Bob Abernethy to receive special Wilbur Award
Written by Religion Communicators Council
January 4, 2010

Bob Abernethy
Photo PBS

Bob Abernethy, host of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on PBS is the next recipient of a special Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council. Abernethy, a member at Cleveland Park Congregational UCC in Washington, D.C., is to receive the honor, one of the oldest in religion communication, April 9 in Chicago during Religion Communication Congress 2010. The special award recognizes contributions Abernethy and the program have made to public discussions of faith topics.

"Since 1997, Bob has promoted intelligent, insightful examinations of faith issues on American public television," said council president Douglas F. Cannon. "As executive editor and host of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, he has shown that the spiritual side of America is important and deserves journalistic attention."

Abernethy proposed the program concept to public station WNET in New York partly in response to widespread criticism that American television news didn't pay attention to religion, Cannon noted. Over the past 12 years Religion & Ethics Newsweekly has provided a regular place on television for fair discussion of religion and spirituality.

The council has presented Wilbur Awards annually since 1949. They honor excellence by individuals in secular media—print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures—in communicating religious issues, values and themes. The award is named for the late Marvin C. Wilbur, a pioneer in religious public relations and longtime council leader. Religion & Ethics Newsweekly has earned Wilbur Awards for outstanding national television coverage of religion news in 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2005.

From time to time the council Board of Governors confers a special Wilbur Award. It recognizes a person or organization whose body of work in secular media makes a substantial and unique contribution to public discourse on religious faith and values or interfaith dialog and understanding.

Past recipients of special Wilbur Awards include President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter; John Dart, former religion editor of the Los Angeles Times; Martin Marty of The Christian Century; Bill Moyers of Bill Moyers Journal; Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood; cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts; and filmmaker Ken Wales.

Founded in 1929, the Religion Communicators Council is the oldest public relations professional association in the United States. It has more than 500 members and 13 regional chapters. Members represent Baha'i, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish organizations and work in advertising, print and electronic communication, and public relations.