Michael Harris (producer)

Michael Harris is a Seattle-based television producer, photojournalist and filmmaker. He has been a regular contributing producer for networks such as ABC News, NBC News, VH1 and MTV. Harris has also produced original content for Yahoo!, including shooting, writing and editing search trends segments seen by an estimated 9.2 million people[1] each week on ABC World News Now and an additional 173 non-ABC stations throughout North America. As a producer, photojournalist and wildlife specialist since 2002 working out of the ABC News Seattle Bureau he has covered a wide range of breaking stories, including wildfires, mudslides, tornadoes, earthquakes, train derailments and to date over two dozen mass shootings for World News Tonight and Good Morning America, television's most-watched weekday morning show. He also contributes regularly to ABC News programs such as 20/20 and Nightline. As a multi-disciplined digital journalist, Harris is a 12-time Emmy Award-winner, with over 46 Emmy nominations in more than 16 different categories, including as Producer, Writer, Editor, Photographer, Director of a Live Production, Composer and On-Camera Host/Moderator, along with numerous other prestigious industry awards. In 2018 he was the recipient of a News & Documentary Emmy Award as Editorial Producer for the ABC News 20/20 special documentary presentation, "Heartbreak & Heroes," on the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.[2] Harris was also honored with a 2018 Christopher Award as a producer, photojournalist and interviewer as part of the producing team of the ABC News 20/20 special, "Wonder Boy."[3]

Michael Harris
Conservationist Michael Harris.jpg
Conservationist and filmmaker Michael Harris with right whale skeleton in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
EducationBS 1997 University of Washington, Seattle
TitleOwner/Principal Creative,
Baby Wild Films; Producer, Photojournalist, Digital Producer and Wildlife Specialist, ABC News

Along with his broadcast journalism experience, Harris is also a well-known marine expert and conservationist appearing regularly on television, radio and newspapers, collaborating with a number of individuals and nonprofit organizations, including from 1997 and 2017 with Orca Conservancy, an all-volunteer Seattle-based organization that works to protect killer whales and their habitats. Between 2011 and 2016 Harris also consulted the Pacific Whale Watch Association as its Executive Director, serving in-between his ABC News and other television assignments as the Association's sole administrator, media/content strategist and spokesperson, representing as many as 38 companies in Washington state and British Columbia and directing an eco-tourism industry that conducts over 14,000 whale watch trips a year, taking out over 400,000 passengers annually and contributing more than $144 million USD/year in regional economic impact in 2014.[4] According to the global media intelligence firm Meltwater Group, which has over 1,500 monitors in 55 offices around the world, Harris reached over 2.4 billion people between October 2015 and November 2016 alone, appearing in newspapers, television and radio reports in every developed country it monitors.[5]


The seventh of 10 children, Harris' career dates back to working as a child actor and later producer for his family's advertising agency in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, and in fact is third-generation show business — his mother, the former Barbara Rettig, won the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts Show in 1953 and went on to work for CBS Television during the time that Edward R. Murrow was there. His grandfather Woody Rettig was a bandleader and for many years had his own weekly radio program in the Dayton market. His father Chris Harris is a former Sports Director for WHIO (AM) Radio (CBS Dayton) and was the longtime "Voice of the Flyers," play-by-play radio announcer for the University of Dayton men's basketball team. Chris Harris is a 2013 inductee into the University of Dayton Hall of Fame and is the first player from England to compete in the American NBA.[6] Beyond the world of broadcasting and sports, the Harris family also has a direct connection to one of the most famous maritime disasters in history, the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. The brothers Charles William Harris, a 19-year-old bartender, and Clifford Henry Harris, a 16-year-old bellboy, were White Star Line crewmembers from Southampton, England who went down with the ship.[7] Clifford's bellboy character was played by Mara Stephens, Rebecca Lowman and Joseph Castinado in the 1997 Broadway musical, "Titanic," which went on to win five Tony Awards, including "Best Musical."[8] Charles and Clifford are the great-uncles of Michael Harris.


