GUEST BLOG #83: Tom Brinkmoeller Checks In On Fred Rogers' 21st Century Legacy
[Bianculli here: Last year, I attended a conference at St. Vincent College's Fred Rogers Center, and reported on it for TV WORTH WATCHING, where plans were made to carry on the vision and children's TV commitment of Fred Rogers. Yesterday, when worthy recipients were given scholarships to pursue their modern visions of children's entertainment and education, I was at Rowan University teaching -- but contributing writer Tom Brinkmoeller pursued the results on his own, and has this encouraging news flash...]
TV Academy Picks Three People to Help Carry Mr. Rogers' Legacy into Future
By Tom Brinkmoeller
Smoking once was socially acceptable, red meat once was the staff of life and children's television once was Moe hitting Curly's head with a hammer.
The whole universe soon may be smoke-free. A rare steak may be the only pre-existing condition not covered by the new healthcare legislation. But South Park still claims kids as part of its core audience.
Some things get fixed more quickly than others.
So how about some good news about children's programming? A just-concluded two-day gathering in Pittsburgh, the Fred Forward Conference, awarded a trio of Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarships to people whose goal it is to continue to advance the kind of high-quality programming pioneered by the scholarships' namesake, TV's Mr. Rogers.
From nearly 100 applicants, three post-grad students were chosen to receive an impressive $10,000 prize and an even more valuable mentoring assist from within a network of non-commercial and commercial children's programmers. This is the sixth year The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, in conjunction with Ernst & Young, has selected people judged to be the best architects of what good things children will be watching in the future on television, and in other media.
Last night, the more than 150 conference attendees watched as Christina Zagarino, a master's student at Tufts University, won for a plan to produce short programs that point children away from obesity and toward physical activities. The second winner was Rachel Schechter, part of a Tufts doctoral program, won for a proposal to study the links between use of media and learning in young people. And Xavier Raphael Vanegas, who is working toward a master's degree in film production at the University of Southern California, won for a proposed animated television program, Fink Forest Friends (shown here).
Beyond the money, there is the pledge of professional help the winners walked away with. Scholarship winners are paired with someone already established in children's programming to help advance their winning projects, as well as their careers.
"It is priceless," said Terri L. Clark, executive director of the Television Academy Foundation, because it gives the winners the kind of expert help and professional contacts that can make a difference between ideas that get made and those that don't. Each of the winners, she said, will be interviewed by Academy members so that the best professional match can be made. As with previous scholarship winners, the mentor's experience and insights will help the winner perfect the proposal.
Clark said the annual research scholarship is as important as the two production prizes because it helps industry members make their programs better: "If we're able to help advance research into current and future TV programming . . . that's something that's immeasurable."
The Academy made Rogers a member of its Hall of Fame before his 2003 death. It was following an Academy memorial program for Rogers, she said, that members asked themselves, "How can we keep his legacy moving forward?" The scholarship program, with initial and continued support from Rogers' wife, Joanne, grew from that. Its goal, simply put, Clark said, is a continuation "of what Fred did."
Mrs. Rogers was one of the presenters at Monday's ceremony.
The Web site for the scholarships can be found HERE.