RTDNF First Amendment Award Winners Include Executives and On-Air Talent Alike

By A.J. Katz 

The Radio Television Digital News Foundation (RTDNF) held its 31st Annual First Amendment Awards yesterday evening at the Marriott Marquis in Washington D.C.

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez emceed the ceremony.

Among those the organization honored this year was NBC News Group chairman Cesar Conde, who earned the RTDNF Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award.


“Witnessing the extraordinary events in Ukraine and Russia, where millions of Ukrainians are leaving a democracy out of fear of being ruled by an autocracy, are events that have personal resonance for me,” Conde said during his acceptance remarks.

My mother fled Cuba in the early 1960s when Fidel Castro was tightening his grip on that island country.  And so my two younger brothers and I were born here in the states but we grew up in Miami, in a diaspora that know all too well that the freedom of the press could not be taken for granted. So I grew up with a very healthy and deep respect and understanding for journalism as a fundamental pillar of a democratic society.”

Conde also touched on improving diversity in newsrooms: “We are believers that our newsrooms, collectively in the industry, must reflect all of the communities, all of the consumers that we serve. All of us have seen the demographic data that came out of the last census, that for the first time in our country’s history, in 2020, the first time, people under the age of 18 who are also people of color, crossed the threshold of being 50 percent of the population.

“The overall U.S. population will hit that threshold in the coming years. And so I think that gives us a choice as news organizations, we either have to sit back and wait for change to happen to us and then try to catch up, or we can be future-focused organizations and make the decision to change and try to get ahead of that curve.”

The NBC News boss wasn’t the only TV news boss to be honored by the RTDNF this year. ABC News president Kim Godwin received the 2022 First Amendment Service Award. She kicked off her acceptance remarks by thanking her mom and giving a shoutout to her daughters, who she said basically grew up in the newsrooms where she worked.

“As journalists today, we must dig for the truth, hold the powerful to account—and shine a light on wrongdoing, wherever we find it,” Godwin added. “We professional reporters are not alone in the exercise of the First Amendment. Cell phone cameras have produced an army of citizen reporters. We support and applaud them as they carry out their right to record news events, including interactions with the police.

“Darnella Frazier was just 17 when she witnessed a terrible injustice in a major American city … the killing of George Floyd. She started recording with her cell phone because, she later said, “If I didn’t, no one would believe me.” Without the First Amendment right to record that video, then officer Derek Chauvin might never have been charged, much less having been found guilty.”

NBC News and MSNBC national political correspondent Steve Kornacki received the RTDNF’s First Amendment Clarity Award.


Margaret Brennan accepted the RTDNF First Amendment award on behalf of Face the Nation. “If information is the currency in this democracy … we all have pretty important roles to play at this time,” she told attendees.

For the full list of last night’s honorees, click here.