Catherine Combs

October, 2020

Uncategorized

Alliance for Women in Media Foundation & ESPN Launch Scholarship

ESPN’s donation of $10,000 will provide two educational scholarships to assist Black females pursuing careers in sports media

The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) and ESPN are pleased to announce a new joint student scholarship. The mission of this partnership is to provide Black women a path into careers in sports media by assisting one female undergraduate student and one female graduate student in the United States, pursuing careers in sports media.

“It has been wonderful to collaborate with ESPN to conceptualize this scholarship,” said Becky Brooks, Alliance for Women in Media Foundation Executive Director. “Through this strong partnership, we’re proud to continue our work in pursuing greater diversity in the sports journalism work force.”

“Diversity and inclusion is ESPN’s #1 focus, and we want to support and create concrete ways to grow the pipeline of Black talent in the sports industry,” said Katina Arnold, Vice President, Corporate Communications at ESPN and Alliance for Women in Media Board Member. “The ESPN and AWMF scholarship is the perfect way to fulfill ESPN’s mission of supporting Black and African-American women pursuing careers in media.”

The selection of the student winners will be based on applicants developing an essay of 750 to 1,000 words, highlighting the importance of Black women in sports media.

Scholarship applications are due on November 20, 2020. AWMF and ESPN will select one upperclassman Black female undergraduate student winner and one Black female graduate student to receive the scholarships payable to each winning student’s educational institution. Each winner will also receive one complimentary ticket to the Gracie Awards Luncheon in New York City in June 2021. Learn more and apply on the AWMF website.

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About the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation: In 1960, the Alliance for Women in Media became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (formerly known as The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television) supports and promotes educational programs, charitable activities, public service campaigns and scholarships to benefit the public, the electronic media and allied fields. The Foundation also produces nationally acclaimed recognition programs, including the Gracie Awards®, honoring exemplary programming created by, for or about women and individual achievement. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, educational organization. For the latest news on the Gracies, follow The Gracies on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about the Gracie Awards and to submit your entries, please visit www.allwomeninmedia.org/gracies.

About ESPN: ESPN, the world’s leading sports entertainment enterprise, features more than 50 assets – nine U.S. television networks, direct-to-consumer ESPN+, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, endeavors on every continent around the world, and more.  ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc. (an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company) and 20 percent by Hearst.

Catherine Combs

July, 2020

Uncategorized

Alliance for Women in Media Foundation Releases Interview with American Medical Association President, Dr. Susan Bailey

Moderated by Entercom’s Kelly Ford, Host of the ‘Kelly Ford in the Morning’ Show

The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) released the latest installment of the AWM Gracie Interview Series – A Virtual Gathering with American Medical Association President Susan R. Bailey, M.D. Titled “Medicine and The Media – Leadership in Historic Times,” the session was moderated by Entercom’s Kelly Ford, host of Kelly Ford in the Morning on New York’s Country 94.7. The Gracie Interview Series – A Virtual Gathering series was created to engage leaders in media to share wisdom and guidance during a time of immense change and unpredictability.

In response to a question about what medical experts have learned since February, Dr. Bailey shared, “It’s not flip flopping – this is how science is supposed to work. When we get new data, we draw new conclusions and may need to change recommendations.” Regarding how media can be of service to the medical community, Dr. Bailey added, “Ultimately, we are all in this together. By sharing information, we can kick this virus.”

The full recording of the session can be experienced here:

“Dr. Bailey shared meaningful insight into the important partnership between media and the medical community. This is a critical time for media to understand its role and for all of us to know our roles as individuals,” Becky Brooks, Executive Director of the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation stated. “We look forward to hosting more virtual gatherings to share the wisdom of experienced leaders.”

The Gracie Interview Series – Virtual Gatherings are a segment of The Gracie Awards brand. The Gracies are the largest fundraising event by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM), which supports educational programs, charitable activities and scholarships. To engaged with AWM, please consider joining the association or donating to the Foundation so we can continue to offer important programs like this interview series.

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Catherine Combs

June, 2020

Uncategorized

The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation Announces Virtual Gracie Awards Show to Stream on September 10, 2020

June 30, 2020 The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) announces the 45th Annual Gracie Awards will be streamed virtually on September 10, 2020.  The Gracies Gala, originally scheduled for May 19, 2020, was intended to be held at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, A Four Seasons Hotel, and the Gracies Luncheon, originally scheduled for June 24, 2020, was intended to be held in New York City at Cipriani 42nd Street. The 2020 honorees will now be celebrated through a series of digital acceptance speech montages along with a virtual awards ceremony.

“The leadership of AWMF, which annually presents the Gracies as our largest fundraiser, has had one singular focus – to appropriately acknowledge and celebrate our outstanding winners in whatever manner is feasible this year,” said Becky Brooks, Executive Director of AWM/F.  “Therefore, we have made the decision to shift this year’s events to virtual experiences to ensure recognition of all winners in this very important year.”

The Gracie Awards recognize exemplary programming created by, for and about women in radio, television, and interactive media. Honorees are selected in national, local and student markets, including both commercial and non-commercial outlets. The full list of this year’s honorees can be found here.

AWMF extends a tremendous thank you to sponsors of the Gracies Awards, who are committed to supporting the future of women in media.  Along with Ziploc® Brand, the Diamond Sponsor of the 2020 Gracie Awards, this year’s sponsors include Crown Media, CBS, CNN, Katz Media Group, NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, Beasley Media Group and Cox Media Group.

