Peabody Awards names new Board of Jurors; Monica Kaufman Pearson to lead Board

Peabody Awards names new Board of Jurors; Monica Kaufman Pearson to lead Board

November 15, 2021

Longtime WSB-TV evening news anchor Monica Kaufman Pearson (MA ’14)  has been named as the next chair of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors, making her the first African American woman to lead the prestigious program’s judging body.

Pearson has been a trailblazer for her entire career in the Atlanta area. She was the first woman and first minority to anchor the daily evening news in the city at its leading station, WSB-TV, where she worked for 37 years. She won more than 33 Southern Regional and local Emmy awards for her reporting and anchoring, as well as for her celebrity interview show, Closeups. When she retired, she was recognized on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan Georgia delegation for her decades of service.

Monica Pearson headshot
Grady College alumna Monica Pearson has been named chair of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors.

Since her 2012 retirement, she has earned a master’s degree from Grady College, hosted “This Week in Black History” for KISS 104.1 FM, and co-hosted the Emmy-nominated Georgia Public Broadcasting show “A Seat at the Table.”

She has served on Peabody’s Board of Jurors since 2015. “I have valued the opportunity to recognize the best in broadcasting in my work with Peabody for the last 6 years,” Pearson said. “It is an honor to step into a leadership role with this esteemed group of industry colleagues that celebrates the ways skillful storytelling can unite us and illuminate truth in these critical times.”

“Monica is not just an Atlanta treasure—she’s a natural leader whose strength, warmth, compassion and humor always makes the board’s deliberation smarter and, frankly, a lot more fun,” said Jeffrey Jones, executive director of the program. “We are honored that she has agreed to serve us as board chair this coming year.”

Peabody has also appointed Vanessa K. De Luca, Hannah Giorgis, Nicholas Quah, Kent Rees, Mark Ruffin to its board of jurors, which each year bestows the Peabody Awards for excellence in television, radio/podcasting, and digital media. The program is based at Grady College.

“We are honored to have such accomplished industry leaders contributing to our mission to recognize quality media programming of the highest standard. These experts are the perfect choice to help us spotlight works that best reflect the issues and voices of our time,” said Jones.

Vanessa K. De Luca currently serves as Editor-In-Chief of The Root, overseeing the publication’s editorial vision and content creation across all platforms. Most recently she served as the Editor-in-Chief of ZORA magazine and helmed ESSENCE magazine. An award-winning journalist and co-author of the bestselling beauty and empowerment book Tyra Banks Beauty Inside & Out, she has been a featured guest on several national television networks, including NBC’s TODAY Show, CBS This Morning, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, CNN and more.

Hannah Giorgis is a staff writer at The Atlantic. In a recent cover story, “The Unwritten Rules of Black TV,” Hannah presented a definitive look at Black representation behind the camera, and the progress and roadblocks for creators whose voices have too long been ignored. Her essays, criticism, and reporting have appeared in publications including the New York Times magazine, New Yorker, The Guardian, Bon Appétit, and Pitchfork. Most recently she co-wrote Ida B. The Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells with Wells’ great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster.

Nicholas Quah is the podcast critic at New York Magazine’s Vulture and a contributing critic at NPR’s Fresh Air. One of the earliest journalists dedicated to covering the podcast industry, he is also the founder of Hot Pod, widely considered to be a leading trade newsletter covering the podcast business, which was sold to Vox Media. Originally from Malaysia, he has a B.A. from Wesleyan University, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and was a Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2017.

Kent Rees is an industry-leading digital and content marketing strategist. He is currently the general manager and chief marketing officer for FAST Studios, a company that owns and operates ad-support streaming TV networks. Prior to that, he was the Chief Marketing Officer for Pop TV and the EVP and General Manager of Pivot. Mr. Rees went to NYU Film School and has been an adjunct professor at Emerson College since 2018.

Mark Ruffin is the program director of the Real Jazz channel on SiriusXM. Before that he spent over 25 years as a fixture in jazz broadcasting and journalism in Chicago, winning two Emmy Awards for his efforts to bring stories about jazz to television on WTTW-TV. Mr. Ruffin worked as the jazz editor for Chicago Magazine and has written hundreds of articles on jazz, broadcasting and African-American culture. In 2020, Mr. Ruffin released his first book, Bebop Fairy Tales: A Historical Fiction Trilogy on Jazz, Intolerance and Baseball.

The Peabody Board of Jurors is made up of media industry professionals, media scholars, critics and journalists, appointed by the program’s executive director to a renewable three-year term of service.

Each year, this mix of top-level thought leaders names 60 nominees from which they then select The Peabody 30—the best programs that achieve the highest standards in media and storytelling across genre and platforms.

Along with Pearson and the new jurors, the current board of jurors also includes:

  • Lorraine Ali, TV critic, The Los Angeles Times
  • Manuel Betancourt, film and television critic
  • Herman Gray, emeritus professor of sociology, University of California at Santa Cruz
  • Karen Hall, veteran TV writer, producer, creative consultant
  • Dana Heller, dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Eastern Michigan University
  • Kathy Im, director of journalism and media, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Michael Isip, president and CEO of KQED
  • Wonya Lucas, president and CEO, Crown Media Family Networks
  • Mike Monello, co-founder and creative director, Campfire
  • Aswin Punathambekar, associate professor of media studies, University of Virginia
  • John Seigenthaler, partner, DVL Seigenthaler; former news anchor, NBC News
  • Simon Kilmurry, former executive director, International Documentary Association

Respected for its integrity and revered for its standards of excellence, the Peabody is an honor like no other for television, podcast/radio, and digital media. Chosen each year by a diverse Board of Jurors through unanimous vote, Peabody Awards are given in the categories of entertainment, documentary, news, podcast/radio, arts, children’s and youth, public service, and multimedia programming. The annual Peabody winners are a collection of 30 stories that powerfully reflect the pressing social issues and the vibrant emerging voices of our day. From major productions to local journalism, the Peabody Awards shine a light on the Stories That Matter and are a testament to the power of art and reportage in the push for truth, social justice, and equity. The Peabody Awards were founded in 1940 at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia and are still based in Athens today.