Ms Allen's Hall of Fame nomination letters and supporting documents:
From Sally Pitt- Executive Producer - CBC PEI
I would like to nominate Donna Allen of CBC PEI for the Atlantic Journalism Hall of Fame. I’ll provide a snapshot of her career and highlights of her achievements and there will be some other letters supporting this provided.
I have had the privilege of working with Donna for 36 of her 38 years with CBC in PEI. She began her career at CBC as a traffic reporter in Halifax, before moving to P.E.I. in 1985 and working as a radio writer-broadcaster. She was soon promoted to producer of the afternoon show, Mainstreet, then producer of the morning show, Island Morning, and for the past decade she has served as executive producer of News and Current Affairs for CBC PEI. She’ll be retiring at the end of May.
Through her time at CBC she has demonstrated daily her commitment to quality journalism, to serving the community, and to supporting her colleagues.
Donna loves breaking news. She tackles it with passion, figuring out what angles to pursue, who to contact, and making critical decisions about what to air/publish. Even in recent years working as executive producer she has pitched in, whenever needed, to make calls, cut interviews and vet stories. She was at the helm to coordinate coverage of a province-wide school shutdown due to a bomb threat, several fishing boat tragedies, tropical storms and murders of several young children. She also oversaw coverage for numerous provincial and federal elections, and a few plebiscites, always striving to not just tell, but explain in a way that connected with the community.
Always though, she takes the time to consider that stories are told with fairness and balance in mind, and that the facts in them are all solid. Her most-asked question of “How do you know that?” has to have an acceptable answer or the story doesn’t go to air. In working with reporters and other journalists, she often urges them to do more research or reach out for another point of view. It is most important for her that stories be “right” rather than “first.” Her scrutiny and input make every story better.
She has an inner sense of compassion and fairness that she brings to everything she does. When there are differing views in the newsroom over how a story will be told, she listens to all of them, and thoughtfully explains her decision. Even if you don’t agree with it, you respect the thought that went into it, and the reasons behind it. When she’s conflicted, she consults with the voices and minds around her she respects for guidance, to help her reach what are often difficult decisions.
Donna always leads by example. From the start, she has worked tirelessly, often answering questions or making journalistic calls early in the morning before our radio morning show goes to air, and working late into the evening consulting on stories or issues that develop after hours. On weekends she offers guidance for the skeleton crew -- often junior reporters who would otherwise be working on their own. Donna has worked with dozens and dozens of reporters over the years, guiding them, supporting them, and instilling key values that many of them have taken with them when they went out to careers beyond CBC PEI. She has huge amounts of patience with new reporters and interns, who arrive with limited skills and experience and leave ready to take on challenges in other provinces, and at the national level. CBC P.E.I. has a reputation as one of the best training grounds for young journalists.
Donna has won several Atlantic Journalism Awards and honours from other organizations, and been the journalism rudder behind awards given to numerous other journalists and to the station. Her hand has guided them to excellence and success.
Donna is committed to serving the community: to giving the audience a voice on important issues and making sure they are informed too, even on complicated issues. She is in her element organizing town hall forums, including a variety of guests to make sure a variety of opinions were expressed and working with the host on lines of questioning. These forums included everything from electoral reform and mental health, to bootleggers and ATVs. Donna is always there to look after staff too -- to be aware of challenges and tragedies, and offer her support or a kleenex if needed, in dealing with personal and professional struggles.
And she is quick to celebrate achievements, acknowledge birthdays and milestones. At staff events, she adds her singing talents to impromptu singalongs. Through it all, her staff have felt cared for and supported.
CBC PEI will miss her daily contributions, wisdom and guidance, but the values she treasures are now instilled in everyone she works with.
From Nancy Waugh – Managing Editor - CBC Atlantic
I am pleased to add my support to a nomination for Donna Allen into the Atlantic Journalism Hall of Fame. I believe you will have letters in this package detailing Donna’s journalistic accomplishments over her many years at CBC PEI. My purpose in writing is to make sure you’re aware of her critical role as a mentor and supporter of new talent. Donna is singularly focused on serving the community through journalism; that focus is imbued in the journalists who work with her. From the first moments of Island Morning through to the last frame of Compass -- and thousands of words published on cbc.ca/pei each day – Donna leads a team that strives for the highest quality story-telling.In any small station, editorial staff quickly learn to be multi-skilled. But under Donna’s leadership, that cross-skilling goes hand-in-hand with a rock-solid base in critical thinking.