About the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation: In 1960, the Alliance for Women in Media became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (formerly known as The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television) supports and promotes educational programs, charitable activities, public service campaigns and scholarships to benefit the public, the electronic media and allied fields. The Foundation also produces nationally acclaimed recognition programs, including the Gracie Awards®, a gala that honors exemplary programming created by, for or about women. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, educational organization. For the latest news on the Gracies, follow The Gracies on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about the Gracie Awards and to submit your entries, please visit www.allwomeninmedia.org/gracies.

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Catherine Combs

June, 2020

Uncategorized

Alliance for Women in Media Statement on the Homicide of George Floyd

By: Keisha Sutton-James, Chair, Alliance for Women in Media

The recent brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, combined with a global health pandemic that has had a disproportionate effect on communities of color, have laid bare the injustices and inequalities that continues to exist in America to this day.  Media outlets have offered around the clock coverage of this tragic moment in our country’s history, and of the massive protests that have gripped our nation.

On behalf of our leadership across the United States and Canada, the Alliance for Women in Media supports the human rights of all Americans, including Black Americans.  Black lives do matter.  As a Black woman whose grandfather, Percy Sutton, was a Freedom Rider, politician and activist before moving into media in order to effect change through the use of media, I have always been keenly aware of this fact. And now, this moment – a health crisis and the senseless murders of innocent people – has served to remind us as a nation of this fact.

We, the media, are the storytellers – whether through scripted or journalistic work.  We tell the stories of our humanity – trauma and triumph, denial and victory, betrayal and reconciliation.  We, the Alliance for Women in Media, stand with the protestors who are peacefully marching our country toward its founding ideals. We stand with the storytellers, journalists, producers and directors and particularly the women in these roles, who are sharing the truth of this moment for the world to see.  We applaud the bravery and tenacity displayed, some at the risk of their own safety.

The AWM will continue to recognize and celebrate the women who are frontline journalists and storytellers, women behind the cameras and microphones, and the true protagonists in our nation’s story: those who are leading our nation to its higher self.  We thank you for all that you do.

Keisha Sutton-James

Founder, Sutton Button Productions, LLC

Chair, Alliance for Women in Media

Please allow us to highlight a few of the important, ongoing conversations on this topic through pieces that reflect the work and voices of some of our Gracies honorees in radio, television and digital media.

Get informed – get involved. Read. Learn. Connect. Talk. Get involved locally or nationally.  Here are a few resources to help get you started:

Catherine Combs

April, 2020

Uncategorized

Coronavirus and the Media – Mike McVay

Coronavirus and the Media Mike McVay

The Coronavirus has changed how we are living our lives at this moment in time. Social distancing, quarantining, sheltering … are all words that have become a way for us to describe our lives. Some of us are wearing masks and gloves when we must go out in public. Some never go out in public, while others continue to question if the restrictions on our lives isn’t too much.

How audiences are using media, and when they’re using it, has also changed. Morning and Afternoon commute times are non-existent. Even those who work from home are awaking later and they wrap-up work in time for dinner. Few people have in-home radios and much listening is being done on smart speakers, streaming on-line via laptops, apps or phones, and some listeners will time-shift their radio listening by using the on-demand listening that a radio show on podcast allows.

Many of us are working from home. Video conferencing is becoming a way of life for work and family connectivity. A large number of our fellow citizens are unemployed or on furlough. They’re suffering, dealing with anxiety, fear and the stress of not knowing what the future holds for them or for all of us.

Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, Spousal Abuse and Domestic Violence are all magnified in times of stress and panic. Suicide levels are predicted to increase. Recognize our first responders in the health sector as well as fire, police and military. Acknowledge them by name. Salute and honor them. Thank them.

There is the possibility that some of us, as members of media, have been exaggerating its seriousness while others have not been taking it seriously enough. We need to be factual in the information we deliver. We need to pay attention to the doctors and scientists and not politicians. Politicizing this pandemic has no purpose in serving your community.

We, as members of media, have to be sensitive to the concern of the audience. Our responsibility is to serve the community and provide them with information that can be useful to them. Stations are airing regular updates. Some are breaking away for news reports, which was not previously a part of their scheduled programming.  

One of my concerns is that the contradictory opinions of commentators, especially those on TV and on Network Radio, is destroying what little credibility was left for electronic media news operations. Mainly because some of them present themselves to be news reporters or news journalists. The content of a news report, should be factual and focused on what is important to the target audience. The content of a commentator or talk host should be labeled as commentary.  There is absolutely nothing improper about a commentator taking a stance and presenting a position that may include political views and editorial commentary. Don’t present it as news. It is commentary.

Real people have died and are dying. Real people are becoming sick, or will become sick, and some of those who are yet to be inflicted will die. Someone recently commented to me “fewer have died than what was predicted.” That doesn’t mean that we didn’t need to take steps to protect our citizenry. It means that the steps we have taken, and are still taking, are working.

I remember when I was a small child, just about 10, my father and I would watch the nightly news on TV. In those days, the Vietnam War was in full swing and the evening news would include a daily death toll of Americans who lost their lives. One evening the number was single digits. I said aloud “that’s not very many.” My father replied “unless its your son that died.” That’s how I feel when I hear someone note that the death toll for Coronavirus, while high, is less than what was predicted to happen by this time.

This story is meant to underscore that you should be sensitive to the loss of familial lives that many are enduring. It’s time for a kinder, gentler world. It should be reflected in what you say and how you deliver content on-air.

