Sitting at Rico’s next to Frontline executive producer David Fanning was a defining moment for one Washington State University broadcasting student.
Senior communication major Kate Yeager was among a small group of broadcast students who closed the bar with Fanning and Frontline producer Mike Kirk after the Murrow Symposium. Kate was playing host to the Edward R. Murrow Award recipients from the PBS investigative reporting program.
The group discussed media, politics, and today’s hottest issues around a large table at the pub in downtown Pullman.
“We had this big table,” she says. “He was like a rock star-it was like walking in with Elvis.”
Fanning says WSU made him feel like a celebrity during the three April days he spent in Pullman to accept the award and speak at the annual communication school event.
Bar patrons stopped to shake his hand and have their photograph taken with him. The lead singer of the band playing on Rico’s stage that night bought him beer.
“I just bought David Fanning a pitcher,” music student Simon Kornelis said to a table of his friends directly after.
Fanning said that was a Frontline first.
In most of his travels he doesn’t get that kind of attention. What impressed Kate even more was that this person she had admired for years – and aspires to be like – took her and the other broadcast students seriously.
“I like David Fanning because he’s real,” Kate says. She had been watching Frontline for years and hopes to produce investigative films in her own broadcast career.
Kate and many others from the communication school felt Fanning and Frontline were deserving of the honor. Known for its coverage of tough issues and complex stories, Frontline is the only regularly scheduled investigative broadcast program in the country.
Fanning started Frontline in 1983 and has been putting together films ever since. “This is a guy who’s done over 500 films,” Kate says.
Previous recipients of the award include broadcasters Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings.
Kate says while they were all great broadcasters, Frontline and its brand of journalism seems more closely aligned with Murrow’s principles.
“Edward R. Murrow Award honorees have a demonstrated commitment to excellence that exemplifies the career of Edward R. Murrow,” reads the symposium Web site. “The men and women who are named Murrow Award winners are those who will be remembered as the pillars of the communication industry.”
She was awed to sit next to him at the Pullman bar and banter.
“They just talk and talk [and] have these intellectual discussions that may or may not lead to another show,” she says.
Kate heard Fanning on his cell phone passing along feedback she had given about an unfinished documentary they had viewed together.
“It was that feeling that he wasn’t writing me off as a youngster-that was very affirming,” she says. “For me this was the highlight of my whole WSU career.”