posthumous Award), Ryan Seacrest, Kelly Ripa (Guest Presenter), Bill Abbott, John David, Juju Chang (Emcee). Front Row left to right: Jack Abernethy, Paula Zahn, Elizabeth Murphy Burns, Dave Lougee, Bill Whitaker. Not Pictured: Ed Asner. Photo by Wendy Moger-Bross.