Be factual. Don’t politicize. Don’t exaggerate or dismiss the information that is being delivered to us from recognized credible medical experts who are at the center of the research that’s being done to find a vaccine and a cure for COVD-19.

Those shows that play games and air bits that make light of someone’s lack of intelligence, should be reconsidered, much like the sometimes-collegial humor that makes fun of an on-air partner. Don’t be mean. Avoid sounding mean spirited. Your credibility, as an air talent, will be magnified by being understanding of the less fortunate. Don’t make every story of hardship about you. Acknowledge how blessed you are to be working. Realize that many aren’t as lucky as you are.

There are four faces of Coverage of the Coronavirus. Awareness, Acceptance, Encouragement and Memory.  

Awareness was when we first heard of the virus. It ramped up significantly before we were able to grasp and understand that this was unlike anything that we had faced in our lives.

Acceptance is when we acknowledged that the pandemic was real, that we would all know individuals who would be infected with this virus, and that some would die.

Encouragement is what we have to do for our audiences. Encourage them that we will get through this pandemic. Share with them things that they can do while sheltering. Look for positive, but factual, news to report to the audience. The peak having been reached in some communities. A decline in deaths. Talk of sports activities being rescheduled. It gives us all an “end point” to look forward to.

Memory is what we hope is ahead of us. Remembering what it was like when we were in lockdown. What good came from it, besides health, and what lessons can we learn from it?

There are some artists and production houses working on creating a musical tribute to the heroes of the pandemic and others working on an event to raise funds for the memory of this event. Don’t be gratuitous and, if you’re an artist, don’t be opportunistic by taking advantage of this crisis to personally benefit.  

We need to plan for what happens when we’re allowed to come back to the “outside world.” Party Centers, normally only open during weekends, will be booked for events seven days a week. There will be “make-ups” for lots of events that had been postponed. Wedding Receptions, Baby Showers, Graduations, Birthday Parties, Celebrations of Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah, Baptisms, Funerals or Celebrations of Life.

Provide guidance on where your listeners can find information on filing for unemployment. Where can individuals go to find out their options to refinance their homes or delay payments. What can be done to assist small businesses to stay in business during this time? How will the government’s COVID-19 recovery plans help everyone from individuals to big business? Surviving is what’s most important to all of us, at this moment, and will be important to our recovery.

Benztown and Emmis have worked together to create a short series of updates named Corona411. Westwood One is developing information for stations to use. Some stations will create their own info pieces. These are not promotional messages. They shouldn’t sound like a promo or a sweeper. These are elements of information that carry weight. They should sound special and unique.

https://tunein.com/podcasts/News–Politics-Podcasts/Coronavirus-411-alerts-updates-and-information-p1289595/

We should be messaging that this is not a time to make jokes about the outbreak. It isn’t a time to present tongue-in-cheek contests that are about this health crisis. It’s also not a time to panic our listeners by being anything more than factual. It is a time to share positive news, too. Give the audience a reason to smile.

It may be months and months before there is a vaccination that will prevent this virus from infecting our listeners. We’re all hoping that we’ll see life start to get back to normal, soon. However, we’ve not yet seen the crest of the wave of this illness in a total fashion for the United States. We have to help the world live a normal life.

Many air-talents are broadcasting remotely. Encourage them to mention that fact on-air. How is working from home impacting their lives? How are they occupying their days and the days of their family members? The purpose of such talk is not to make it about them, but to create the feeling of community. “We’re all in this together. We’re going to get through this.”

Update your imaging. Eliminate the “Listen at Work” liners. Come up with imaging that reinforces listening “Listen while you work, no matter where and when you work, whether at home or on-site.”

Look for WOW moments to unite your audience. It could be playing the National Anthem daily at 12:00pm to salute the men and women who are fighting on the frontline of the Coronavirus. It could be creating a consistent moment to underscore that we’re all in this together. Like playing Queen’s song “We Will Rock You” at 6:00pm nightly … as some radio stations are doing. Honor your hometown heroes while giving the rest of us hope.

Don’t talk about what you’re doing on-air as if it is work. It isn’t “work” compared to what the majority of your audience considers to be work. Embrace your audience and relate to them by acknowledging how tough these times are for them.

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Mike McVay is President of McVay Media Consulting. A media firm that focuses on content creation, coaching on-air personalities, marketing strategy, audience development and growth, and advises all platforms for audio companies. www.mcvaymedia.com

Catherine Combs

February, 2020

Uncategorized

Alliance for Women in Media, Foundation Announce 2020 Board

The Alliance for Women in Media and its Foundation (AWM/F) are pleased to announce their 2020 National Board of Directors. New to the AWM Board are: Katina Arnold, vice president, corporate communications, ESPN; Abby Auerbach, executive vice president, chief communications officer, TVB; Michelle Ray, executive director, The Walter Kaitz Foundation; Sandra Rice, senior vice president, outreach and strategic partnerships, Center for Talent Innovation; and, Esther Mireya Tejeda, senior vice president, head of corporate communications & PR, Entercom.

Officers of the board have been announced as Keisha Sutton-James, Chair, vice president & CEO, Sutton Button Productions LLC, serving as chair, Heather Cohen, executive vice president, The Weiss Agency, serving as incoming chair and Christine Travaglini, president, Katz Radio Group, serving as immediate past chair.  Josie Thomas, CBS, serving as treasurer, while Annie Howell, co-founder and managing partner, The Punch Point Group, serving as incoming treasurer. 

