Resident wins Regional Emmy

An Elkins native is now an award winner after receiving a Regional Emmy.

Jean Snedegar was honored at the Ohio Valley Regional Emmy Awards ceremony on July 20 in Cincinnati. The Emmy was for her work on “Frank Kearns: American Correspondent” in the Historical Documentary category.

The one-hour film covers the life and work of Frank Kearns, a CBS foreign correspondent with alleged CIA ties, who worked at the network from the 1953 to 1971. The program aired on West Virginia Public Television last year.

“I was thrilled, obviously, to win the award,” Snedegar said. “It was a privilege to narrate a story about such a distinguished journalist from West Virginia. It was a group effort, and Jake (Gerald) Davis was the producer.”

Snedegar was chosen as the film’s narrator after a nationwide search. She also helped on script rewrites for the program.

Snedegar worked at the British Broadcasting Corporation in London for 25 years on a wide range of broadcasting projects, including hundreds of radio features, more than 30 long-form radio documentaries and seven television documentaries.

“Jake Davis knew early on that he wanted a woman’s voice to narrate the program,” Snedegar said. “When someone mentioned my name as a possibility, Jake said, ‘I think I went to high school with her.’ He was two years behind me at Elkins High School, though we didn’t know each other at the time.”

Snedegar got her start in radio at age 13, when as an eighth grader she helped produce school programs for WDNE in Elkins. After earning an international affairs degree from the University of Colorado, she began her professional radio career when she was 30 and living in London.

The documentary was produced by Gerald Davis, a former journalism student of Kearns, and an executive producer at Greenbriar Group Films in Columbia, S.C. He also wrote and directed the film. It was edited by West Virginia Public Broadcasting senior producer John Nakashima.

Kearns, born in 1917, grew up in Morgantown, and graduated from West Virginia University. During World War II he served in the newly formed U.S. Army’s counterintelligence unit. Later, he became a CBS News correspondent and worked with journalism giants Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

At the height of the Cold War, Kearns was the winner of numerous awards for his reporting in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. After his retirement in 1971, he began teaching journalism at West Virginia University.

“I can very vividly remember having a conversation with my father the weekend after I met Frank Kearns for the first time,” Davis said. “He walked into the classroom, and I remember telling my dad: ‘I have seen the personification of James Bond.'”

Ironically, in 1976 CBS named Kearns at a Congressional hearing as someone who worked for the CIA while he was a stringer for CBS in Cairo in the early 1950s. Kearns denied ever having a relationship with the CIA.

“Quiet, courageous, a legend around here,” said Dan Rather, former CBS News anchor, in describing Kearns upon his death in 1986.

Snedegar currently contributes to BBC programming on Radio 4 and the BBC World Service and also to SoundPrint and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. For the last three years she has been producing “Inspiring West Virginians,” a radio series for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

“Since ‘Frank Kearns: American Correspondent’ premiered on West Virginia Public Television last October, it has aired nationally on cable, on more than a dozen state public television networks and several independent public television stations around the country,” Snedegar said. “It may be a contender for a national Emmy.”