Karen Frillmann of WNYC Named PRNDI Editor of the Year

May 1, 2019

PRNDI (Public Radio News Directors Inc.) is excited to announce the 2019 Editor of the Year, Karen Frillmann, executive producer of the Narrative Unit at WNYC in New York. Karen was nominated by the journalists of WNYC, who call her the “audio soul of our newsroom.” She has worked off and on at WNYC for more than 30 years. A native of Queens, New York, Karen’s career also includes working as a reporter, senior producer at Simon & Schuster Audio, and a producer and editor for a wide range of programs, series, podcasts and documentaries. Karen leads the Narrative Unit at WNYC, which has overseen such podcasts as There Goes the Neighborhood, The United States of Anxiety, Caught, and The Stakes.

In nominating Karen, the staff at WNYC sang her praises in many ways.  “Karen Frillmann is the beating heart of our work,” said Kai Wright, the Narrative Unit’s host. “Journalists are driven by many things - distrust of power, thirst for information, the thrill of competing for scoops.  Karen is driven by the human connections our work grants us and allows us to share with listeners.  That’s the first editorial test your story must pass for Karen - introduce her to another human, give her a new soul with whom she can connect.”  

WNYC reporter Jim O’Grady says Karen is a brilliant, but tough, editor.  “It’s her ears,” Jim says. “She sits in the mixing room with her head down and eyes closed and listens to your story on what seems like the molecular level. She hears everything – every intonation of tracking, every subtle wisp of ambi – and knows how to make it better. She takes pains because she cares. And that’s really what makes her a great editor: her passion for the medium and the people who produce it.”

Colleagues past and present point to Karen’s intuition, and her generous and smart editing.  Ailsa Chang, now of NPR, says Karen is one of her favorite editors because of her ability to identify what makes a story great.  “What always struck me about her is her sense of how to take a familiar topic and think of the kind of character we haven’t heard from yet or ask the question that hasn’t been asked about it.”

Past awards for Karen’s reporting and editing achievements include recognition by the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Associated Press Broadcasters Association, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, an Armstrong award and the Dupont-Columbia University Awards. She has received a Grammy nomination from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for her production of “War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars.”

“We’re thrilled to honor Karen Frillmann with this year’s Editor of the Year Award,” says PRNDI President Alicia Zuckerman, who credits Karen as a big reason she became an editor herself. “She's an inspirational editor, for reporters and fellow and emerging editors alike. She reminds us that creativity, ambition and compassion are vital to the work we do, and she knows how to draw that out.”

Karen Frillmann will be presented with the 2019 Editor of the Year award at PRNDI’s annual awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC on Saturday, June 15th.