The University Record, September 18, 2000

Michigan Radio expands to TV production

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Michigan Radio, the University’s public radio system, is branching into television production. With initial grants totaling $288,377 from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the C. S. Mott Foundation, Michigan Radio will create the Great Lakes Television Consortium (GLTC) to produce environmental documentaries for public television.

Over the next year, the GLTC will produce two one-hour documentaries on land use issues. The first documentary will focus on the social and economic impacts of urban sprawl on cities while the second documentary will evaluate the impacts of unplanned land development on the agricultural sector.

“I’m delighted that we will now be able to produce television programs about critical environmental issues in our region,” said Donovan Reynolds, director of broadcasting and station manager of Michigan Radio. “There’s been a decline in serious environmental journalism in recent years, and these programs will help to fill the gap.”

The GLTC will be based at Michigan Radio, the state’s largest public radio network and one of the most successful in the country. Since switching to a news and information format in 1996, Michigan Radio has won the Michigan Associated Press “Station of the Year” award four consecutive years and has twice been named national “Station of the Year” by the Public Radio Program Directors.

“At first glance, the move to television production may seem like an unusual choice for a radio station,” said Reynolds. “It’s consistent with our long-term plan of becoming a media production center—producing quality programming for a variety of distribution channels.”

The GLTC will be modeled after another Michigan Radio production, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium (GLRC). The GLRC produces and distributes a weekly news feed of environmental news about the Great Lakes region. Currently, 2.4 million listeners hear GLRC stories on 130 stations.

“Clearly, there is a strong desire for substantive environmental programming and we’ve found a model that works,” said David Hammond, Michigan Radio’s director of national programs and former managing editor of the GLRC. “We’ve been covering the environment for the last five years. We know the issues and we know the players. I think this project is poised for great success.”

EMMY award-winning producer Christopher Cook has been hired to produce the GLTC programs. Cook, the owner of Metrocom, International in Ann Arbor, has been involved in several documentary projects. His work has also appeared on the History Channel and Detroit’s WXYZ-TV. Cook won EMMY awards for a public television program called “Dying For A Drink,” which earlier this year examined teens and binge drinking, and for the 1999 production titled “50 Years of Excellence,” a look at the evolution of television in Detroit. He also produces news stories for ABC’s “World News Tonight,” “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Nightly News” and “The Today Show.”

The GLTC programs will be ready for broadcast in the spring of 2001. The new television consortium eventually should expand to include production of arts and humanities, business and science issues, according to Reynolds.

The W. K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930 to “help people help themselves through the practical application of knowledge and resources to improve their quality of life and that of future generations. Its programming activities center around the common visions of a world in which each person has a sense of worth; accepts responsibility for self, family, community and societal well-being; and has the capacity to be productive, and to help create nurturing families, responsive institutions and healthy communities.”

The mission of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is “to support efforts that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society. The foundation’s four interest areas are civil society, environment, Flint and Pathways Out of Poverty. The environment program is focused on supporting the efforts of an engaged citizenry working to create accountable and responsive institutions, sound public policies and appropriate models of development that protect the diversity and integrity of selected ecosystems in North America and around the world.”