Melinda Newman, Billboard’s executive editor, West Coast and Nashville, is the 2020 recipient of the CMA media achievement award. The Country Music Association made the formal announcement on Monday (Nov. 2) in Nashville.
Newman found out about the award on Friday (Oct. 30) while she was conducting a Zoom interview with Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker, co-hosts of the 54th annual CMA Awards, set for Nov. 11. The superstars surprised her with the news during the session.
“We have a little something for you,” said McEntire at the conclusion of the interview, holding up the award. Rucker added: “You’re the winner of the CMA media achievement award, Melinda. Your name’s already on it.”
“We are delighted to be presenting Melinda with this year’s media achievement award,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA chief executive officer, in a statement announcing the award. “We can’t thank Melinda enough for her consistent, thoughtful coverage of the country music landscape over the years, which has been hugely important in furthering CMA’s mission of bringing country music to fans across the globe. We look forward to seeing Melinda back in Nashville soon so we can celebrate her achievement.”
“When I returned to Billboard three years ago, with editorial director Hannah Karp’s blessing, we actively aimed to strengthen our country coverage,” said Newman. “Our mission has been to herald the artists and other creatives who make the music and the industry executives who ensure it gets out to the millions of fans, as well as chronicle the trends and issues facing the country music community. This award is wonderful recognition that we are on the right path. On a personal note, country music has provided a greater refuge than ever before to help make these uncertain times bearable. For that I am very grateful.”
Newman has more than 25 years of experience covering the music industry. She started at Billboard as an intern, while she was attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville. After working for Billboard in New York, she later served as West Coast bureau chief from 1998 to 2006. Newman left Billboard in 2006 for a decade-long stint as a top entertainment and culture freelance writer. She contributed to such outlets as The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone Country, Christian Science Monitor, Forbes, Parade, Entrepreneur and Variety — in addition to Billboard and its sister publication, The Hollywood Reporter.
Newman returned to Billboard as West Coast editor in August 2017. She was promoted to her current position in February 2019.
The CMA media achievement award recognizes the outstanding achievements of print and internet journalists, columnists, authors, editors, television writers, producers and bookers and syndicated radio reporters in the media that covers country music. The award is voted on by publicist members of CMA.
Three other Billboard writers have been presented with the CMA media achievement award in the past decade — contributors Deborah Evans Price in 2013, the late Chuck Dauphin in 2014 and Tom Roland in 2018. Newman is the first full-time Billboard staffer to receive the award.
The 54th Annual CMA Awards will broadcast live from Nashville’s Music City Center Wednesday, Nov. 11 (8:00-11:00 p.m./ET) on ABC.