NPR's Award-Winning Photos Bridge The Radio, Digital Gap

May 17, 2011
Originally published on November 19, 2012 12:30 pm

At NPR, until recently, there was a strong distinction between "radio" and "digital." But that distinction is increasingly blurred. Every morning, I listen to a different Member station on my iPhone. I think of that as "listening to the radio." But of course, I'm actually having a digital experience by listening to the stations' Internet streams. Our audience increasingly expects to find companion pieces to radio stories at and Member station websites. And, for a growing number of new NPR fans, their primary experience may be web based.

The extent of this change was clearly evident to me this past Saturday night, when I was honored to join a number of NPR's staffers at the White House News Photographers Association's Annual Awards Dinner. A radio organization at a news photographers dinner? Sounds a little funny, doesn't it? But, trust me, we weren't there just to observe.

NPR's photojournalists and multimedia producers, in partnership with our investigative and Planet Money teams, won seven first place awards, and multiple second and third place finishes. To be sure, this particular event was inspirational, but as importantly, it highlighted the leading edge of NPR's journalism: investigative and explanatory journalism and multimedia storytelling.

We were thrilled to see our own David Gilkey named Photographer of the Year for his body of work. He also earned the first place news award for his work chronicling the horror experienced by the people of Haiti, and the second place news award for his work while embedded with the 101st Airborne Division in an especially treacherous area near Kandahar, where the Taliban hold sway.

The award for Best Multimedia Innovation went to NPR's multimedia group, partnering with the Planet Money team to tell the story of the life and death of "Toxie: Planet Money's Toxic Asset," in a video cartoon. It may have been my imagination, but I'm pretty sure I heard a tiny bit of grumbling in the room as NPR took two more first place awards: one for Best Use of Photography and Audio (Narration) and one for Best Multimedia Package.

Captivating visual images that tell a story can only enhance and augment the audio and what's heard on the radio. As the line between "radio" and "digital" continues to blur, our audience expects more from us. More and more, delving even further into photojournalism seems inevitable and stunning photography has already become a key aspect of NPR's storytelling. We are grateful for the well-deserved recognition for the creative and compelling work of our multimedia team, investigative team and Planet Money team.

I hope David won't mind me sharing what I thought was the best moment all evening. He related how someone was once giving him a bit of a hard time for being a photographer working for National Public Radio. "How does that work?" the guy said. "How can you see a picture on the radio?" Sharing his reply, David bent over close to the mike, drew a breath and said quietly, "You have to listen very carefully."

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