Michael Kirk

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Michael Kirk at the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards
This article is about the American journalist. For other uses, see Michael Kirk (disambiguation).

Michael John Kirk (born November 6, 1947) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and has produced more than 200 national television programs. A former Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, Kirk was the senior producer of Frontline from the series’ inception in 1983 until the fall of 1987, when he created his own production company, Kirk Documentary Group, based in Boston.

Kirk has won every major award in broadcast journalism, including four Peabody Awards, three duPont-Columbia Awards, fourteen Emmy Awards, two George Polk Awards, and ten Writers Guild of America Awards.

Early life[edit]

Kirk born in Denver later moved to Boise, Idaho where he grew up and attended Bishop Kelly High School. He graduated from the University of Idaho in 1971 with a degree in communications. The university named an award after Kirk, “The Michael Kirk Award”, given annually to a student in broadcast journalism.


His most recent Frontline productions include Secrets, Politics and Torture, the secret history of the CIA's controversial “enhanced interrogation” methods; Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA, an investigation into the National Rifle Association (NRA), its political evolution and influence, and how it has consistently succeeded in defeating new gun control legislation; Losing Iraq, the 90 minute film traces the U.S. role in the Iraq war from the 2003 invasion to the violent rise of the radical Jihadist group ISIS; United States of Secrets, a two-hour report that delves inside Washington, DC and the NSA, piecing together the secret history of the unprecedented surveillance program that began in the wake of September 11, 2001 and continues today- even after the revelations of its existence by Edward Snowden. The Baltimore Sun described the film as “simply the best and most important work of nonfiction television I’ve seen this year.” United States of Secrets won two Emmy Awards; a Peabody Award; a duPont-Columbia Award; and a Writers Guild of America Award.

League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, a two-hour investigation revealing how, for years, the NFL worked to refute scientific evidence that the violent collisions at the heart of the game are linked to alarming incidence of early-onset dementia; League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis won The George Polk Award and a Peabody Award.

The Choice 2012, the quadrennial Frontline special that examines the political and personal biographies of presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (he also produced the special in 2008, which featured Barack Obama and John McCain, and the 2000 version on George W. Bush and Al Gore).

Other films include Money, Power and Wall Street the four-hour series that tells the inside story of the financial crisis, which won an Emmy Award and The George Polk Award; Top Secret America, a yearlong examination into the huge, unwieldy, top-secret world the government has created since 9/11; The Anthrax Files, a reinvestigation into the anthrax case a decade after the attacks; and Obama’s Deal, a look at the push to reform health care. Prior to Money, Power and Wall Street, he produced three other investigations of the recent financial crisis: the Emmy Award-winning The Warning, the story of a regulator’s warning about the dangers of derivatives in the 1990s; Breaking the Bank, an inside look into the complicated financial and political web threatening Bank of America; and Inside the Meltdown, a major investigation into the collapse of the American economy.

Mike Kirk and the crew of Frontline at the 67th Annual Peabody Awards

In the spring of 2008 he produced, directed and wrote the four-and-a-half-hour, two-part special Bush’s War, which won an Emmy. He has produced ten films on the War on Terror, including Cheney’s Law (Peabody Award); Endgame; The Lost Year in Iraq (Emmy Award);Rumsfeld’s War; The Torture Question (Emmy Award); The Dark Side; The War Behind Closed Doors, an analysis of the political infighting that led to the war with Iraq; and The Man Who Knew, the extraordinary saga of FBI Agent John O’Neill. During Kirk’s long relationship with Frontline, he also made the Peabody Award-winning Waco — The Inside Story (1995), a behind-the-scenes look at the FBI siege of the Branch Davidian compound; and the Emmy Award-winning The Kevorkian File (1994), an in-depth examination of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s controversial record and cases.

In addition, Kirk produces programs focused on social and cultural issues in America. Death by Fire details the controversial case of one man at the center of the death penalty debate; Caring for Your Parents follows five families caring for their elderly parents; Navy Blues (Emmy Award) examines gender politics in the military; and the groundbreaking Misunderstood Minds shares the personal stories of five families confronting the challenges of their children’s learning disabilities, filmed over the course of two years.

In 2000 he was named to the University of Idaho Hall of Fame; and in 2013 Michael was bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the University of Idaho.

Kirk frequently lectures on topics ranging from current events to issues confronting journalism. He has appeared on a variety of television programs, including Morning Joe, Charlie Rose, The Today Show, The O’Reilly Factor, other CNN, MSNBC, FOX news programs, and hundreds of radio broadcasts, among them Fresh Air on NPR.


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