In 2000, University of Idaho alumn Michael Kirk was inducted into the UI Alumni Hall of Fame.
He has won many major award in journalism including ten Emmys, six Writers Guild of America Awards and has produced more than 200 national television programs.
Kirk served as senior producer of the PBS investigative documentary series “Frontline,” from the series’ beginning in 1983. He worked with “Frontline” through 1987, and after his time as senior producer, he started his own production company.
It’s not without reason that the award-winning documentary filmmaker will be receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the UI Winter Commencement Saturday.
“What sets Michael apart is his commitment to peeling back the curtain on some of our nation’s most powerful institutions,” said Paula A. Kerger, president and CEO of PBS. “The health of our country’s democracy rests on the dedication and tenacity of people like Michael, who provide our citizens with the information they need to make truly informed contributions to our national debate.”
Kirk will also speak today in the J.A. Albertson Building Room 101 at 2:30 p.m., regarding his latest documentary “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.”
UI Director of Broadcasting Glenn Mosley said that students talking with Kirk will learn many things during discussion, including his documentary film process, tips for editing and Kirk’s approach to production.
“Whenever he’s been here, he’s always proved very accessible to students, answering questions honestly, and directly,” Mosley said.
Kirk graduated from UI in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. While he only took one broadcast class at the university, he also served as an editor of The Argonaut in the spring of 1971.
Kenton Bird, Director of the UI School of Journalism and Mass Media, said Kirk’s time as editor brought about many changes to The Argonaut, turning the conventional newspaper into “something more dramatic and visual.”
“His time as editor ushered in a more activist and provocative approach to journalism within the paper,” Bird said.
Kirk, upon graduation, was almost immediately hired as a producer for KUID-TV, a position he served on for several years, Mosley said. This was Kirk’s first experience working in the professional broadcast industry.
Bird also attended UI and worked at The Argonaut, and recalled his freshman year at UI when he was assigned to interview Kirk, a job he initially felt intimidated to take. He said his hesitation was due to the reverent tone his superiors used in reference to Kirk and his accomplishments. When Kirk agreed to meet with Bird for an interview, Bird was flattered that Kirk had made time in his busy schedule for him.
“He was incredibly generous and patient with younger reporters wanting to speak with him,” Bird said. “He had this reputation for being a tough and in-your-face journalist … but only to those in power.”
Besides returning to his alma mater in 2000 to attend his UI Alumni Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Kirk gave a presentation to the university in 2007 after attending the WSU Murrow Symposium. Bird said based off his past events at UI, Kirk will provide an engaging time for students and faculty alike.
“In both cases, he was provocative, enlightening and funny, and I don’t see that changing this time around,” Bird said.
George Wood Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org