March 29, 2019
Last week, Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communicationshonored Bloomberg’s Laura Zelenko with the 2019 Jessica Savitch Breakthrough Award, which highlights efforts of women who work to promote women’s voices and stories in media.
Savitch, a 1968 graduate of Ithaca’s Park School who remained closely involved with the institution throughout her life, served as Saturday anchor for NBC Nightly News and as its Washington-based reporter. She gave the main address at the College’s 1979 commencement, was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree and was elected to the Board of Trustees the following year. In 1983, Savitch died in an automobile accident.
In her acceptance speech, Zelenko cited remarks that Savitch made in 1975 at Ithaca about the challenges of representation in media. Savitch said: “News is geared to the power structure. And the power structure is stories about politics, it’s stories about medical breakthroughs, it’s stories about social change. Stories about people who occupy important positions in the power structure. And most of them were men. So sure all the stories on the news are mostly about men. But that’s changing. And the more women we see in power positions, the more stories we’ll do about them. The more stories we do about them, the more kids growing up will see women in these different positive roles, will see themselves possibly ascending to a point where the are in those roles. And we will then begin to see more women on the news. It’s a cyclical kind of thing.’’
Zelenko said: “Fourty-four years later, while we still have a long way to go, we do see more women in leadership positions, in Congress, in board rooms. And yes, many are in the news. But a very significant percentage are not – women in power, who are influential in their respective fields, and whose voices aren’t being heard. The representation of women in news that Jessica Savitch strove to address remains far too low. And that is something in which Bloomberg is investing — in taking intentional, bold and measurable steps to amplify the voices of under-represented experts across all of our platforms, to diversify the perspectives, opinions and forecasts we are sharing with viewers and readers and to ensure we are telling all the stories that need to be told.”
On the panel, Zelenko joined Christine Vachon, Academy award-winning independent film producer and co-founder of Killer Films; Stacy Smith, Associate Professor and Founder/Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at USC Annenberg School; and Brooke Johnson, retired president of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. The panel was moderated by Park School instructor Ann Marie Adams and student Reesa Hylton. Park School Dean Diane Gayeskiintroduced the evening’s events.
At Bloomberg, Zelenko oversees the New Voices initiative, which aims to increase the representation of women sources in both online and on-air content. The program includes the establishment of a definitive global list of women experts in finance and business, a system to track diverse sourcing, and the funding of media training for top women executives and other under-represented voices. In 2019, the media training initiative will take place in New York, Toronto, London, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sydney, Dubai, and Mumbai.
The March 21 event was part of the programming of the Park School’s third annual Women in Media Month, which is presented in conjunction with International Women’s History Month and made possible by the Jessica Savitch ’68 Endowed Fund.