As a result of her efforts, our Charlottetown station has become known as one of the CBC’s best training grounds for new journalists. Donna has exacting standards, but she creates the conditions for staff to meet that bar. After a couple of years honing their skills in PEI, reporters and producers easily slide into newsrooms inmuch larger markets. And while we’re always sad to see people leave our region, we take great pride in seeing how far their talent will take them.
Donna Allen has created a significant legacy in the many young journalists who started their own careers in her newsroom. I hope you’ll agree she is an ideal candidate for this year’s AJA Hall of Fame.
From Jim Ferguson – Senior Manager – CBC PEI
From Chris Straw – Retired CBC PEI
It gives me great pleasure to write in support of the nomination of Donna Allen for the AJA’s Hall of Fame. I first met Donna in 1989 when I came to work as an Associate Producer at CBC Radio in Charlottetown. I was new to the island and new to the production side of radio. It did not take long to see that Donna was a force to be reckoned with. She was smart, straight forward and to a newcomer, just a little bit intimidating. I soon learned that she was also a solid journalist, a very capable team leader, and a supportive mentor. In just over ayear, Donna became producer of CBC’s Island Morning, and I was fortunate enough to take over her role producing Mainstreet in the afternoon. I would not have survived in that job without the advice and good guidance I got from Donna on many occasions.
Several years after my time in Charlottetown, I found myself managing the Journalism training for CBC radio and was fortunate to reconnect with Donna and worked with her on many occasions, delivering training for producers and other CBC Journalists. Donna was so generous with her knowledge of journalism and programming and was the kind of instructorwho could talk the talk because she had walked the walk. I saw time and time again how her authenticity and depth of experience, not only as a journalist and a programmer, but as a team leader, inspired other up and comers at CBC Radio.
Donna and I kept in touch over the years and as I took on new responsibilities in CBC Radio Management, I always knew I could count on Donna to give me straight, often unvarnished, feedback and advice. I can think of few people who have played as significant role in the vitality and day to day relevance of CBC on Prince Island and throughout the region, than Donna Allen. Her dedication and commitment to serving audiences with stories that matter day in and day out can only be described as an exemplary lifetime of achievement.
Chris Straw - Chris spent 29 years with CBC Radio in a variety of roles in programming, training, program development and senior management. He retired in 2014 after serving as Senior Director of Network Talk Programming.
From Karen Mair, CBC Journalist - PEI
It is my pleasure to provide a reference letter for Donna Allen for Lifetime Achievement from the Atlantic Journalism Awards. Donna was already working at CBC Prince Edward Island when I arrived in October ‘86. Donna is an amazing journalist, not only with her own work but helping others. She came into her own as an associate producer then producer then executive producer. If she was editing a piece she could synthesize what we were trying to say. I’ve often told her she has the ability to red circle everything in your story without making you feel bad.
Donna was producer on the afternoon show and the morning show. No one listened to the afternoon show until, under Donna’s guidance, we did real journalism and live on location shows. She did the same in the 16 years I hosted/co-hosted Island Morning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her angry (except when a politician doesn’t answer a question.) She encouraged her colleagues to not only do what may be a daily assignment but pursue outside interests and find stories there. One day I pitched to send me to Kenya. She did not laugh at me. She told me to make my case and she’d consider it. And Yes I went to Kenya and we won some awards out of it. Donna empowered others and delegated when she could.
Being the only Executive Producer in the station is a very difficult juggle of priorities. You have the top ‘journalistic’ say before decisions go higher. Sometimes there’s the awkward situation of explaining why a story is important to the manager. There are network demands, filing access to information requests and nagging about award deadlines. Donna has excellent people managing skills. She handles all types of egos with focused listening, logic and empathy.
Donna also protected us from the outside. Meeting with complaints, listening to a business pitch wanting free promotion and charity groups looking for an MC.
I can't tell you how many times we argued, laughed and cried.
I can tell you I wouldn’t have done a show live on lobster setting day, or broken into the network for the largest political demonstration at that time, interviewed the Bishop live aboutthe sexual abuse charge in his family and of course, that trip to Kenya.
I have the highest regard for Donna Allen as a journalist and producer. She has also been an enormous support to me and I have no hesitancy in recognizing the important work she has done both inside and outside the CBC.