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2017 Board of Governor’s Emmy® Award

Upper Midwest Board of Governors Emmy® Award

The National Academy of Television Arts & Science (NATAS) – Upper Midwest Chapter Board of Governors Award is the most prestigious Regional Emmy® Award in our chapter.  It is voted on by solely by the board.  The Governor’s Emmy® Award honors visionary, long-standing relationships that creatively and effectively use corporate, non-profit and broadcast resources to showcase the power of broadcasting to advance a mission or message.

The award is presented to a broadcaster, advertiser or company, as well as a non-profit organization, each of whom has contributed to forward a cause. This year’s award will be presented at the 2017 Upper Midwest Regional Awards Gala.


Among American society’s enduring taboos are the subject of late-life and death. None of us wants to think about them, let along talk about them. “The Convenings” is a multi-year effort to help Minnesotans talk about late-life planning and living as fully as possible until the end of life. It has involved an unprecedented collaboration among Minnesota civic leaders, health care, faith, and commercial and public media professionals.

The Convenings is the evolution of work, long done by the Twin Cities Medical Society through its “Honoring Choices Minnesota” initiative, which provides tools and resources to help families have these important conversations, and a nearly five-year series of on-air conversations broadcast journalist Cathy Wurzer did with the late Bruce Kramer on Minnesota Public Radio.

Cathy Wurzer

The creation of The Convenings followed Bruce’s death in 2015 from ALS. The spark came during meetings among Wurzer, former Twin Cities PBS executive Bill Hanley, “Honoring Choices” executive Sue Schettle and leaders of the Bruce Kramer Collaborative. The result? A statewide series of live events, broadcast and digital media projects designed to inspire and support Minnesota families as they try to talk more openly about one of the most critical topics in life.

Recognizing the value of The Convenings, Mary Brainerd (then CEO of HealthPartners) and Penny Wheeler, MD, CEO of Allina Health were enthusiastic and early supporters and trusted advisors. They were soon joined by Kenneth Holmen, MD, CEO of CentraCare Health, Andrea Walsh, HealthPartners new CEO and the George Family Foundation.

Key health, community and media leaders in Ely, Luverne, Faribault, Owatonna, Coon Rapids, Northfield and central Minnesota all proved to be essential in organizing and promoting the local live events.

Most importantly, an unusual collaboration of statewide media was vital to the success of The Convenings.

Bill Hanley approached KARE-11 News Director Jane Helmke, who was extraordinarily helpful and supportive in designing a plan for reaching KARE-11’s large, broad audiences. She assigned reporter Kent Erdahl to the project which included a series of 10 p.m. “Extra” stories, a prime time “Life Decisions” broadcast and a special edition of “Breaking the News.”

Hanley also approached his former colleague Lillian McDonald at Twin Cities PBS who helped shape a plan for adapting the conversations to better reach families in Minnesota’s Somali, Hmong and Latino communities. TPT’s Leya Hale created the resulting half hour, statewide broadcast special.

In the end, surveys of audience members who attended the live events in Ely, Luverne, Coon Rapids, Northfield, central Minnesota and Faribault/Owatonna show that 98% of the attendees say they are more motivated to talk with loved ones about end-of-life planning.

The Convenings project almost perfectly brings to life the charge of the Emmy Board of Governors Award: “…to honor visionary, long-standing relationships that creatively and effectively use corporate, non-profit and broadcast resources to showcase the power of broadcasting to advance mission or message.”

Visit for more information on the project.