Bob Abernethy to receive special Wilbur Award


Bob Abernethy

Bob Abernethy of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on PBS is to receive a special Wilbur Award April 9. The honor, to be presented in Chicago during Religion Communication Congress 2010, recognizes contributions he and the program have made to public discussions of faith topics.


The RCC Board of Governors approved the special award in October. The award nomination said:


Since 1997, Bob has promoted intelligent, insightful examinations of faith issues on American public television. As executive editor and host of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, he has shown that the spiritual side of America is important and deserves journalistic attention.


Religion & Ethics Newsweekly provides a regular place on television for fair discussion of religion and spirituality. Bob has been the originator and face of that discussion. He succeeded in launching the program when many broadcasters—both network and local—were abandoning community and public affairs programming. He proposed the program concept to public station WNET in New York partly in response to widespread criticism that American television news didn't pay attention to religion. Bob, a veteran news correspondent for NBC, wanted to change that.


He has had a long interest in religion. In 1984 he took a one-year leave from NBC to study theology and social ethics at the Yale University Divinity School. To launch the program, Bob helped assemble a quality team of writers, producers and correspondents.


The Religion Communicators Council first recognized their work in 1998. The program's contributions to public discussions of faith topics have continued since then. Religion & Ethics Newsweekly earned more Wilbur Awards for national television news reporting in 2002, 2004 and 2005.


The Religion Communicators Council commends Bob for his dedication to religion coverage and ongoing efforts to bring faith news to public television.


RCC has presented Wilbur Awards annually since 1949. They honor excellence by individuals in secular media—print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures—in communicating religious issues, values and themes. The award is named for the late Marvin C. Wilbur, a pioneer in religious public relations and longtime RCC leader.


From time to time the Board of Governors confers a special Wilbur Award. It recognizes a person or organization whose body of work in secular media makes a substantial and unique contribution to public discourse on religious faith and values or interfaith dialogue and understanding.


Past recipients of special Wilbur Awards include President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter; John Dart, former religion editor of the Los Angeles Times; Martin Marty of The Christian Century; Bill Moyers of Bill Moyers Journal; Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood; cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts; and filmmaker Ken Wales.

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