LAS VEGAS, Nevada - There is no higher honor in the National Association of Broadcasters than the Distinguished Service Award.
It is usually awarded to outstanding individuals who have served broadcasting over a lifetime. Edward R. Murrow, Bob Hope, Walter Cronkite, Oprah Winfrey, Michael J. Fox, and President Ronald Reagan have all received the award.
For only the second time in its history, the NAB has selected a company, rather than an individual, to receive its most prestigious accolade.
E.W. Scripps was given the Distinguished Service Award at the NAB convention's opening keynote session in Las Vegas on Monday. Scripps is the corporate parent of this website.
Upon accepting the award, Scripps CEO Rich Boehne said, "on behalf of the thousands of Scripps employees across the country and the Scripps family who guides and inspires us to pursue our mission, we so sincerely thank you for this great honor."
Boehne stands at the helm of a diverse local media company with both a strong foundation in legacy newspapers, and a leadership position in the cutting edge "new media" world delivering news and information to computers, TV screens, and mobile devices.
"What matters most is what you put on those screens," said Boehne. "For us that's enterprise journalism, investigative reporting, original programming, and aggressive daily news coverage that makes our communities better places to live, work and raise a family."
The Distinguished Service Award is much like a lifetime achievement award in broadcasting, but in this case the NAB is recognizing the excellence and innovation of and entire company over more than 130 years.
"A media pioneer since the 1800s, the Scripps Company is held in the industry's highest esteem," said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. "In recognition of the company's commitment to excellence, innovation and outstanding service to local communities, we are proud to present Scripps with the Distinguished Service Award whose recipients are among broadcasting's most respected leaders."
It is appropriate that Scripps is receiving this award in Las Vegas. The company began with a bit of a gamble, when E.W. Scripps borrowed $10,000 from his own brothers to start the company. That bet has paid off for more than a century.
"It's a place where creativity and the willingness to take risks are among our most cherished assets," said Boehne during the award ceremony.
Over the decades, the company's stewards have doubled-down on E.W.'s wager. Never abandoning its newspapers or its core values -- with the company's vision statement, "Give light and the people will find their own way" -- Scripps became a broadcaster at the dawn of television.
Later the company gave birth to HGTV and other successful cable networks, now part of a spin-off company, Scripps Networks Interactive.
In the last several months, Scripps nearly doubled its number of television stations -- growing at a time when other media companies are retrenching. The E.W. Scripps Company now owns and operates 19 TV stations nationwide.
"It's all about serving local communities," said Brian Lawlor, Senior Vice President of Television at Scripps.
Lawlor believes the NAB award says something about everyone who has worked at Scripps, now and over the company's long history.
"That we were innovative, we took risks, we told stories, we asked hard questions, we held people accountable," Lawlor said. "And all of those things allowed our communities to be better, and our television stations to be successful."
The award comes at a time when the broadcasting industry finds itself in a state of constant change. Consumers of news are demanding information delivered wherever they are, on multiple devices. It's just as likely you're reading or watching this news story on a tablet or mobile phone than on a computer or television screen.
"It's not really about the delivery mechanism anymore. It's about the story," Lawlor said.
That's why Scripps has bet heavily on a new way of gathering news. We're all multi-media journalists, or MMJs, now.
"Cross-training journalists to be able to tell a story no matter where people are consuming it makes perfect sense," Lawlor said. "That means I work not only as a news anchor and reporter, but also as my own photographer and video editor. I also file stories like this one to Scripps websites, often from the field, without having to return to the newsroom."
"Most encouraging for broadcasters," said Boehne, "are today's opportunities for the development and expansion of story-telling journalism."
Lawlor says it's also about putting, "more feet on the street."
"We're a 130-year-old media company," he said. "We've been in the broadcasting business since the days it started, and we
expect we're going to be doing this for the next hundred years."
"I guarantee we won't be doing it the way we're doing it today," Lawlor added.