The following individuals will serve as Directors at Large of AWM: Joyce Fitch, legal consultant, Abby Greensfelder, founder & CEO, Everywoman Studios; Brenda Hetrick, chief revenue officer, Matrix Solutions; Jinny Laderer, co-founder & CEO, vCreative; Meg LaVigne, president, LaVIGNE MEDIA; Kelly Perdomo, vice president, content, sports, entertainment, and partnership marketing, SiriusXM; and, Katherine Wolfgang, head of public relations, CBC.

“The role of the AWM and Foundation boards is to lead our organizations and industry as we recognize, connect and educate women in radio, television and interactive media.  We have a true working Board,” stated Becky Brooks, AWM executive director.  “This year’s new directors have voiced their dedication to donating time and resources to take these organizations to the next level.  We are thrilled to have these talented, accomplished women joining our leadership for the next two years.”

The following individuals will serve as Directors at Large of AWMF: Deborah Parenti, publisher, RadioInk, RBR and TVBR; Rob Stoddard, SVP industry & association affairs, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association; and Kristen Welch, chief financial officer, Illustrative Mathematics.

About the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM): The Alliance for Women in Media connects, recognizes and inspires women across the media industry. AWM is a diverse community – whether type of media, job or global location – that facilitates industry-wide collaboration, education, and innovation. Established in 1951 as American Women in Radio & Television (AWRT), AWM is the longest-established professional association dedicated to advancing women in media and entertainment. AWM harnesses the promise, passion and power of women in all forms of media to empower career development, engage in thought leadership, and drive positive change for our industry and societal progress.

About the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation: In 1960, the Alliance for Women in Media became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (formerly known as The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television) supports and promotes educational programs, charitable activities, public service campaigns and scholarships to benefit the public, the electronic media and allied fields. The Foundation also produces nationally acclaimed recognition programs, including the Gracie Awards®, honoring exemplary programming created by, for or about women and individual achievement. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, educational organization. For the latest news on the Gracies, follow The Gracies on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about the Gracie Awards and to submit your entries, please visit www.allwomeninmedia.org/gracies.

Catherine Combs

January, 2020

Uncategorized

Joan Gerberding, Former AWRT President, on the Impact of AWM

Read Gerberding’s Remarkable Speech from the AWM Regional Conference Held in Austin on January 17

I’ve been invited here today to talk about the privilege of membership in the Alliance for Women in Media.  I’m not sure if it’s because I was national president from 2000 to 2003 when we were known as American Women in Radio and Television and we enjoyed record membership numbers, or if I’m just old enough to have lots of experience in telling stories about the good old days.  Maybe it’s both!  Either way, let me get started.

    I’m going to give you a little history about the organization, tell you some stories about my personal experiences, and, hopefully, inspire you to drive membership in this important organization. 

    AWRT was formed in 1951 as a response to the National Association of Broadcasters’ decision to dissolve its women’s division.  After the dissolution, and fearful that the concerns of women within the industry would not be given a voice, several female members of the NAB decided to form their own organization.  They inspired over 280 women to come together to create AWRT and determine its mission: “to provide a broadcasting organization for professional women in the radio and television industries.”  Now 280 may not sound like a lot, but remember, this was in 1951…and there weren’t many women in the work force, especially in media.

    Edythe Meserand was one of the founders and served as its first national president.  She began her broadcasting career at NBC Radio in 1926, but she had her greatest influence at New York City’s WOR-Radio, which she joined in 1935. There she achieved a number of “firsts” in broadcasting history:  she is acknowledged as the first person, male or female, to found an actual radio newsroom, she produced the first true radio documentary; and she organized WOR’s enduring Children’s Christmas Fund Drive. 

    AWRT continued to grow through the years, adding several hundred women from across the country to its roster.  But still, it was looked upon as “that women’s group” by most of the industry.  Well, of course, there were only a handful of women executives, there were no women sales managers, no female account reps, very few female on-air personnel, and certainly no women holding the positions of engineer, or program director.  In fact, the majority of women at this time were secretaries and receptionists.

    There were a few exceptions.  The first woman to have her own radio show was Kate Smith.  You may know her as the woman in the 1930s and 40s who sang “God Bless America” over the airwaves.  From 1937 to 1945 she hosted the “Kate Smith Hour.” She went on to host her number one daytime news and talk show until 1958.

    Then there was Pegeen Fitzgerald. She was another one of the first women on-air in radio, also at WOR. Fitzgerald began her own show broadcasting from her apartment in 1937 and became known as “First Lady of Radio Chatter”. On her talk show she covered numerous topics, and in the 1940s her husband joined her on-air.  The show was re-branded as “The Ed and Pegeen Fitzgerald Show”….notice who has top billing!  They became one of the most highly paid double acts in radio, earning about $160,000 a year.  In the 1940s. That would be about $2.9 million a year in today’s dollars!

    There were others:  Arlene Francis, Mary Margaret McBride, Bertha Brainard, and of course, Gracie Allen.  And then, came TV.  Although it was invented in 1927, television didn’t really become popular until after World War II. 

    When sitcoms were launched in the early 1950s, female “sidekicks” playing wives or secretaries or school teachers starred along with the men…and they were some of the funniest  women to ever fill a TV screen:  Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, Gale Storm, Audrey Meadows, Eve Arden, Ann Southern and Gracie Allen.

    But for the most part, women were barely seen, much less heard in broadcast media.  There were no women in the wings directing shows, writing scripts, selling advertising, managing stations or, God forbid, owning radio or TV stations.

