Convocation: Pearson urges graduates to stick to journalistic principles

Legendary Atlanta broadcaster and current Grady graduate Monica Kaufman Pearson gave the keynote address.

Originally published on on May 9, 2013.

ATHENS — More than 500 Grady students were celebrated today at the college’s annual Spring Convocation Ceremony.

Keynote speaker and legendary Atlanta TV news broadcaster Monica Kaufman Pearson urged students to remain firm to the journalistic principles they’ve been taught as they begin their professional careers.

“While so much has changed in our field, our purpose has not,” she said, citing the importance of using critical thinking as they do their work.

Pearson, who broke barriers when she became the first minority and female broadcast news anchor in Atlanta when she debuted on WSB-TV in 1975, has been pursuing her master’s degree at Grady since retiring in July 2012. In her address, she stressed the importance of education and also serving others.

“If you want the world to be a better place, you’ve got to get involved,” she said.

Graduate Paige Pulaski echoed Pearson’s advice in her speech as senior orator — an honor given to the graduate with the highest grade point average. Pulaski, who has a 3.9 GPA, said the class of 2013 will accomplish big things.

“We’re stepping into a world of possibilities,” she said. “We are the ones who will provide new solutions to old problems.”

Dean Cully Clark, hosting his final convocation before retiring, announced that this current graduating class of 511 is the largest group of Grady graduates in history. Citing a list of multiple accomplishments, Clark noted how Grady students have been featured as University of Georgia “Amazing Students” more this year than any other college.

“It’s not surprising, because quite simply our students are amazing,” he said.

Grady Alumni Board Chair Jody Danneman (ABJ ’88) welcomed the graduates into the Grady Society, and also called special attention to three retirements among Grady faculty: broadcast senior lecturer Steve Smith, Peabody Awards director Horace Newcomb and Clark.

“This college is doing incredibly well, and that is because of the work of the faculty,” Danneman said, adding that under Clark’s tenure, the college has raised significant funds, launched WUGA-TV and reconnected the college with its history.

Clark was greeted with a standing ovation from the thousands in the crowd as he closed out the ceremony. “We have done our job,” he said. “It’s their turn.”

Courage is Theme among Peabody Winners

Originally published on the Grady College website, May 21, 2012.

Sir Patrick Stewart talks with UGA President Michael Adams at the 71st annual Peabody Awards. Photo/Joe Dennis.

New York City received a taste of Athens, Ga., yesterday as more than 500 journalists, producers and actors gathered at Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria for the 71st annual Peabody Awards.

“This is the signature event for UGA,” said Peabody Awards show executive producer Jody Danneman, a 1988 alum of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and owner of Atlanta Image Arts. “Nothing at the University has the international reach of the Peabody’s.”

Indeed, included among popular 2012 award winners like Jeopardy!, CNN Heroes and Parks and Recreation are international programs like Hong Kong’s TVB Jade Channel and South Africa’s Intersexions.

“There is one criteria for a Peabody Award — excellence,” said Peabody Awards director Dr. Horace Newcomb. “And it has to be a unanimous decision by the judges.”

Peabody Awards director Dr. Horace Newcomb speaks with two-time winner Stephen Colbert. With 15 judges comprised of media executives, renowned journalists and media critics, garnering a unanimous decision on “excellence” is difficult. This year, more than 1,000 entries were whittled down to 38 Peabody Awards. Photo/Joe Dennis.

Two-time Peabody Award winner Sir Patrick Stewart served as master of ceremonies of Monday’s event, announcing the winners in a two-hour ceremony in which acceptance speeches were strictly limited to roughly 30 seconds.

“Each year the list of winners is noticed by everyone in the industry,” Stewart said at the Ceremony. “What strikes me about this year’s winners is the boldness and courage of the programs and their makers.”

Courage was the theme among many award winners, including Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Arab Awakening, Loud Mouth Films and Limited’s “Who Killed Chea Vichea?” and BBC’s “Somalia: Land of Anarchy.”

In accepting a Peabody for CNN’s coverage of the Middle East revolutions, news show host Anderson Cooper paid tribute to journalists around the world. “To all those risking their lives to give a voice to others, thank you,” he said.

Peabody’s reach stretches beyond the seriousness of journalism. This year’s winners included pop culture fares inch as HBO’s Game of Thrones, Showtime’s Homeland and NBC’s Parks and Recreation.