Harris' first television position in the Pacific Northwest was as Associate Producer for the two-person Northwest Bureau of the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour (PBS) and he went on to staff and contract positions at KCTS Television (PBS Seattle), KING Television (NBC Seattle) and KOMO Television (ABC Seattle), but his most acclaimed work has come as an independent producer, photographer, editor and writer. Harris was Writer/Editor for 22 episodes of "Popular Science With Dean Stockwell" (Discovery Channel/The Learning Channel), which won a National Emmy Award and a Broadcast Designers Association Award for its open and title design, and International Monitor Awards for "Best Tape-Originated Series," "Best Writing Team" and "Best Editing Team." The youth version of that series, "PopSci for Kids," was nominated for a CableACE Award for "Outstanding Youth Series or Special, Educational" and for several years was one of the highest-rated series on Discovery Channel Kids. Harris has gone on to produce award-winning science and wildlife series all over the world with such celebrities as Olivia Newton-John, Jean-Michel Cousteau, champion fighter/actor Bob "The Beast" Sapp and Nancy Wilson of the Hall of Fame rock group, Heart.

Contributing network producerEdit

Harris has covered a wide range of subject matter for his network television clients. Beginning in 2002 he was contracted by ABC News as an on-camera wildlife specialist and producer/photojournalist. Between 2005 and 2011 he produced 27 HDTV "Weekend Windows" for ABC News Good Morning America, traveling to spectacular locations all over Alaska, Hawai'i, the Pacific Northwest, California, Arizona and Mexico, creating adventure travel pieces and immersive stories featuring wildlife such as humpback and gray whales, brown bears, Brooks Range wolves, sea otters, endangered monk seals, Porcupine caribou, even getting into the water with great white sharks. In the fall of 2010, Harris was the first and still the only U.S. network television news producer to secure permission to shoot on "The Forbidden Island" of Ni'ihau in Hawai'i.[9] As a general assignment producer and photojournalist for ABC News, Harris now covers a wide range of subject matter for the network, specializing in breaking news on natural and man-made disasters and tragedies, but he also is regularly assigned as a producer, interviewer and photographer for ABC's 20/20, Nightline and other long-format programs for the network. Over the last two decades Harris has also produced and conducted interviews for Viacom's VH1 and MTV, for such pop-culture programs as "The Week in Rock," "100 Most Shocking Moments in Rock," "100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders," "The Great Debate" and "Black to the Future." His exclusive music interviews have included Bob Dylan, Carlos Santana, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Sir Mix-a-Lot and 50 Cent. His other network clients have included NBC TODAY Show, CBS Evening News, HDNet's "Dan Rather Reports," ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" and "SportsCenter," and E! Entertainment's "True Hollywood Stories."

Independent filmsEdit

The broadcast films and specials of Michael Harris have covered diverse topics and have been seen by millions worldwide, and have garnered him numerous industry awards. His wildlife documentaries have brought viewers face-to-face with wild Borneo orangutans, killer whales, Steller sea lions, walruses, bald eagles, great blue herons, sea otters, the famed and friendly fauna of The Galapagos Islands, even the mysterious creatures living at the depths of his hometown Puget Sound. His groundbreaking treatment of the migratory farmworker issue through his half-hour film in 2002 entitled "iSi Se Puede! Connecting Farmworker Communities" won a Northwest Regional Emmy for "Outstanding Public Affairs Special" and an Emmy nomination for "Outstanding Photography, Program Length."[1][10] Harris' diverse journalistic repertoire also includes indigenous issues — his feature-length documentary in 2008 called "The 3rd Trustee: Native Alaska & The Big Spill" won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding On-Air Host or Moderator" for U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Billy Frank Jr[2] and garnered Emmy nominations for "Outstanding Documentary" and "Outstanding Photography."[11] Harris also was a co-recipient with the Berman Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Washington for a "National Clinical Legal Association Award of Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project" for their combined efforts to provide legal assistance and help in photo-documenting the successful campaign of 187 tribes in Native Alaska to push the State and federal government to call on Exxon to fulfill its legal obligations toward the cleanup of Prince William Sound.[12] That special would become "Native Alaska & The Big Spill," the first episode of a television series entitled, "THIS IS INDIAN COUNTRY With Billy Frank Jr." Harris also was nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Coverage of a Live Event (Non-News or Sports)" for his 2008 special, "High School Musical Awards!"[13] and again in 2009 for "High School Musical Awards!"[14] Also in 2009, Harris won an Emmy for "Dairyman Blues," his short investigative documentary on factory dairy farms in Eastern Washington, in the coveted category of "Outstanding Advanced Media — News Programming."[15]

