Media advisory: Peabody Awards director comments on death of Peter Jennings

Athens, Ga. — “The staff of the George Foster Peabody Awards were saddened today by the death of Peter Jennings. Mr. Jennings’ career exemplified excellence, the single criterion used to select recipients of the Peabody Award. His work was recognized on five occasions with the award and will continue to stand as a benchmark for journalists everywhere,” said Horace Newcomb, Peabody Awards director.

The Peabody Awards, considered among the most prestigious and selective prizes in electronic media, recognize excellence and meritorious work by radio and television stations, networks, webcasters, producing organizations and individuals.

The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia administers the Peabody Awards, as it has since the program’s inception in 1940.

For more information regarding the Peabody Awards program, the Peabody Awards collection and the Peabody Center for Media and Society, visit www.peabody.uga.edu or contact Eric Holder at 706/542-8983, 706/255-6437 (cell), or eholder@uga.edu.


Note to editors: Jennings’ award-winning shows are listed below along with the complete citation from the Peabody Board.

* “ABC 2000” (1999)
The whole world indeed watched on New Year’s Eve 1999. And ABC News captured the majesty, beauty and sometimes silliness of it all with nearly 24 hours of continuous coverage of the millennium observance anchored by Peter Jennings. “ABC 2000” proved to be a remarkable, exciting and all-encompassing effort that put viewers on the main streets of a true global village. The network operated 70 of its own cameras around the world and also had access to more than 400 additional cameras as part of an international Millennium Day Broadcast Consortium, “2000 Today,” linking broadcasters in 66 countries, including the BBC, TV Asahi in Japan, CBC in Canada, ABC Australia, CCTV in China, and PBS in the United States. ABC dispatched nearly three-dozen correspondents to key points around the world, including Barbara Walters in Paris, Bill Blakemore in Jerusalem, Lynn Sherr in Bombay and James Wooten in Djibouti, Africa, just to name a few. Mr. Wooten participated in one of the more memorable efforts to add context to this once-in-a-lifetime worldwide event. Seconds after Morton Dean reported from a spectacular fireworks display in Moscow, Mr. Wooten could be seen standing in the stark darkness of a barren refugee camp. No, the celebration of the millennium was not for everybody. ABC stood tall while some rival broadcast networks mostly took a pass. Its efforts were rewarded with robust ratings and “Didja see that?” water-cooler talk in the following days. For daring to seize the moment and then measuring up to it, a Peabody goes to “ABC 2000.”

* ABC News Coverage of September 11, 2001 (2001)
On September 11, 2001 the news organizations of the American Broadcasting Company – individuals and special units – exhibited the finest aspects of broadcast journalism. Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson displayed an extraordinarily professional demeanor to the viewers of Good Morning America, even as the enormity of events unfolded before our eyes. Peter Jennings, first of the prime time anchors to reach his desk, guided viewers throughout the day, bridging reports from the field, from research units, and from government resource agencies. Brian Ross and John Miller provided a continuing stream of background information. From the Pentagon, John McWethy brought coverage of events in Washington. In the days that followed, newsmagazine programs continued to contextualize the tragedy, informing viewers of the history of violent action, complicated ethnic relationships, and deep cultural conflicts rooted in religion and politics. Correspondent David Wright and Producer Bruno Roeber reported from Afghanistan from before the beginning of U.S. bombing to the fall of Kabul. Ted Koppel and the Nightline organization described and analyzed the place of Afghanistan in the Cold War. In an ABC News Special Report Peter Jennings explored complicated geopolitics in a clear and concise manner. And Diane Sawyer presented a sensitive and moving interview with widows of two of the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93. In every instance these reports and specials were presented without sensationalism. They were constructed on a basis of solid research. They were produced quickly, but with careful attention to detail. They maintained a commitment to clarity, accuracy, and completeness. For this demonstration of the true significance of the broadcast news media in our society, ABC News receives a George Foster Peabody Award.

* “Peter Jennings Reporting: Guns” (1990)
Few national issues seem to grip the American public as strongly as the argument over the right to own guns, particularly assault weapons with a high degree of firepower. Peter Jennings and the ABC News organization have produced a special which, in the opinion of the members of the Peabody Board, set a benchmark for excellence. With a total broadcast time of some 150 minutes this report looked at guns, including who does the shooting, who dies and what happens when you try to have it stopped. In the debate which followed the documentary portion of the program, persons representing virtually all of the controversial spectrum took part. It was a fine hour for Peter Jennings and his talented associates who included Tom Yellin (Executive Producer) and Craig Leake (Producer/Director). For this a Peabody goes to Peter Jennings Reporting: Guns.”

* “Peter Jennings Reporting: Hiroshima: Why the Bomb Was Dropped” (1995)
The August 6, 1045 atomic bombing of Hiroshima signaled the end of World War II and the origins of the Cold War. As the 50th anniversary of the bombings approached, Pete Jennings and ABC News producers David Gelber, Martin Smith, Sherry Jones, and Elizabeth Sams began exploring the inside story of the decision to use the bomb. From diaries, letters and memoirs of decision-makers to Hollywood depictions of events, “Hiroshima: Why the Bomb Was Dropped” repeals the profoundly complicated and controversial decision made by President Harry . Truman to use atomic bombs in the effort to end the conflict. The debate over whether to use atomic weapons paralleled the ground battles in the Pacific during the summer of 1945, just as the presentation of this program coincided with a controversial exhibit of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian`s National Air and Space Museum. These historical arguments, framed in the context of an examination of America`s moral dilemma as the first (and only) nation to use nuclear weapons, are at the heart of this thought-provoking program. For presenting a pointed and accurate account of the decision leading to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a Peabody to ABC News for “Peter Jennings Reporting: Hiroshima: Why the Bomb Was Dropped.”

* “Sadat: Action Biography” (1974)
World leaders have become a familiar sight on television but seldom does the medium provide that extra dimension which makes them interesting, alive and understandable. Such a program was ABC’s “Sadat: Action Biography” and because of those qualities it stood out among the other documentaries of the year 1974. This profile of the Egyptian President produced with the overall direction of Av Westin, was imaginatively filmed over a four month period in Egypt, Israel and Morocco, blending historical fact, comment and interviews – particularly those of ABC Reporter Peter Jennings – to create a lively and timely portrait of an important Middle East leader.