    AWRT set out to change all that.

    In 1960 it became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation to give scholarships to up and coming radio and TV women.  The Foundation held seminars, leadership conferences, educational forums and did everything in its power to advance women in the media business.

    In 1975 it began an annual awards program recognizing broadcast professionals in radio and TV who represented the changing roles, issues, and concerns of women. In 1997 those awards became known as The Gracies, named after the media pioneer who embodied the character of the awards, Gracie Allen.

    By the end of the 1990s, AWRT had several thousand members all over the country. We had chapters in most states, and we had become a well-known and well-respected organization.

    In 2001, the first year into my national presidency, we celebrated our 50th anniversary at a star-studded luncheon at New York City’s Tavern on the Green.  I’ll never forget that day.  For so many reasons.

    But first let me tell you a quick story.  All of us were working diligently on getting a book ready to be released for the 50th anniversary.  It was called “Making Waves, the 50 Greatest Women in Radio and Television” and it was due to be published in time for this luncheon honoring many of the women highlighted in the book. 

    We had asked all the living legends who were featured in the book to write their own personal essays.  Our Executive Director was overseeing the project, and one day about a week before the deadline to get this book to the typesetters, she called me:  “we have 49 of the essays in house and ready to go to the typesetters.  We’re just missing Lily Tomlin’s”.

    Well, it just so happened that Lily Tomlin was doing her one woman show, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” at McCarter Theater at Princeton University.  Since my radio company headquarters was in Princeton, I knew the director of the theater quite well, so I immediately got on the phone, explained the dilemma, and asked him if he could set up a meeting with Lily in a day or two.

    The day came, I sat down with Lily and told her that hers was the only missing essay.  “We need 1,500 words by the end of this week”, I said.  She said, “no problem.”

    I waited and waited and waited.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and finally on Thursday I called her.  “Lily,” I said, “I really need those 1,500 words by tomorrow.”  She said, “no problem.”

    So, Friday afternoon I got an email from Lily and attached is her essay.  All 5,000 words of it.  I called her up:  “Lily, I only need 1,500 words, do you want to cut this down?”  She said, “no problem.  You can edit it.”

    Well, I spent all of the next day, and half the night cutting and pasting, deleting and counting words.  By Sunday afternoon, I really was rather delirious from reading the essay over and over again, and I just started laughing out loud.  “I’m editing Lily Tomlin!”  “I’m editing Lily Tomlin!”

    Needless to say, I got over the giddiness, finished the essay at 1,500 words, Lily approved it, and right on deadline, the essay was sent to the typesetter and the book was published just in time. 

    But let me finish my story about the 50th Anniversary party.  The luncheon was held to honor the women in this book.  The women who “made waves” and, in spite of all the things they had to overcome, became a success.  Things like executives (all men) who resisted giving them a job because women were supposed to be at home taking care of their houses, their husbands, and having babies.  

    Bankers who insisted that women had to get their husband’s signature to co-sign a credit card or loan application.  Those women who were fired because they were pregnant…bosses who were reluctant to allow women to have opinions, especially on the air. In fact, those women—many of my generation–overcame things that women today take for granted or maybe don’t even know about.

    So anyway, here we were at Tavern on the Green, the room is buzzing.  It’s filled with celebrities, the press, TV camera men and women, a few hundred people, mostly women, ready to sit down to lunch and start the program in a room that had glass walls and yes, a glass ceiling.  It was an extremely hot July day.  New York City was sweltering with record breaking temperatures.  And here we are, ready to honor some of the world’s most famous female icons…and the air conditioning stops working.  No AC, no fans, no nothing!

    Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight was my co-host and the two of us were literally dying from the heat.  As we called the honorees up to the podium, you could see what a struggle it was for them to keep cool.  I mean, we were just dripping with sweat! 

    But, once they received their plaques, a copy of the book and were given the microphone, WOW!…they were just as cool as cucumbers!  Gracious, professional, funny, endearing. It was so impressive….Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Connie Chung, Mary Tyler Moore, Candace Bergen, Cokie Roberts…It was breathtaking!  And it was a day I’ll never forget.

    So, time passes on and by 2003, radio and television were joined by digital media, the internet, cellphones, tablets, laptops, LED billboards, and so much more.  We started the discussion about changing the name of AWRT to better reflect the changing world of media.  Finally, after many fits and starts, in 2010 AWRT renamed itself the Alliance for Women in Media or AWM.  We now better reflected our commitment to all women in all types of media.

    And here we are 10 years later, 2020, and AWM is still flourishing.  But it’s also been sixty-nine years since the founding of this organization.  Of incredible media women laying the foundation for those of you who are here today. 

    Sixty-nine years of having to work twice as hard to get half as far, continually having to prove ourselves.  Sixty-nine years of doing the work, putting in the long hours, hopping the planes, running in heels to get the story, to meet the deadline, to climb the ladder.

    How great is this?! 

    Now, much of the history I just spoke about can be researched online.  But what can’t be found via Google, is the power, and the magic, and the friendship within AWM; the generosity and collective knowledge of its members, old and new. 

    Membership in this vital and vibrant organization should be one of the first items on the “To Do” list once a woman accepts a position in media.

    I mentioned before about some of the obstacles the founders and subsequent members had to go through way back when.  Well, let me tell you about some of the obstacles I had to face alone before I joined AWRT.

