East Dallas KERA producer Jeff Whittington wins national media award

Jeff Whittington is executive producer of “One Crisis Away,” which just won a National Murrow Award, KERA’s first.

Caruth Terrace neighbor and KERA producer Jeff Whittington is part of team that has received KERA’s first ever national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association.

“One Crisis Away,” a multi-year series that tells stories of families on the financial edge, won the award for excellence in video among large radio stations.

The winning video followed Jennifer Anderson and her children, who lost their apartment after a tornado ripped through North Texas the day after Christmas in 2015. Luckily the family was not home during the storm, but as Anderson drove home that night, she saw her couch cushions on Interstate 30.

“You never really know how strong you are until you have to be strong,” Anderson says in the video.

Whittington says that “One Crisis Away” was inspired by data from the Corporation for Enterprise Development that says nearly 50 percent of Texans are liquid asset poor, meaning they don’t have enough cash on hand to live above the poverty level for three months if they see an interruption in income. “There are lots of people who consider themselves middle class who live paycheck to paycheck,” says Whittington, who served as executive producer of the series.

But it isn’t always easy to get people who are willing to tell their story of financial struggle.

“It is a real challenge,” he says. “It is not easy to find people. We are fortunate that Courtney Collins and Thorne Anderson are really great at finding people and working with them to tell their stories. They are special people and we are lucky to have them.”

A radio station winning video award might seem strange, but it shows the changing face of media, Whittington says. The reporting, audio, photography, video and digital collaboration showcases “true cross-platform reporting efforts,” he says.

Covering poverty require the journalists to tread lightly on people’s misfortune while delivering the truth. But for Whittington, this series is about something else. “People just don’t know this, and aren’t thinking about it. It could be your friends, your neighbors or maybe yourself who might be in this situation. For us, it is about education.”

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