Open Mic Spotlight on “The Current – ISIS on Your Doorstep”

The 2018 New York Festivals Radio Awards celebrated the World’s Best Radio Programs on June 19th in New York City. NYF’s Radio Awards shines the spotlight on exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats and across all platforms from radio stations, networks and independent producers.

Prominent award-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their trophies and celebrate their success, including Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Anna Maria Tremonti.

Anna Maria Tremonti, Host of CBC’s The Current has earned a robust number of accolades for her work in radio. During her time at The Current, she and the program have won numerous awards at the New York Festivals Radio Awards. Her work at The Current also has been recognized with an Amnesty International Canada Media Award (2012), three Gracie Awards (2011, 2014 and 2015), and several Gabriel Awards and RTDNA Awards, including the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award (2013), the Peter Gzowski Information Program Award (2009, 2011 & 2014) and the Gord Sinclair Live Special Events Award (2014). With Anna Maria at the helm, The Current in 2012 also won the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s Excellence in Journalism Award. Other impressive accolades include two Gemini awards, and a Life Achievement Award from Women in Film and Television Toronto.

This past June, Anna Maria was in New York City to speak to the attendees of the 2018 NYF Radio Awards and accept multiple honors. Anna Maria took home the prestigious UNDPI Gold and Silver trophy honors for “ISIS on Your Doorstep: Meet Mosul Eye, the man who defied the terrorists to save his city.”

Anna Maria Tremonti at the 2018 New York Festivals Radio Awards

New York Festivals: What sparked the idea for your UNDPI Gold winning entry “The Current – ISIS on your doorstep”?

Anna Maria Tremonti: I will give you the answer to this from Producer Exan Auyoung, who found Omar Mohammed:

I figured since he’s really active on social media with hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, that was likely the best place to find him.

I tweeted him around the time the AP exclusive was published (December 2017)  in which he revealed his true identity. He responded right away cautiously at first (understandably so) and asked for my credentials. I sent him my LinkedIn profile and a link to The Current website. He then messaged back saying that he would have loved to have done the interview but felt it was best  to lay low after just revealing his identity. I then asked whether it would be okay if I were to reach out again in a month’s time to see how he felt. He agreed and sure enough when I reconnected with him in January, he said yes. He is btw, really moved by the awards and the recognition so cheers all around!

New York Festivals: What creative challenges did you encounter when producing and how did you solve those challenges?

Anna Maria Tremonti: The power of a conversation with a man like Omar is in listening to his incredible story, and so the creative challenge comes in how to be minimalist as an interviewer so that his voice and words dominate.  We wanted to structure the interview to ensure he would take us through everything – but to leave spaces for unexpected turns.  We also knew that he listened to the theme from Schindler’s List, performed by Itzhak Perlman and we knew we would add it in, during the conversation. His response was far more powerful than we anticipated – and in the final cut of the interview, our Senior Producer Cathy Simon made a decision to mix in more of the music.  It was incredibly powerful for all of us, and for our listeners as well.

New York Festivals: To what do you attribute the success of this program?

Anna Maria Tremonti: This conversation with Omar Mohammed is part of a wider journalistic effort to bring context to the stories of war and conflict that dominate so much of the headlines.  Through the very specific experiences of one man, we are given a glimpse into the humanity that exists even in the most brutal of places: we hear of survival and kindness, of tremendous loss and great courage. The experience of war is never one-dimensional, and the best way to learn about the many layers that exist is to listen to those who can tell their stories.  If there is success in this program, it is his success – he is an evocative and eloquent spokesperson for those who risk everything to try to preserve their humanity, and that of others at a time of great peril.

New York Festivals: What was your ultimate goal for the program?

Omar Mohammed

Anna Maria Tremonti: Our ultimate goal was to hear Omar Mohammed – his ideas, his observations and his reasons for his actions – and through him, give our listeners a greater understanding of the reality of the siege of Mosul.  There are arguably many realities in war – this particular glimpse into that world is important to know about and share.

New York Festivals: Who or what would you consider to be your primary influence as a content creator for radio? 

Anna Maria Tremonti:  My influences have come from the field.  Long before I went into the studio to do long-form interviews, I worked as a reporter in the field – working across my own country and then working out of a bureaux in Europe, the Mideast and the U.S.  I learned that ordinary people have extraordinary lives, and they are willing to share their insights and experiences with those who are open to listening to them. They have humbled me, and taught me; occasionally they have scared me; often, they have moved me so much that I have never forgotten them. I have been fortunate to work alongside and learn from excellent journalists, both inside the CBC and from many other news organizations – and in the process I constantly question and revise my own journalism in an effort to make it better.

New York Festivals: Do you have any advice for people just starting out in radio? What’s the best advice some shared with you?

Anna Maria Tremonti: My advice for anyone in journalism – radio or beyond – is to stay curious. Curiosity will give you a long career – without it, no matter how talented or clever you are, your journalism will eventually suffer. Curiosity is what makes you look around corners others ignore, it is what prompts you to ask a follow-up question, and it is what drives you to knock on one more door. Also – never forget that the story belongs to those in the thick of it: listen to them, capture the sounds around them, be open to hearing things you might not anticipate.

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards visit: and to view the 2018 winners visit: HERE.


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