    From 1969 until 1973, I held several positions in advertising and media:  the marketing department of a major insurance company in New York City, an ad agency in Hartford, Connecticut, doing PR for The American Heart Association.  Finally, in 1974, I decided to move to Cape Cod.  I was 25 years old. 

    It being the 70s, like many other women in this decade, I was a vocal supporter of the Women’s Liberation Movement.  Being female and having to put up with a great deal of harassment as one of the few women in the advertising world at that time, it was a no brainer to support Women’s Lib, subscribe to Gloria Steinem’s Ms. Magazine, and march for equal rights.  And I did all of that.

    So, after buying an antique sea captain’s house on Cape Cod in 1974, and then taking a year off to restore it, I decided I needed to get back to my career.  I started perusing the Cape Cod Times and lo and behold, there was an ad for Account Executive at WCOD-FM in Hyannis, just 15 minutes away.

    I interviewed for the job in March of 1975.  And really, I nailed it!  I mean you know when you nail an interview. I had this job!  After an hour of conversation, the sales manager (a man) said this to me:  “I think you’re highly qualified for the job, but I don’t hire women because they’re too much trouble.” 

    I could feel the heat rise from my toes.  Being a lily white, freckled redhead, blushing was in my bones.  Anger, fear, shock, embarrassment, any of those emotions could turn me beet red in less than a 30-second commercial.  So red-faced, I said to him:

    “Well, you’re going to hire me!” 

    Over the next two weeks, I called him twice a day: once in the morning, once in the afternoon.  I left messages since he wouldn’t take the call “This is Joan Gerberding, I’m anxious to start bringing in advertising sales for you.”  “I may have missed your call. I’m looking forward to working for you.”  “When can I start?”  You get the idea.  I was relentless.

    On the Friday of the second week of my daily messaging, at 4:30PM, he took my call.  He said this: “I just spent the last two weeks interviewing men for this AE position, they were all assholes. You can start Monday.”

    Thus, began my radio career.  Oh, and by the way.  Within the first 6 months, I outsold him and every other AE on staff; 6 months after that, he was fired, and I got his job as GSM!  So, maybe I was “too much trouble” after all!

    When I finally discovered AWRT in the late 70s, I felt that I had died and gone to heaven. I mean here was a group of professional women who actually wanted to raise me up, not put me down.  Here were women who were going through exactly the same things I was going through.  Dealing with the same issues.  I had never had a female mentor before, but now I had hundreds of them, all over the country.  But on Cape Cod, I was the only woman in radio.

    So, in 1980, I accepted the position of Sales Development Manager at Nassau Broadcasting in Princeton, New Jersey.  There were hardly any more women there than on Cape Cod, but I felt that sitting between New York and Philadelphia, the number 1 and number 4 markets, I could grow my career and really make a difference.  And maybe, I could even bring more women into the business. 

    I started hiring them.  As AEs, PDs, news anchors, DJs, copywriters.  I became involved with the New Jersey Broadcaster’s Association, later becoming its Chair. 

    The first time I spoke at a NJBA conference workshop in 1980, I was the only woman there.  I had prepared a presentation on selling but seeing that I was the only woman in a room of over 50 men of all ages, I ad-libbed the first 15 minutes by actually demonstrating to them how to shake a woman’s hand!       You know, what I mean…when men shake your fingers or barely grab your hand for fear of breaking you in half?  I made every man in that room shake my hand the right way that day.          To this day a wonderful guy who was there at that workshop and who later came to work for me, tells me I should write a book and title it: “It All Began with a Handshake.”

    And still I kept coming back to AWRT.  I initiated Leadership Training seminars for women at the RAB. I became involved with the NAB.  And I brought some of what I learned in these organizations to the AWRT table.

    In the early 90s, I was presented with the AWRT Star Award for women’s leadership in radio.  I was named one of the “Top Six Sales Managers in the United States” by Radio Ink Magazine.

    And I kept getting invited to speak all over the country, not only to AWRT chapters, but also to women’s business groups and state broadcasting associations, at the RAB and the NAB. 

    In 1992, a groundbreaking book called “Megatrends for Women” was published.  The authors said this:  “the description of the characteristics of a manager of the future uncannily match those of female leadership.”  In fact, “every item on the experts’ list of leadership qualities—openness, trust, empowerment, compassion and understanding balanced with objectivity—describe the female leadership style.”

    I took those words to heart as I stepped up to higher and higher executive positions at Nassau Broadcasting.  And I put those words into action.

    I hired and promoted more and more deserving, talented women.  I made sure that they all had the core belief that when you work in an environment that promotes a positive atmosphere, it raises the standards for everyone.  And I paid for their memberships in AWRT as part of their employment packages.  It was the right thing to do.

    The members and directors of AWRT, and now, the Alliance for Women in Media have spent 69 years promoting and encouraging opportunities for women in media.  They’ve paved the way for women to bring a positive approach to leading our companies, our organizations, our colleagues, our peers…to success. 

    The shared experience of being a member of AWM elevates us all.  Vision, direction, autonomy, trust, belonging, having a voice, being represented, and joyful camaraderie:  these are the attributes that not only offer both women and men success, they are truly assets that allow all media companies to grow and flourish.  And these attributes are what AWM embodies in the very core of its organizational DNA.

    This is our message. This is what inspires us to Make A Difference. And as we each attain our individual goals it is our duty to turn around and reach our hands out to the next woman down the line…and the next one and the next one.  To raise each other up. We need to celebrate our diversity, our strengths, and our ability to keep our energies focused on the things that make a difference for women in media.

