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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Awards: Radio documentaries


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Friday, June 30, 2006
SDX Awards: Radio documentaries

Winner: Pat Duggins, Judith Smelser and Richard Paul — WMFE-FM, Orlando

By Chris Speckman

When NASA restarted its Space Shuttle program in 2005, WMFE-FM reaffirmed its dedication to covering the final frontier, broadcasting “Countdown Discovery.”

“As a primary contributor of space-related news coverage to National Public Radio, this program is part of our ongoing commitment on producing stories related to NASA and the exploration of space,” said WMFE News Director Pat Duggins.

Duggins hosted the documentary, guiding listeners along the timeline of American space travel.

“Countdown Discovery paints a picture of NASA coming to grips with its past and looking to its future,” WMFE stated in a press release.

The hourlong program features interviews with astronauts and their families, including Eileen Collins, who led the crew of the Discovery in 2005, as well as former astronauts Dick Covey and John Lounge, who manned the spacecraft in 1988.

Additionally, the documentary looks back at the January 1986 Challenger explosion, digging up old tapes of interviews after the disaster and adding a compelling new twist.

“WMFE’s first on-air interviews following that accident were of 10-year-old schoolchildren who witnessed the event,” Duggins said. “I kept the tape, and 19 years later, tracked down one of the students and her teacher to talk about their memories of the disaster and how it impacted their lives.”

“Countdown Discovery” also deals with the future of NASA and the possibility that a brand new fleet of spaceships might be in the works.

By meshing the past, present and future, the documentary stood out as the year’s most memorable.

“The WMFE team did an outstanding job of researching, using archival sound and finding angles to ensure the finished product would be a compelling listen for both a local and national audience,” said the judges. “The completed program drew in the listener and took them on a 40-year ride that is the history of the manned space program.”

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