|By Steve Rogers
New York: In September of 2002 the National Television Academy awarded Roone Arledge the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award in News & Documentary. This spring the NTA will again pay tribute to the man Sports Illustrated named one of its "40 for the Ages" for having "significantly altered or elevated the world of sports." On April 21st Arledge will be posthumously awarded an unprecedented second Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports Emmys.
"I personally feel like he should've gotten the Lifetime Achievement in Sports long ago, before he received it in News and Documentary, but the focus used to be more on on-air personalities," Dennis Swanson, Chairman of the Board of NTA and vice chairman of the National Awards Committee said, explaining why Arledge is the only person ever to receive two lifetime achievement awards.
"When we talk about televised sports it's important to understand that he [Arledge] really invented it. He was sports at ABC, with Monday Night Football, Wide World of Sports and all the Olympic coverage," Swanson said. Arledge was President of ABC Sports from 1968 until 1986. During his tenure, he introduced an array of state-of-the-art technologies to sports programming. The way we watch sport today is a direct result of many of the innovations he introduced, including instant replay, slow motion, advanced graphics, as well as the infusion of journalistic values into sports broadcasting.
Arledge personally produced all ten ABC Olympic broadcasts. He is the first television executive, and one of very few Americans, to receive the Medal of the Olympic order from the International Olympic Committee. In 1989 he was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame.
In 1977 Arledge became President of ABC News, bringing the same spirit of innovation to the news division that he nurtured in sports. "When it came to news he actually reinvented it, applying many of the aspects he was known for in sports." Swanson said. "He made ABC a news leader and really defined what it was." At ABC News he created some of the most critically acclaimed and enduring news programs in TV history. He's responsible for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Nightline, PrimeTime Live and This Week.
On receiving the Lifetime Achievement honor in News & Documentary, an ailing Arledge said he planned to be sitting in the audience clapping loudly for future recipients of the award. It was a wish that would go unfulfilled. On December 5, 2002 Roone Arledge died at the age of 71 from complications related to cancer.
Dennis Swanson, reflecting on the life and passing of Arledge, took some satisfaction in knowing that the television pioneer was aware of the Academy's intention to honor him for his work in Sports. "He was certainly most worthy and, though he won't be there to receive it, I'm glad he knew of it before his passing."