Top honour for David Fanning

Shaun Gillham

ACCLAIMED Port Elizabeth-born journalist and filmmaker David Fanning, who cut his teeth at The Herald, has been awarded the Emmy Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award for his news and documentary programme, Frontline.

The award, to be presented to Fanning at the Time Warner Centre in New York City on October 1 at the 34th annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards, is the cherry on top for the former Grey High School pupil.

The programme, the longest-running investigative documentary series in the US, has already won a string of notable awards including 57 Emmys, among many others.

Fanning, 67, has been the executive producer of Frontline for the past 33 years.

“I’m standing on a boat, I’m surrounded by fish. We’re busy fishing. But yes, it is a great honour to receive the award, it is really great,” were Fanning’s first words when contacted by The Herald in Marblehead, Massachusetts, yesterday.

“But having said that, the honour comes because I am surrounded by talented and smart people.”

Fanning, who was in the Bay in May for a school reunion, said that following his involvement in a student publication at the University of Cape Town, where he studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree, he cut his teeth in journalism on The Herald.

“I always tell everyone about this. It was during 1966 and 1967. I distinctly remember waiting for my articles to be checked. The editor at that time would go through the pile of articles until he got to me. He would read it and then just motion to me with his finger, he never said a word.

“You knew that you had to go and figure out what you did wrong or figure out how you could do it better. No one told you how, you just had to figure it out. That is how I learnt and started with journalism,” he said.

Fanning, who is respected for his overall views on investigative journalism and the future of the craft, as well as his use of and views on the use of modern digital technology as a journalism platform, will be playing a smaller role in Frontline going forward.

“So your question as to whether the award is timely, given that it has been reported that I am handing over the reins – well, it is true to some extent. I am just getting out of the day-to-day and weekly involvement in Frontline, but I am certainly not leaving altogether,” he said.

“I am working on some new projects, some special projects, and some which include digital technology. I am working around new devices such as iPads and I am looking at how iPads can be used as a medium for people to view items such as documentaries.”

The award announcement came as a double delight for Fanning’s sprightly 93-year-old mother, Joyce, who lives in Walmer in Port Elizabeth. Not only is she overjoyed at her son’s amazing success, but she, along with her daughter, Helen, will be attending the Emmy Awards.

“This is absolutely incredible. I am so excited,” she said yesterday. She will be in New York for three days, before going to her son’s home at Marblehead in Boston where she will stay for a week.

“I just feel parental pride, pure parental pride. I have of course seen all of his achievements over the years and he has done very well.

“I suppose I was surprised. He was just an ordinary boy, but he has gone on to do so well.”

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