    We must recruit new members from each upcoming generation of broadcasters.  Mentoring these women, inspiring them, opening doors for them…and finding opportunities to help them and us create success for all women in media. 

    We need to continue to develop and refine programs that provide education, leadership training, outreach programs.  To advance the mission of AWM by increasing its visibility, its credibility, and, as a professional organization, by contributing to the advancement of the broadcasting and digital media industries as a whole. 

    In 2002, just after I was named “The Number One Most Influential Woman in Radio” by Radio Ink Magazine, I was invited to Capitol Hill to speak to the FCC.  I started that speech by saying these words:  “Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.  First, I’d like to say that I find it amazing that we’re sitting here today, in the year 2002, still having to discuss the issues of women’s equality in the broadcasting industry.  The same conversation I’ve been having since the 1970s.”

    Have we advanced since then?  Yes.  But we still have a long way to go. 

    Let me end today by reading from a company handbook written around the same year that AWRT first came into existence in 1951.  This chapter was entitled: “The Guide for Hiring Women” and there were 10 rules.  I’ll just read you a few.

  • Rule #1:  Pick young married women.  They usually have more of a sense of responsibility then their unmarried sisters, they’re less likely to be flirtatious and they still have the pep and interest in working hard.
  • Rule #2:  General experience indicates that husky girls are more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.
  • Rule #3:  Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they’ll keep busy without bothering management for instructions every few minutes.  Women lack initiative in finding work for themselves.

And last:

  • Rule #4:  Give a girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day.  A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can take some time to keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

    Today, in 2020, I say to you.  Let’s move our respective industries into the future.  Let’s demonstrate the power of women when we come together to strengthen, support and promote one another.  Let’s empower the entire media industry so that it truly reflects and honors the communities we serve. 

    Being a member of AWM changed me. It made me a better broadcaster, a better leader.  And it made me a better human being.

    So now you have a little organizational history, some of my personal stories and, hopefully, I’ve inspired you just a bit.  As I said at the beginning, membership in AWM is a privilege…and I ask you to accept the challenge of bringing in new members. 

    As we grow AWM membership, we grow our media industries and ourselves. We grow the pool of talented, ambitious and outstanding women who can lead companies forward.  We have work to do. YOU have work to do.

Catherine Combs

January, 2020

Uncategorized

Alliance for Women in Media Foundation Extends Deadline for the 2020 Gracie Award Entries

Foundation announces Ziploc® Brand as Diamond Sponsor of the 2020 Gracies Gala

The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF) has announced that the final deadline to submit entries for the 45th Annual Gracie Awards has been extended until January 23, 2020.  The Gracie Awards, presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, celebrate programming and individual achievement by, for and about women in television, radio and interactive media.  Submissions from all facets of media are encouraged.  AWMF is also pleased to announce Ziploc® Brand as the Diamond Sponsor of the 2020 Gracies Gala. 

The women featured and honored at The Gracie Awards are the same hard-working, busy women Ziploc® brand helps to stay organized. With the launch of the fashionable Ziploc® Accessory Bags, busy women have the perfect solution to stay organized while on the go, with versatile designs, durable material and multiple sizes. As a trusted brand among women, Ziploc® brand is excited to partner with the 2020 Gracies Gala to celebrate women in media.

The Alliance for Women in Media is also proud to partner with its newest Honorary Trustee, Jinny Laderer, Co-founder & CEO, vCreative.  Laderer joins Jason Bailey, Sun Broadcast Group, Catherine Frymark, Discovery Communications, and Mark Gray, Katz Radio Group, as 2020 Honorary Trustees.

 “Each year, the Gracie Awards turn the spotlight on the best and brightest in all segments of the media industry, on and off the screen, by recognizing groundbreakers in radio, television and interactive media,” says Becky Brooks, AWM/F executive director. “As our biggest fundraiser of the year, the Gracies enables the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation to deliver on its promise of furthering the connection, education and recognition of women in media.  All of this is made possible by our amazing sponsors like Ziploc® brand and our Honorary Trustees.”

The 2020 Gracie Awards entry eligibility air dates are from January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019.  Entry details, including pricing and updated categories, can be viewed at https://allwomeninmedia.org/gracies/call-for-entries/. 

The 45th Annual Gracie Awards Gala will be held on May 19, 2020, at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, A Four Seasons Hotel and the Gracie Awards Luncheon will be held on June 24, 2020, in New York City at Cipriani 42nd Street.  To learn more, visit https://allwomeninmedia.org/gracies/.

About the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation: In 1960, the Alliance for Women in Media became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (formerly known as The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television) supports and promotes educational programs, charitable activities, public service campaigns and scholarships to benefit the public, the electronic media and allied fields. The Foundation also produces nationally acclaimed recognition programs, including the Gracie Awards®, a gala that honors exemplary programming created by, for or about women. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, educational organization. For the latest news on the Gracies, follow The Gracies on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about the Gracie Awards and to submit your entries, please visit www.allwomeninmedia.org/gracies.  

###

Catherine Combs

December, 2019

Uncategorized

The Year in Review

By Becky Brooks, AWM/F Executive Director

At the end of each year, many of us stop to take time to reflect on what we have seen, experienced and learned, and then, hopefully, how to take that into the next year. It is often a time to also consider those historical moments that emerge, and in the case of 2019, it was significant. And each of you, the community of the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM), provide your own unique window for the world to see, experience and learn.

