Producers at West Virginia Public Broadcasting Receive Awards

John Nakashima

Two staff members at West Virginia Public Broadcasting (WVPB) have received awards related to telling West Virginia’s story in their roles as documentarians, reporters and producers.  

Suzanne Higgins

Suzanne Higgins received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Virginias Associated Press Broadcasters Association.

John Nakashima, and Suzanne Higgins, both senior producers have been honored by the social workers of West Virginia, and the Virginias Associated Press Broadcasters Association (VAPB) respectively.

“We are so proud of John and Suzanne and their collection of award-winning work,” said Scott Finn, Executive Director of WVPB. “Our documentaries and news programs tell West Virginia’s stories in ways other media cannot. The fact that John’s and Suzanne’s work is recognized by our peers and organizations using their work is a testament to that.”

Nakashima’s powerful documentary The First 1,000 Days: Investing in West Virginia’s Children When It Counts earned him the National Association of Social Workers West Virginia (NASW-WV) Chapter’s “Public Citizen of the Year Award” which was presented at the NASW-WV annual conference this week. The film explores the multi-faceted and often misunderstood world of early child development. It looks at issues within the state and introduces viewers to family programs that are changing the lives of children and helping adults become better parents.

“On the whole issue of child poverty in West Virginia, focusing on early childhood development is the best place to start,” says Nakashima. “A child’s first 1,000 days occur only once in a lifetime. Both parents working to keep a family afloat is just one of several obstacles facing our parents and quality parenting time during these crucial years.”

Nakashima has produced, directed, shot, and edited documentaries for WVPB since 1977. His work explores West Virginia culture in the widest sense –- including visual and performing arts as well as traditional and modern culture. In addition, he has edited five documentaries that have won regional Emmy Awards for Best Documentary or Historical Documentary. In 2014 he was awarded the West Virginia Filmmaker of the Year.

In March, Higgins received the Virginias Associated Press Broadcasters’ Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is given annually by the VAPB to an individual who has made significant contributions to news reporting, management, or education in West Virginia broadcasting for at least 20 years. Suzanne is the recipient of the national Pew Charitable Trust’s Batten Award for Excellence in Civic Journalism, the Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Reporting, an Emmy Award, and several West Virginia Associated Press Broadcasters Association awards.

Her newest television documentary, Jay: A Rockefeller’s Journey (co-produced with WVPB’s Russ Barbour, also an award-winning documentarian) premieres later this month at West Virginia University and will be broadcast in June. This two-hour documentary will explore Rockefeller’s 50 years of public service, including his successes and disappointments, his motivation, character, and focus — from his arrival as a poverty worker to his chairmanship of some of the most influential committees in the United States Senate.

Also at the VAPB awards, WVPB took home nine outstanding and superior awards for various news categories including spot news, in-depth reporting, best anchor, best sports feature and best human interest story. Jessica Lilly, Southern News Bureau Chief, received The Douglas Southall Award for Public Service Reporting for her in-depth series about clean water struggles in Wyoming County.