“It’s nice to win a Peabody,” said Parks and Recreation executive producer Michael Schur. “But it’s great to hear my name called out by Capt. Jean Luc Picard.”

Accepting the Peabody for The Colbert Report, recognizing segments on his legal Super Pac, “Americans for a better tomorrow, tomorrow,” Colbert thanked his staff, network and lawyers, and offered hope for the future.

“This is our second Peabody, and growing up I always dreamed of winning three of these,” Colbert said. “We’re almost there.”

To view a full list of winners, visit

Danneman Adds Sizzle to Peabody Awards

Grady alum Jody Danneman (l) goes through a run-of-show with 2012 host Sir Patrick Stewart prior to the Peabody Awards ceremony. Photo/Joe Dennis.

The 71st annual Peabody Awards recognized 38 programs for excellence in electronic media on Monday, May 21, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. More than 500 attendees, including Peabody award recipients Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler and Alex Trebek, joined host Sir Patrick Stewart in a production that rivals other major media awards ceremonies.

“It’s actually orchestrated a little better,” said Joe Urschel, chair of the Peabody Board. “It has to run on a very tight schedule and is plotted out very precisely.”

Grady alumnus Jody Danneman (ABJ ‘88) is the master behind the plot. Through his production company, Atlanta Image Arts, Danneman has been the executive producer of the Peabody Awards since 1999.

Peabody Awards director Horace Newcomb (l) and Grady alumnus Jody Danneman. Photo/Joe Dennis.

Danneman’s relationship with the Peabody’s began in the late 1980s with late Grady professors and Peabody directors Dr. Worth McDougald and Barry Sherman. “I had classes with them and they were mentors,” Danneman said. “As a TV geek, I was always fascinated by award shows, so I was always hanging around the Peabody’s.”

After graduating in 1988, Danneman kept in touch with Sherman throughout his professional career, and his chance to do something professionally with the Peabody Awards came in 1993 and again in 1996 when he worked as a staff producer for Atlanta Video Production Center. After launching Atlanta Image Arts in 1997, Danneman took over as executive producer of the Peabody Awards in 1999, and has been producing the ceremony ever since.

“This is a tent-pole project (for Atlanta Image Arts),” Danneman said. “It is the most prestigious, the most recognized and is the production that we have the most passion about.”

Although the actual ceremony takes just two hours, Danneman’s crew works on the Peabody’s for much of the year. The crew arrives in New York City on Thursday and works 14-hour days leading up to the Ceremony, but the work begins much earlier in Atlanta. “This is in production for us 10 months out of the year,” Danneman said. “And it’s ‘all hands on deck.’ Everyone in the company is involved.”

His company begins consultation with Peabody Awards director Dr. Horace Newcomb in September for conceptual design and creative direction, and wraps up with editing the actual Peabody Awards production in June.

“From my point of view, Jody brings peace of mind,” Newcomb said. “I rely on Jody and his staff to make sure the day goes exactly the way it’s supposed to.”

Danneman offers some last-minute instructions to an Atlanta Image Arts co-worker.

“Our goal is to have an event that leaders in the industry will see that we do the same level of work that they do,” he said. “And we pull it off, and it’s largely because of Jody and his company.”

Danneman likes to staff his company with fellow Grady alumni, including associate producer Shannon Sullivan ‘10, who began working with Danneman as an intern.

“Jody is an excellent mentor,” Sullivan said. “He takes a lot of people under his wing and has definitely given me the tools I need to get to where I want to be.”

Danneman said he likes to hire Grady alums because he knows the quality of the education they received, and because he feels a duty to help those who are following in his footsteps.

Celebrity sightings are the norm at the ceremony. Pictured (l-r) are Parks and Recreation’s Amy Poehler, Portlandia’s Fred Armisen and Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, all Peabody winners. Photo/Joe Dennis.

“When I was looking for an internship, a Grady alum helped me out. I was very fortunate,” he said. “So I try to do the same thing.”

Danneman’s involvement with his alma mater goes far beyond the Peabody Awards and Atlanta Image Arts. Danneman also produces the College’s annual fellowship gala, serves as the chair of the Alumni Board and mentors current students. For his efforts, in 2009 Danneman was recognized with the Dean’s Medal for service to the Grady College.

“Jody is our artistic impresario,” Dean Cully Clark said. “He makes the Peabody’s sizzle and pop, and his commitment to the College is invaluable. He is the best.”