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Jim Karayn Papers

 Collection 0123-MMC-NPBA

James D. Karayn, Jr. (1933-1996) was the driving force behind the gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings and live coverage of the president’s annual State of the Union address. In 1976, he was instrumental in bringing presidential debates back to television. Karayn was the executive producer and chief of National Educational Television's Washington bureau from 1965 to 1971. He founded the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT) in 1971, serving as its president until 1975. From 1977 to 1983, he was president and general manager of WHYY-TV and WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware.

The collection contains newspaper clippings and reports regarding conflicts between the Nixon administration and public broadcasting, the history of National Educational Television, and the merger between the National Public Affairs Center for Television and the Greater Washington Educational Television Association.


  • 1960-1981 and undated
  • Majority of material found within 1971-1980

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


8.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Jim Karayn Papers covers the years 1960 to 1987, and contains some undated material. The bulk of the material is from 1960 to 1978. The collection documents Karayn's career in educational and public broadcasting through his work at National Educational Television, National Public Affairs Center for Television, the Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, the League of Women Voters, WHYY, and finally Karayn and Company, Inc.


James D. Karayn was born on January 5, 1933 in Los Angeles, California. He attended Stanford University from 1950 to 1952. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1954 he attended the University of Southern California where he received his B.A. in Journalism in 1956. He then went on to do his postgraduate work in Political Science at University of California at Los Angeles from 1956 to 1958.

Karayn's distinguished broadcasting career began in 1954 when he served as the news director at station KTLA-TV in Los Angeles until 1962. He then moved on to NBC News in Washington where he worked as a producer/writer until 1964. From 1964 to 1971 he worked in public television as first executive producer (1964-1965) and then Washington Bureau chief for National Educational Television. There he received two of his four Emmy Awards as well as the Silver Gavel Award. While working as the Washington Bureau chief, Karayn served as executive producer and producer of more than 300 programs concerning topics such as government, politics, social affairs, biographies of major national figures and congressional hearings.

Karayn moved on to found the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT)in 1971 and served as its president until 1975. While with NPACT he received his third Emmy Award, the George Polk Award from Long Island University, and the Distinguished Journalism Alumni Award from U.S.C. in 1973, the Columbia-DuPont Award from Columbia University in 1972, 1973, and 1974, and his first Peabody Award in 1974. During his tenure at NPACT, Karayn was concurrently Executive Vice President of the Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association (GWETA). There he oversaw program development and scheduling including the first two seasons of In Performance at Wolf Trap which earned him a Peabody Award.

After NPACT, Karayn spent 1975 to 1976 with the League of Women Voters as the Creator and Project Director of the 1976 Presidential Debates in Washington, where he received his fourth Emmy Award and his third Peabody Award. He then moved on to be the president and general manager of stations WHYY-TV and WHYY-FM out of Philadelphia and Wilmington from 1977 until 1983. During this time he received a fourth Peabody Award in 1977 and the American Institute Award in 1981. Moving on from WHYY in 1983, Karayn founded and became president of Karayn and Company, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

Some of the television shows Karayn developed over the years include: State of the Union (1967-1968), The Warren Years (1970), Watergate Coverage (1974), Impeachment Hearings (1974), In Performance at Wolf Trap (1973-1974), Terrorism/The World at Bay (1978), Every Four Years (1980), and The Fabulous Philadelphians: From Ormandy to Muti (1981).

Karayn's affiliations included membership in Sigma Delta Chi and Phi Gamma Delta. He belonged to the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences, the White House Correspondents Association, the National Press Club, and the Philadelphia Commission on Foreign Relations.

James Karayn died in 1996.


The collection is organized as seven series:

Series 1
National Educational Television
Series 2
National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT)
Series 3
Greater Washington Educational Television Association
Series 4
League of Women Voters
Series 5
WHYY (Philadelphia, PA/Wilmington, DE)
Series 6
Karayn and Company, Inc.
Series 7
Personal and Subject Files

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Jim Karayn Papers was donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives, University of Maryland Libraries by Jim Karayn in January of 1992 and October of 1996.

Guide to the Jim Karayn papers
Processed by Suzanne J. Horner
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 1997-03: Revised by Karen E. King
  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Karen E. King
  • 2009-01-15: EAD revised by Karen E. King
  • 2017-12-12: Minor updates and revisions made post ArchivesSpace migration by Joanne Archer
  • 2021-08-20: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742