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American Scene Awards

Posted August 07, 2009
5:15 PM CST

American Scene Awards Honor Diversity in Media and Entertainment

AFTRA Members Honor ‘As The World Turns,’ ‘America’s Best Dance Crew,’ ‘HawthoRNe,’ Chicago’s ABC7/WLS-TV and Other Productions with American Scene Award® Honors at AFTRA Convention

Members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) today honored the long-running daytime drama “As The World Turns,” the reality talent competition show “Randy Jackson presents America’s Best Dance Crew,” Sony Pictures Television’s new series “HawthoRNe” and seven other recipients with the AFTRA 2009 American Scene Awards®, recognizing excellence in programming that portrays diversity in a positive and realistic light.

The American Scene Awards® is a national competition that recognize excellence in the employment and portrayal of women, ethnic minorities, seniors, people with disabilities and the LGBT community in a positive, balanced and realistic manner. Celebrating its 15th year, the awards ceremony, presented by the AFTRA National Equal Employment Opportunities Committee, took place at the union’s National Convention in Chicago, August 7.

“AFTRA members are committed to supporting diversity in action, not just in words,” explains AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon. “Our judges look for solid evidence across the spectrum of media in which AFTRA members work for programming that illustrates the participation of many different types of people in our society. Entertainment and news media have a responsibility to accurately and positively reflect America’s diversity. Through these awards, AFTRA members honor producers and programmers who support our commitment to an honest portrayal of the American Scene in all of its breathtaking diversity.”

2009 honorees (L-R) Diana Palomar, ABC-7 Chicago; Sharon Ferguson, "America's Best Dance Crew"; Jennifer Rudnicke, "HawthoRNe"; Vivian Gundaker, "As the World Turns"; Dean Cappello, WNYC; Richard Hake, WNYC; V.J. McAleer, WTTW; Phil Ponce, WTTW. 

As part of AFTRA members’ ongoing commitment to increasing equal access to employment opportunities for its diverse membership, these American Scene Awards® are being presented during the ceremony:

The Belva Davis Crystal Award – Chicago’s ABC7/WLS-TV standing as the Number 1 news station in the market has much to do with its unwavering commitment to the communities it serves. From “The Ñ Beat,” “Chicagoing,” a series of Asian Influence specials, to its longtime commitment to covering issues of importance to people with disabilities, ABC is recognized as this year’s overall American Scene “Crystal” Award® winner. In 2005, the Television News Station Award was renamed to honor AFTRA National Vice President Belva Davis, a pioneer who broke racial and gender barriers for women of color in broadcast journalism and someone who led the fight for total diversity in America’s newsrooms.

Daytime Drama Award – With its debut in 1956, “As The World Turns” (ATWT) has dealt with many social and cultural issues throughout its 53 years on television. In the face of potential criticism, ATWT became the first daytime drama to include a gay couple as part of their ongoing storyline by exploring the growing relationship between gay Oakdale teenagers, Luke and Noah. Handling their love story like others on the soap opera, the couple is open and proud of their relationship and speak up for gay rights and other issues. Recording artist Cyndi Lauper was featured as part of daytime’s first Gay Pride Celebration.

Television Dramatic Programming Award – Airing on TNT and produced by Sony Pictures Television, in association with 100% Womon Productions, John Masius Productions and Jamie Tarses’ FanFare Productions, “HawthoRNe” stars Jada Pinkett Smith as the Director of Nursing at Richmond Trinity Hospital who juggles her professional responsibilities with her equally important role as a recently widowed mother of a strong and willful teenage daughter. As the only African American lead actress of a primetime television dramatic program which has created an American Scene rich and diverse in its casting of performers at all levels, Pinkett Smith also doubles as the program’s Executive Producer.

Reality/Talent Competition Program Award – “Randy Jackson presents America’s Best Dance Crew” (ABDC) was honored with an award for showcasing the color- and gender-blind world of street dancing in a life-affirming and dynamic series of weekly competitions. The series praises this street movement by incorporating all types of dancers coming together, ignoring differences and using their talents to create fun, athletic and highly charged dance numbers. ABDC is produced by Randy Jackson (a judge on the 2007 American Scene Award® winner “American Idol”) and hosted by Mario Lopez and reflects the American scene and brings this positive movement to millions of viewers on MTV.

Radio News Station Award – As a news organization centered in one of the most diverse cities in the world, New York’s WNYC draws its strength and inspiration from the community it serves, reaching people rarely given a voice by larger broadcast entities. Of special note is its Radio Rookies® initiative that provides teenagers with the “tools and training to create radio stories about themselves, their communities and their world.”

Television News Program Awards – “Chicago Tonight” features a range of on-air diversity through its anchors, reporters and special field correspondents. Yet, The greatest contribution of this hour-long, live, nightly news and current affairs program produced by WTTW is its unique exploration and reporting on Chicago’s multi-faceted and rich community. With a team of award-winning journalists, including news pioneer (the late) John Callaway, “Chicago Tonight” explored subjects and sensitive issues that reflect that city’s diversity.

The following awards will be presented during local ceremonies this Fall:

Documentary Award – As one of the first Award recipients addressing Native Americans within our American Scene, “We Shall Remain” is part of Boston’s WGBH Educational Foundation’s award-winning series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. This five part, almost eight-hour documentary spans three hundred years and tells the story of pivotal moments in U.S. history from the Native American perspective, eventually upending historically inaccurate stereotypes and exploring important issues of language, sovereignty and preserving a native culture.

Radio News Programming Award – St. Louis’ KMOX 1120 AM produced a series of five-minute programs highlighting the broad diversity of the greater St. Louis region. Focusing on inner city youth, minorities, seniors, immigrants and everyday citizens, “Voices of St. Louis” presents stories and people not ordinarily given a voice over the airwaves. Writer and Host Debbie Monterrey produces this award-winning series and digs deep into the fabric of this community and comes up with this winning production.

Public Service Announcement Award – A 2007 Award recipient, St. Louis’ KMOV-TV is again being recognized for its “Diversity Awareness” series of PSA’s produced to increase awareness of the value that diversity brings to their community. Each year, KMOV participates in the School Partnership Program designed to teach high school students how to write, shoot and edit PSA’s. This year, they brought together two very diverse schools to produce a spot that promotes diversity, pointing out that stereotypes are not always true.

Television News Feature Award – Examining the new wellness philosophy of inner city students by focusing on goals for long range success, “Here’s To Life,” produced by Pittsburgh’s WPXI-TV, is a half-hour special highlighting a seven year campaign designed to promote health and well-being of Pittsburgh High School students. WPXI partnered with the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Minority Health to give viewers an insightful perspective on the urgent need to initiate the Healthy Class of 2010 project.

Administered by AFTRA’s Equal Employment Opportunities Committee, the American Scene Awards® are made possible by a generous grant from the AFTRA Foundation, and have been presented since 1986.

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