Most people have heard of the Oscar, the Tony and the Emmy Awards. But, who has ever heard of a Wilbur?
While less known than its Hollywood and Broadway cousins, the Wilbur Award is a highly sought after annual prize awarded to members of the secular media in North America. It is conferred upon two-dozen winners at a gala event hosted by the Religion Communicators Council (RCC), a national organization founded in 1929.
The 2014 Wilbur Awards were held on April 5th in Nashville, Tennessee. This year for the first time ever the event was hosted by an RCC member from outside the Christian or Jewish faiths, ISKCON’s own Governing Body Commission Chairman, Anuttama Dasa.
Anuttama’s introductory remarks drew much laughter from the audience when he pointed to his flowing Vaishnava robes and quipped, “I’m not sure if I’m this is the first time a member of an eastern tradition ever hosted this event…but I know for certain I’m the first man to do so wearing a dress!”
Anuttama Dasa has been a member of the RCC for more than twenty years, serving twice as national Vice-President and on the RCC Board for almost ten years.
“Religion Communicators Council has a long and proud history,” Anuttama said. “It’s the oldest public relations organization in the United States. Originally limited to Protestant Christians, its grown to include Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, Bahia’s, Vaishnava Hindus and members of many other diverse traditions.”
Wilbur Award winners are selected for excellence in communicating religious themes, values and issues in multiple categories including books, news reporting in print, TV documentaries, TV news, children’s programing, and feature films.
Past winners of this coveted honor have included Time Magazine, Newsweek, Life, CNN, Canadian Broadcasting Network, HarperCollins, Boston Globe, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, National Public Radio, Huffington Post and hundreds of other major media producers, TV hosts, writers, authors, editors, film studios, and even creators of comic strips.
This year’s 25 winners included the Christian Science Monitor for a story on Newtown, Connecticut; Religion News Service for a story on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington; The History Channel and LightWorks Media for their 10-part series, “The Bible;” and CBS News for their feature, “What’s So Funny About Religion.”
RCC promotes professional development and interfaith understanding among its religious members, in addition to highlighting the contributions of secular media in bringing stories of faith to their viewers, listeners and readers.
ISKCON devotees across North America who are active in, or interested in, communications services are encouraged to participate in the RCC. Devotees have done so in the past from the Washington, D.C., Boston and New York areas.
“There are more than a dozen RCC chapters across the county,” said Anuttama, “I hope more ISKCON members get involved on their local level. It’s a great way to build friendships, meet local media, be trained in communications, and get your temple more involved and recognized in the local community.”
The 2015 Wilbur Awards Ceremony will be held in Washington, D.C.[ awards ]