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Cincinnati native Jenn Moore wins prestigious Gracie Award

Jenn Moore holding the Gracie Award she won as executive producer for a Juneteenth TV special for KHOU-TV in Houston.
Provided by Jenn Moore
Jenn Moore holding the Gracie Award she won as executive producer for a Juneteenth TV special for KHOU-TV in Houston.

Former WCPO-TV and WLWT-TV producer produced Houston TV's 'Juneteeth' special honored by the Alliance for Women in Media.

Jenn Moore left Cincinnati television in 2018 to see if she "could make it in a Top 10 TV market." Four years later, she received a prestigious Gracie Award for leading the team at Houston's KHOU-TV, which made a one-hour Juneteenth special.

The former WLWT-TV and WCPO-TV producer was executive producer of Juneteenth: 1865-2021, which also won two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, for news documentary and excellence in diversity, equity and inclusion.

"This was a labor of love project that was hard to put together," says Moore, who left her job as WLWT-TV morning news executive producer in August 2018. She had previously worked as weekend and 5 p.m. news producer at WCPO-TV (2007-2014) in Cincinnati, the nation's No. 36 TV market. Houston is No. 8.

When she moved to Houston, as dayside executive producer over the noon and 4-6 p.m. newscasts for CBS affiliate KHOU-TV, Moore was surprised to realize that Juneteenth — the day marking when slaves in Galveston, Tex., were told on June 19, 1865, they were free — occurred so close to Houston.

Jenn Moore left WLWT-TV in 2018 to be an executive producer at KHOU-TV, a CBS affiliate.
Courtesy Jenn Moore
Jenn Moore left WLWT-TV in 2018 to be an executive producer at KHOU-TV, a CBS affiliate.

"I was so shocked! I love history and wanted to know more," said Moore, who grew up in Mount Healthy and Woodlawn. "I'm proud of our special because it went beyond educating about that actual day of Juneteenth, but then briefly told the African American experience all the way from 1865 until 2021. Sometimes we look at slavery as if it just happened back then, but it really has implications and connections to how we operate as a society today."

KHOU-TV General Manager Bobby Springer suggested doing the Juneteeth special, and worked with anchor-producer Mia Gradney, who did the original rough draft of ideas. Moore was asked to be executive producer. She worked with News Director Liz Roldan and Innovation Director Stuart Boslow, "who gave me free reign to do what I wanted — thinking outside of the box to create a program that took place entirely out of the newsroom with state-of-the-art production shoots on different locations, which I scouted and scheduled for all parties involved," Moore says.

Gradney, Roldan, Art Director Robyn Hughes, Producer Nicole Jones and Moore were honored with the Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media at a New York City luncheon on June 22.

Jenn Moore and her fellow KHOU-TV Gracie Award recipients: Robyn Hughes, Nicole Jones, Mia Gradney and Liz Roldan.
Courtesy Jenn Moore
Jenn Moore and her fellow KHOU-TV Gracie Award recipients: Robyn Hughes, Nicole Jones, Mia Gradney and Liz Roldan.

Moore says she "put it together and pushed the vision, creating ways to make the content flow — and making sure certain points and visuals were included.

"I led a team of producers, anchors, editors, graphic designers and photographers to create an hour-long documentary that flowed."

Moore was introduced to broadcasting at an early age. She's the daughter of Gina Ruffin Moore, a radio news reporter for WCIN-AM, WSAI-AM, WWNK-FM, WGRR-FM and WBLZ-FM. Her mother started in broadcasting at WCPO-TV after graduating from Ohio University, operating cameras and helping with props on the Uncle Al Show.

Daughter Jenn also got her first experience at WCPO-TV's old Central Avenue studios Downtown, as a Princeton High School student, through the "Careers in Media" shadowing/internship program led by Mona Morrow. She also interned at Channel 9 through the Inroads program while attending Ohio University.

After graduating from OU in 2007, she was hired by Channel 9 as a weekend and morning news producer, working with Kathrine Nero, Larry Handley, Steve Raleigh, Julie O'Neill and others. She was the producer for the launch of the 4:30 a.m. news, while appearing on the 6 a.m. news as the "School Zone 9" reporter with school-related stories. After two years, she moved up to produce the one-hour noon news anchored by Tanya O'Rourke, and eventually was promoted to 5 p.m. executive producer to work with anchors Clyde Gray and Carol Williams.

In 2014, she jumped to WLWT-TV to get into management as executive producer of the morning show for four years. She worked with Lisa Cooney, Randi Rico, Kyla Woods, Andrew Setters, Alexis Rogers, Megan Mitchell and Colin Mayfield, to name a few. She also won an Ohio Valley regional Emmy Award for Channel 5's breaking news newscast about the Cameo nightclub shooting in 2017.

"I loved being in front of the camera," she says, "but honestly I wanted to have more control, and write more. A producer is like an artist — you start with a blank slate and you have to create. I enjoyed educating viewers, and thinking of creative ways to showcase a big story or breaking news. I wanted to explore the management track — which is usually through producing — and I found there were so many more opportunities behind the scenes."

Jenn with her mother Gina Ruffin Moore.
Courtesy JUenn Moore
Jenn with her mother Gina Ruffin Moore.

"Everyone wants to be in front of the camera. And ... I was still able to be in front of the camera at both WCPO and WLWT after I stopped reporting. I would host the community affairs shows for both stations — filling in or joining hosts for A New Day (WCPO) and Issues (WLWT), so I was able to produce and interview, which was great. That experience has helped me so much in working with my reporters and anchors," says Moore, who earned a master's degree in organizational leadership and communication from Gonzaga University in 2012.

When she heard about the dayside executive producer opening in Houston, she went for it.

"I really wanted to see if I could make it in a Top 10 market. And I wanted a dayside manager position, which is sometimes rare in some newsrooms and markets," she says.

She works with the producers and reporters/photographers to make sure "we're covering everything the right way. And there's a lot to cover in Houston. News never stops here ... both good and bad," she says.

Moore credits her mentors, starting with the recently retired Morrow,who was like a second mother to her.

"I was soooo shy when I was in high school, and she told me to get in there (the newsroom) and speak up! She has been such a blessing — always giving me honest yet encouraging advice throughout the years," Moore says. "I also learned a lot from a host of others who knew me as a baby journalist — people like Sherry Hughes, Clyde Gray, Courtis Fuller, Carol Williams" and many executive producers, producers, general managers, news directors, reporters and photographers.

And mom and dad, too.

"Mom has helped me fuel my love and passion for journalism and writing in general. Like most parents, she tried to talk me out of a journalism career, but I couldn't fight that news bug!"

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.