Increasingly, watching television, listening to the radio or to a podcast can feel overwhelming with divisiveness and endless opinions on just about every topic. Amid hearing those stories – a common theme that emerged at AWM in 2019 – is courage.

Courage was prominently in the background of the magnificent storytelling we experienced while reviewing content for the 2019 Gracies Awards. Just a few examples were Noor Tagouri’s podcast series Sold in America that researched the sex trade industry from every angle; Leah Remini executive producing and hosting a program, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath that revealed the truths of a religion in which she previously participated; Madison Lawson, a student from the University of Missouri, telling her story of living with a disability (and flying to New York to accept the award!) and LaDona Harvey on iHeart’s AM 600 KOGO reminding us in her interview, “I am NOT grateful, I am qualified”.

Each of these Gracie winners had the courage to tell a story. And many times, through courage also comes hope. Just this year: A record number of women were installed in congress; the largest class of African American women graduated from West Point; an entire community in Texas showed up to a funeral to support a man who lost his wife in a mass shooting so that he wasn’t alone; a group of women in Iran seeing their first soccer game from the stands, an activity that was once forbidden; and, a child hosting a hot chocolate stand to pay for a classmates’ lunch at school. That – is hope.

One of our favorite stories at AWM is the courage it took for a group of women in the 1950’s to form a group called the American Women in Radio & Television – now known as the Alliance for Women in Media. They created the path for the community we have today, and our current leadership continues to forge that path.

AWM has given nearly $20,000 in scholarships, created an online community forum for our members, interviewed more women (and men!) in media to relaunch our Gracie Interview Series to provide insight and education and heard first-hand the harrowing experience of Elizabeth Smart during her keynote at the Gracies Leadership Awards where we also heard from six inspiring and fearless leaders in our industry about their career journeys.

On a personal level, these stories give me hope and courage for the future. As my husband and I raise two kids who are seeing and experiencing life in a different way than we did – we can tell them the stories you have the courage to tell and encourage them to do the same. We have friends who have experienced unimaginable health scares and loss – yet our personal community rallies to support one another – just as we see happening in communities across the country.

AWM is committed to do even more in 2020. We will recognize story tellers, bring communities together through our membership and events and connect women (and men) in radio, television and digital medias who may not otherwise have known one another. We ask you to join AWM, submit your content for Gracies consideration, judge Gracie Awards, attend an event – stay connected.

Our challenge to you in the new year is to continue telling important stories and to give hope.

Cheers to 2020!

Catherine Combs

November, 2019

Uncategorized

Alliance for Women in Media Foundation Announces 45th Gracie Awards Call for Entries Open

The Gracie Awards, presented by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (AWMF), has opened the call for entries for the 45th Annual Gracie Awards Gala, May 19, 2020, at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, A Four Seasons Hotel, and Gracie Awards Luncheon, June 24, 2020, in New York City at Cipriani 42nd Street. 

“Each year, the Gracie Awards celebrate and honor truly exceptional content by, for and about women.  It is our belief that recognizing expertise, courage and contributions across television, radio and interactive/digital media is essential to ensuring continued growth for our industry,” says Becky Brooks, AWMF executive director. “As our biggest fundraiser of the year, the Gracies enables the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation to deliver on its promise of furthering the connection, education and recognition of women in media.”

Serving again as chairs for the 2020 Gracie Awards are Mike McVay, president, McVay Media Consulting and Alliance for Women in Media Foundation board members Heather Cohen, executive vice president, The Weiss Agency and Annie Howell, co-founder and managing partner, The Punch Point Group. Vicangelo Bulluck, an Emmy Award-winning, seasoned veteran in awards production, has produced the Gracie Awards since 2016 and will return to produce the Gracie Awards Gala in 2020.

Each year, attention is given to evaluating categories, and this year that included adding a category for showrunners in television and creating more avenues for radio hosts/co-hosts by adding categories for Outstanding News Anchor and Weekend Host Personality.

Highlights of the 2019 Gracies included honoring outstanding and powerful talent such as: Leah Remini for Scientology and the Aftermath; Christina Hendricks & Retta accepting on behalf of the cast of Good Girls; Elizabeth Perkins of Sharp Objects; Angela Yee of top-rated Breakfast Club morning radio show; Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; and, Hannah Storm & Andrea Kramer as the first female NFL sports commentating team.  Melora Hardin and many other presenters joined Lauren Ash from Superstore as our host and Sheryl Crow as entertainment for the night. 

The 2019 Gracie Awards entry eligibility air dates are from January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2019. Early Bird rates for entries end on December 12, 2019, at 11:59 PM Eastern. The deadline for all entries is January 16, 2019, at 11:59 PM Eastern. Entry details including pricing, updated categories can be viewed at https://allwomeninmedia.org/gracies/call-for-entries/. 

To see more about the 2019 Gracie Awards, including the media release and past video, visit https://allwomeninmedia.org/gracies/.

About the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation: In 1960, the Alliance for Women in Media became the first professional broadcasting organization to establish an educational foundation. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation (formerly known as The Foundation of American Women in Radio & Television) supports and promotes educational programs, charitable activities, public service campaigns and scholarships to benefit the public, the electronic media and allied fields. The Foundation also produces nationally acclaimed recognition programs, including the Gracie Awards®, a gala that honors exemplary programming created by, for or about women. The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, educational organization. For the latest news on the Gracies, follow The Gracies on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about the Gracie Awards and to submit your entries, please visit www.allwomeninmedia.org/gracies.