At Alabama Media Professionals’ 2019 awards luncheon, the organization presented 55 honors in its annual communications contest and eight awards in the National Federation of Press Women’s communications cont est. AMP is a state affiliate of NFPW, and first-place entries in the AMP contest can advance to the national competition.
AMP also named Verna Gates its 2019 Communicator of Achievement and installed Donna Francavilla as its president during the luncheon, held April 11 at The Club in Birmingham. The keynote speaker, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist John Archibald, discussed the book he is writing, the importance of voice and the future of journalism.
“I feel uncharacteristically optimistic that the world will figure out that good journalism is critical to our survival, and that it is worth paying for,” said Archibald, who is a columnist for Alabama Media Group and won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2018. “I believe a civilization will emerge from this journalistic wild, wild West.”
Archibald is taking a break from column writing to compose a book, which will be published by Alfred A. Knopf next year, and said he has been thinking a lot about voice as a result of the project. “It’s sort of the point of the book,” he said.
Both Archibald’s father and grandfather were white preachers in the Birmingham area. “I was born in April of 1963, in the moment in time MLK was in jail writing the letter that excoriated the white church for saying…nothing,” he said. “Not so much for having a pulpit and using it for evil. But for having a pulpit and failing to use it at all. So it has been a search for me, a sort of search about who we are and how our voice defines and marks us.”
Archibald also spoke about the phrase “find your voice,” often directed at writers, saying he wondered for a long time whether it had meaning. At one point in his career, he tried to imitate the writing style of Rick Bragg. Archibald said he finally found his own voice when he had to produce columns on such a rigorous schedule that he didn’t have time to think about style and tone.
“Your voice is the one that talks to you in your head,” he said. “Your voice is the one thing in the world that nobody else has. I’ll never be able to write like Rick Bragg, and you probably won’t either. But that’s OK. He can’t write like us, either.”
Communicator of Achievement
AMP bestowed its highest honor, the Communicator of Achievement Award, on longtime member Verna Gates.
One of CNN's original crew, Gates has worked for TIME, The Guardian, Reuters and various magazines. She's commentated for Alabama Public Television and Troy Public Radio and also authored a book. In 2006, Gates founded Fresh Air Family, an environmental education nonprofit.
For Alabama Media Professionals, Verna has delivered meeting and workshop programs. She also coordinated tours as part of NFPW’s 2017 conference in Alabama.
Gates will now compete for the title of 2019 NFPW Communicator of Achievement. She was runner-up for that award in 2009.
Donna Francavilla, who has been an AMP member since 2011, was installed as for a two-year term as the group’s president. A longtime national correspondent for CBS Radio, Francavilla also has worked as a TV news reporter, anchor and producer. She recently returned to Alabama from New York to continue growing her PR/multi-media agency, Frankly Speaking Communications, which produces webisodes and does voice-over, consulting, public relations, social-media marketing and presentation and media training. Francavilla has produced for Oprah, “Where Are They Now,” and CBS Evening News.
“My goals as your president are intended to build on the successes of former AMP presidents,” Francavilla told luncheon attendees. “These goals include expanding our membership beyond the geographical confines of Birmingham, to collaborate with like-minded organizations on various educational and networking endeavors and to connect with company owners who can contract with our members.”
Savannah Bullard, a University of Alabama student and soon-to-be editor of the student newspaper The Crimson White, was AMP’s 2019 communications contest sweepstakes winner, with 13 awards. The sweepstakes winner has the highest score resulting from the number and placement levels of awards.
Twenty-six of the 55 awards AMP bestowed this year were first-place awards that moved on to the NFPW contest.
See a list of national and state-level awards.