Wayne Roth, the man who has guided KUOW, the UW’s public radio station, for a generation of years, has been named the recipient of the 2005 Edward R. Murrow Award — public broadcasting’s most prestigious honor.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting presents the Murrow Award, named for the legendary journalist, annually to “individuals who foster public radio’s quality and service and shape its direction.”
Roth, general manager of KUOW since 1983 and widely regarded as a pillar of public radio, has twice been a member of the National Public Radio Board of Directors. In the mid-1980s, in response to funding concerns, Roth helped create the Station Resource Group to explore questions of research, analysis and policy development for public radio.
Presenting the award earlier this month in Washington, D.C., Kenneth Tomlinson, the corporation’s board chairman, praised Roth’s leadership of KUOW and the resource group, saying Roth played a critical role in helping NPR move away from reliance on federal funding and helping stations get more choice in their program investments.
Roth said Tuesday, “I was incredulous when I got the word. But then I was quite thrilled and honored. It really is a big deal, and I’m very flattered.”
A nomination letter by fellow members of the Station Resource Group lauded Roth for helping develop policies for satellite use, working with the Station Resource Group and the Station Improvement Project, which invested in “flagship” stations, and helping to “reinvent” the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, redirecting needed funds to individual stations and “unbundling” programming packages to give individual stations more freedom of choice.
Though proud of public radio and its achievements, Roth expressed disappointment at the shrinkage of the local radio news market.
“We are the number one news station in the market and have been for more than a year. We have a larger audience than anyone else,” Roth said. “And I think it’s sad. Competition is healthy and the community would be better served by having more journalism voices, and not just opinion radio.”
Roth said despite recent controversy over politics and public television, public radio in general and KUOW in particular face healthy futures, due to strong donation from supporters and great interest among young would-be broadcast journalists.
As a Murrow Award winner, Roth is in good company. Previous winners include NPR host Terry Gross, and NPR correcpondents Anne Garrels and Cokie Roberts as well as NPR hosts Bob Edwards, Susan Stamberg and Garrison Keillor.
At 61, Roth said he has no plans to retire from his role at KUOW. “I have a lot of work here to do. I’ve got a son in high school, so I’ve got a ways to go,” he said.