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The media are notorious for using scare tactics that portray general aviation in a negative light. Even reports that don't seek to frighten are often just plain wrong. But there are print, radio, and television journalists who uphold their duty to produce fair, accurate, and insightful reporting, and AOPA honored some of them Thursday during the opening luncheon of AOPA Expo 2005 at the Tampa Convention Center. Richard Murphy Werry, Devon Hubbard Sorlie, Chris Dunn, Marissa Tejada, Jarrod Miller, David Marshall, and William Lang each received the association's prestigious 2005 Max Karant Journalism Award. And for the first time, AOPA presented a Special Citation for Excellence "for promoting general aviation through the art of film making" to Brian Terwilliger for his documentary film One Six Right.
"In an age of sensationalized news reports about aviation security and safety, this is an opportunity to recognize members of the media who instead provided the truth about general aviation to the nonflying public," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Winning entries covered topics ranging from aviation history, to learning how to fly, to sightseeing by airplane, to general aviation security.
Richard Murphy Werry of KIMN-FM in Denver took his took listeners on a journey through history in Salute to Aurora Airpark as he told the story of a private airport near Denver International Airport that dates back to World War II. Werry learned to fly at Aurora Airpark, but sadly it is no longer operational. However, Werry's story told of the importance of airports like Aurora to their communities.
Devon Hubbard Sorlie, a reporter for Soundings, a weekly military publication in Norfolk, Virginia, captured the thrill, the challenge, and most of all the joy that comes with learning to fly in "Wild Blue Yonder." Sorlie got a taste of that joy during an introductory flight lesson with an instructor from the Langley Aero Club. And her report has had an impact - the Aero Club reports increased interest in learning to fly as a result of Sorlie's article, which included information on employment opportunities for pilots, the benefits of flying personal aircraft for business purposes, and how easy it is to get started. In accepting her award, Sorlie announced that she would donate part of her honorarium to Angel Flight.
Chris Dunn of KDVR-TV in Denver produced an insightful story about Colorado Angel Flight that showed the importance of the volunteer flights flown by "angels in the sky." Missions range from transporting sick children who couldn't otherwise afford air transportation to distant medical appointments, to flying life-saving medical supplies.
The important role of volunteer pilots has been evident to most of the country because of their work to provide relief to the Gulf Coast and Florida after recent hurricanes. And Dunn elected to support that work by donating half of his cash award to Angel Flight West. He will donate the other half of the award to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation in support of its safety programs.
GA security is a controversial issue, but Marissa Tejada and Jarrod Miller of WOFL-TV in Lake Mary, Florida, fairly and accurately tackled the issue in a news story about airport security. The story detailed the procedures in place at GA airports in Florida and what can be done to ensure that aircraft and airports remain secure.
Accurate reporting - not scare tactics - on this issue is particularly important to ensure the nonflying public receives factual information about GA security.
David Marshall and William Lang, of WPBS and WXXI in Watertown and Rochester, New York, respectively, produced Flight Plan - a series of aviation travel shows. The winning episode featured a flying adventure through central and upstate New York, taking viewers to a pancake breakfast, a warplane museum, and Lake Pleasant in the Adirondacks. Marshall and Lang's show not only captured pilots' love of flying, but it also gave passengers something to look forward to when they reached their destinations.
The following journalists received honorable mention for their reporting on general aviation: Dave Hirschman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta; Michael Hagerty, KWBU-FM, Waco, Texas; Clinton Griffiths and Brian Gordon, KWCH-TV, Wichita, Kansas; and Judy Stiles, KGCS-TV, Joplin, Missouri.
The Karant Awards honor the best of "fair, accurate, and insightful" reporting on GA in the general (nonaviation) media. They include categories for print, TV or video, and radio and carry an honorarium of $1,000 in each category. The awards are named for the late Max Karant, founder of AOPA Pilot magazine and the association's first senior vice president.
November 3, 2005