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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Awards: Radio public service


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Friday, June 30, 2006
SDX Awards: Radio public service

Winner: John Rudolph, WNYC-New York Public Radio, and The Center for New York City Affairs at the New School in association with Minnesota Public Radio

By Chris Speckman

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The welcoming excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ poem found inside the Statue of Liberty signifies New York City’s longstanding relationship with immigrants. It’s no wonder the metropolis is the immigration capital of the United States today.

“America is in continual evolution, and nowhere is that more apparent than New York,” said Dean Cappello, vice president of programming at WNYC-FM. “People arrive every day, join existing communities or join new ones, and add their experiences and cultures to the life of the city and the nation.”

Catering to a changing demographic, Cappello sought to strike a chord with New York’s varied listening body. The result: “Feet in Two Worlds.”

“ ‘Feet in Two Worlds’ began with a simple question: How do immigrants in New York live today?” said Cappello.

To answer this quandary, the radio revolutionary did something new. He enlisted the help of journalists from ethnic newspapers in the area and trained them for public radio.

“The partnership of public radio and ethnic media allowed stories of today’s immigrants to be told in new, compelling ways,” said Cappello. “The project allowed ethnic journalists to reach new audiences and to receive training that enhanced their skills. It sparked conversations about immigration and transnational communities on radio, on the Web and at live events.”

The judges agreed that the ambitious amalgamation paid dividends.

“Thanks to the different backgrounds of the various journalists who contributed to the series, listeners got a real feel for today’s urban immigrants’ experience in New York,” said the judges. “With all of the current attention being paid to the subject of immigration in the United States, ‘Feet in Two Worlds’ stands as an outstanding example of how the topic can be thoughtfully explored.”

Thanks to its overwhelming success, Cappello stresses that “Feet in Two Worlds” is a project that still has legs.

“WNYC intends to redefine the ‘public’ in public radio,” said Cappello. “As programmers, we recognize that to serve a more diverse nation we must create more diverse journalism. Our content must sound more like the communities we serve. And we must welcome more people from varied backgrounds into the process of newsgathering and production. ‘Feet in Two Worlds’ was just the beginning of a very long transformation.”

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