Ninety-five golden statues were handed out last night at the local Emmy Awards ceremony at Washington's Ritz-Carlton. It's these same statues that Washington viewers will see on their TV screens when the stations start churning out promotional ads declaring themselves an "Emmy Winning Station!"
And, once again, Fox-owned WTTG, Channel 5, will have the most to brag about.
For the eighth year in a row, WTTG took home the most Emmys (13 this time) in the annual competition for news coverage, promotions and children's programming.
But the ceremony's suspense level dropped dramatically this year as the marquee category of best news anchor failed to earn a single nomination. That has some station executives grumbling. "We are concerned when we see categories with no nominations, suggesting that the work that year was not good enough for any kind of honor," said WTTG's vice president of news, Katherine Green.
Green said the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences -- which runs the competition -- should require that there be a nomination in each category. Eighteen other categories, including public affairs and sports programs, failed to deliver a nomination this year.
Under the current system, individuals typically nominate their own work. Judges from other television markets screen the tapes and award points to each entry. Each entry that earns a certain score is considered to be nominated for an Emmy, with the top scorer usually judged to be the winner. If none of the entries in a category earns enough points, there is no nomination and, thus, no winner.
Green said the academy should take a cue from the Oscars and judge from the work that's submitted. "You look at the pictures that are available that year and you're going to pick the best," she said.
Four anchors from her station -- Brian Bolter, Shawn Yancy, Steve Chenevey and Laura Evans -- submitted tapes, according to Fran Murphy, chairwoman of the awards committee. WUSA/Channel 9's Derek McGinty, Mike Walter and Tracey Neale (who was last year's Emmy-winning anchor) were the other three entries from this market. Nine other hopefuls from Virginia and Maryland also entered.
Joy Allison Zucker-Tiemann, outgoing president of the local academy chapter, expressed disappointment that this year, as in the past several years, veteran anchors in this market didn't submit tapes. "The more seasoned, the thirty-plus-year anchors in the market, of which there are many, quite frankly don't really care whether they win or not," she said.
None of WJLA/Channel 7's anchors -- including veterans Kathleen Matthews, Maureen Bunyan and Gordon Peterson -- entered the competition this year. Nor did the longtime team of Jim Vance and Doreen Gentzler at WRC/Channel 4.
"This category is a place for someone who's trying to establish themselves locally to get a foothold and get some bragging rights in the market," said Murphy. "We have so many longtime anchors who are practically venerable, and this is a way for younger anchors to participate and make a name for themselves."
WJLA's vice president of news, Bill Lord, concurred that it's a young person's game. "The first time I won an Emmy, I thought it was an extraordinary event in my life," he said. "I've been doing it long enough that I guess I'm less interested in the entire process."
Two local news veterans who entered the competition walked away with mixed results.
Sue Palka, a 20-year veteran at WTTG, took home the statue for outstanding weathercaster, beating out, for the second year in a row, her colleague Gwen Tolbart along with Marc Lamarre of Roanoke's WSLS.
Channel 7 sports anchor Tim Brant, who left the station as sports director 20 years ago before rejoining it in January 2004, lost to Comcast SportsNet's Michael Jenkins as the year's top sports guy. Jenkins was clearly thrilled as he climbed the steps to claim his award.
The ceremony, which clocked in at a less-than-brisk three hours, was emceed by a quartet of hosts, including "Good Morning America's" Tony Perkins, who provided the evening's comic relief. "What are we going to cover now that the Michael Jackson trial is over?" he asked the audience early on. Later he said, "Tito Jackson was arrested an hour ago, for impersonating a celebrity."
Channel 7, which is coming off a remarkable May sweeps period, won seven Emmys, including one for reporter Sam Ford's news special on a trip that Ballou High School's marching band took to California to compete in a battle of the bands.
Maryland Public Television also garnered seven statues, including four for its "Bob the Vid Tech" segments, hosted by the excitable Robert Heck, who pops up between children's shows to deliver educational segments. In receiving one of his awards last night, Heck tweaked Congress for a House committee's decision earlier this month to cut $100 million from public broadcasting.
Channel 9 had five wins, including two biggies: best evening news program, for its 11 p.m. news, and best early morning news program, for its 6 a.m. show. But there wasn't much competition: Those were the only nominations in each category (there were other entries). Channel 9's Neale -- who joined the station last fall -- also won for her news special segment "The Pentagon's Youngest Victim."
Ratings leader WRC picked up just one statue -- outstanding sportscast, led by longtime anchor George Michael.
The "Today" show's Willard Scott, who began his career as a page at WRC in 1950, was inducted into the Premiere Golden Circle, which recognizes 50 years of contributions to the broadcast community. A video retrospective of Scott's career was introduced by Ed Walker, who teamed with Scott on radio for more than 20 years. Scott did not attend last night's ceremony, but in a videotaped acceptance speech, he said, "Working with Eddie was the greatest part of all."
One of the more visually dramatic winners was WTTG's spot news coverage of a bank robbery in Northwest Washington in June 2004. While on another assignment near a SunTrust Bank, a camera crew videotaped masked men with assault rifles going into the bank and later fleeing by car.
WTTG also won two Emmys for investigative reporting -- one for Beth Parker's story on D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams's extensive travel schedule, the other for former staffer Elisabeth Leamy on the dangers of children's orthodontic headgear. Last week, ABC's "Good Morning America" named Leamy as its new consumer reporter.
The complete list of winners is at www.natasdc.org/docs/2005/2004_Emmy_Awardees.pdf.