Professional affiliationsEdit

Harris was elected and served three terms on the Board of Governors of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), Northwest Chapter. He also is a frequent guest teacher at high schools throughout the region, engaging students on the subject of television production. In a "Business Watch" profile in the Everett Herald, columnist James McCusker writes that "Michael has the energy, the talent and the diversity of interests an entrepreneur in this industry needs."[16]


Harris led a number of successful conservation efforts as President and member of the Board of Directors of Orca Conservancy, a Seattle-based all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The groups was central in the rescue of a stranded orca at Dungeness Spit, WA in January 2002[17] and a month later would initiate the campaign and help raise the funds needed to save the orphaned orca Springer, the first-ever successful rescue and translocation of a wild orca back to its family. Springer's remarkable story would go on to captivate the world.[18] Orca Conservancy was also a Petitioner and later prevailing litigant in an historic U.S. District Court case that led in 2005 to the first-ever federal protection for the Southern Resident Community of orcas in Puget Sound under the Endangered Species Act.[19]

Harris has also served as Northwest Spokesperson for the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation and has lent his expertise to a number of other efforts, making him one of the most familiar wildlife advocates in the Pacific Northwest.[20] His non-broadcast, non-profit clients in past have included Paul G. Allen, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, cell phone pioneer Craig McCaw, Mel Brooks, Tony Award-winning Broadway Producer Margo Lion and Seattle's 5th Avenue Musical Theatre.


  1. ^ Cision, December 2010
  2. ^ The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Announces Winners at the 39th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards|date=October 1, 2018
  3. ^ 69th Annual Christopher Award Winners|date=April 22, 2018
  4. ^ Economic Impacts of Whale Watching in Washington State and the Province of British Columbia, William B. Beyers, University of Washington, September 2015.
  5. ^ Meltwater Group
  6. ^ "Forgotten Baller," Sunday Mail, January 11, 2004
  7. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crew_of_the_RMS_Titanic#Victualling_crew Wikipedia: Crew of the RMS Titanic
  8. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic_(musical) Wikipedia: Titanic (musical)
  9. ^ "Weekend Window to Niihau, Hawaii's 'Forbidden Island'," ABCNews.com, October 1, 2010
  10. ^ The 39th Annual National Academy of Television Arts & Science Northwest Regional Emmy Awards Recipients List[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ The 45th Annual National Academy of Television Arts & Science Northwest Regional Emmy Awards Recipients List[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Clinical Legal Association Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project
  13. ^ The 45th Annual National Academy of Television Arts & Science Northwest Regional Emmy Awards Recipients List[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ The 46th Annual National Academy of Television Arts & Science Northwest Regional Emmy Awards Recipients List[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ The 46th Annual National Academy of Television Arts & Science Northwest Regional Emmy Awards Recipients List[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Pink-Slip Day Turns Rosy for Entrepreneur," Everett Herald, June 1, 1992
  17. ^ "Whale Finally Towed to Safety; After Six Tries It Was Swimming Out to Open Ocean," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 6, 2002; "Extraordinary Efforts Save Stranded Whale," San Juan Islander, January 6, 2002
  18. ^ "Group May Try to Move Baby Whale," KING 5 News (NBC Seattle), March 6, 2002; "Group Offers to Move Orphaned Orca Back to Her Home Waters," KING 5 News (NBC Seattle), March 13, 2002; "Whale of a Tale," NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, June 13, 2002; "We Are So Happy," KOMO 4 News (ABC Seattle), July 9, 2003; "Waters of Home Welcome Springer," Bremerton Sun, July 14, 2002; "Family Found," ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings, August 21, 2002
  19. ^ "Government Agrees to List Puget Sound Orcas as 'Endangered' Species," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 15, 2005
  20. ^ "Keiko Dies," KOMO 4 News (ABC Seattle), December 12, 2003

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