PUBLIC RADIO NEWS DIRECTORS' LEO C. LEE AWARD

PRNDI honored former NPR news chief Ellen Weiss for significant contributions to public radio news.

Weiss worked at NPR for 28 years, rising to senior v.p. of news in 2007, a post she held for four years. Before that she was senior editor of the network’s National Desk from 2001 to 2007. She also served as executive producer of All Things Considered from 1989 to 2001.

“Ellen’s leadership and commitment to public radio journalism resulted in stronger stories from NPR reporters, as well as from newsrooms around the country,” said George Bodarky, newly elected president of PRNDI and news director at WFUV in New York, in an email to Current. “During her time at NPR, Ellen consistently took time out to share her knowledge and expertise with member station newsrooms. Her wisdom has helped many newsroom managers sharpen their skills and strengthen their departments.”

“Ellen was among those who worked hard to get more member station reporters on the air,” said Bob Beck, PRNDI treasurer and news director at Wyoming Public Radio. “She also helped get NPR reporters, hosts, and editors to help with PRNDI and other trainings. . . . I think we felt like we owed her a debt of gratitude.”

Weiss ended her 28 years at NPR amid fallout from the network’s dismissal of commentator Juan Williams. She terminated Williams’ contract in October 2010 after the pundit made controversial comments about Muslims on Fox News. Three months later, after an internal inquiry about the firing was presented to the NPR board, Weiss resigned for reasons that neither she nor Vivian Schiller, NPR’s president at the time, would discuss.

Weiss accepted the award June 30 during PRNDI’s annual conference in Houston after attendees heard from a colleague who had exited a news director’s job under similar circumstances. Former PRNDI President Jonathan Ahl resigned as news director of Iowa Public Radio in May for reasons that weren’t publicly disclosed. The departure required him to step down as PRNDI president.

In a short, self-mocking video that Ahl made for the conference, he sat under a tree and reflected on leaving his job, lamenting his change of fortune and cursing the heavens with a string of bleeped profanities.

“I know how Jonathan feels,” Weiss said after stepping up to accept the award.

Weiss became executive editor for the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., in September 2011.  Bill Buzenberg, another former news v.p. at the network, is executive director of CPI.

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