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Posted: February 15, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Local awarded for lifetime achievement

FaithWorks director honored for previous work in broadcast journalism

Photo by Mandi Singer/

During his four decades in broadcast journalism, Bob Furnad worked behind the scenes to cover the world's biggest events. On Tuesday, Furnad's work was brought to the forefront with the Di Gamma Kappa broadcasting society's Distinguished Achievement Award in Broadcasting.

Furnad had many successes in his professional career, working 18 years at ABC and more than 17 at CNN. He was senior producer for Good Morning America, CNN's first political director and the president of CNN Headline News. He covered the first Gulf War, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Oklahoma City bombing.

UGA Senior Lecturer Michael Castengera worked with Furnad at UGA and greatly admired the body of work Furnad brought to the teaching table.

"Some of the major events that have ever happened, with broadcast and cable news in particular, Bob was on the front lines," Castengera said. "He was the one who kind of set the standard and set the tone for all of these events ... one of the great things about journalism is (that you can) help to create history. Bob helped create history."

CNN's Jack Womack was Furnad's "No. 2" at Headline News and saw up close what made Furnad a great television producer.

"When you needed a decision made he would take that responsibility and make it quickly. He always knew where he was going," Womack said. "I truly enjoyed the experience (of working with him)."

As he accepted the award, Furnad spoke about the failings of broadcast media over the past 25 years, citing the drop in TV news viewership; 30 years ago, about 55 million Americans watched the evening news programs of ABC, CBS and NBC. Today, those same programs only draw 26 million viewers.

He talked about how networks have blurred the lines between objective reporters and subjective analysts, casting doubt into viewers' minds. He said the search for larger profits and the need for instant gratification have turned the focus towards glamour stories, like shootings and high-speed chases, which impact only a handful of the more than 300 million people in this country. He noted that the changing lifestyles of consumers and the increased competition from online media have also negatively affected TV viewership.

And after all of that, Furnad ended his speech to the audience of broadcast students and teachers on a bright note: despite everything listed above, people still like being able to sit back, relax and watch the news on TV.

A former UGA teacher who loved to help others grow, Furnad ended his speech by telling the future journalists that they can earn back the trust and respect of the public. But, they need to return news to its core value of giving people the information they need to know in a way they can understand and use.

Furnad's career achievements placed him alongside broadcast legends and former fellow award winners, including Barbara Walters and Ted Turner. He continues to forge ahead in his personal life by devoting his time and effort at Covington-based FaithWorks, a church-funded organization that helps Newton County residents who can't afford to pay their rent and utility bills on their own. Because of how richly blessed Furnad has been in his own life, he feels compelled to give back as much as he can to his community.


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