Athens, Ga. – Thirty-five recipients of the 66th Annual Peabody Awards were announced today by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The winners, chosen by the Peabody Board as the best in electronic media for 2006, were named in a ceremony in the Peabody Gallery on the University of Georgia campus. The latest Peabody recipients reflect the ever-broadening definition of electronic media and the international scope of the competition.
“This year the Peabody Board reviewed an amazing array of outstanding material,” said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards. “The result is that our work becomes more difficult-and more rewarding-as creators and producers of electronic media develop more and more powerful, important and engaging work.”
The awards will be presented June 4 at a luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Celebrated sportscaster Bob Costas, host of HBO’s Costas Now, will be the master of ceremonies.
An array of worthy documentaries was again diverse and impressive. In Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film, presented by American Masters, Ric Burns demonstrated how Warhol’s art, life and notoriety influenced the culture of his times. With amazing cinematography and a fittingly grand musical score, the BBC-National Geographic nature film Galapagos: Born of Fire revealed new wonders on and around the islands that inspired Darwin. Why We Fight, broadcast by CBC, one of a dozen international partners in the production, examined 60 years of American involvements abroad in the context of President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous warning about the “military-industrial complex.” “The Education of Ms. Grove,” a special segment of Dateline NBC, shadowed a young, idealistic first-year middle-school teacher in Atlanta as she learned some crucial lessons herself. No documentary was more original than Braindamadj’d…Take II, Canadian television producer Paul Nadler’s boldly stylized account of his own remarkable recovery from a serious brain injury.
Entertainment series selected included NBC’s Friday Night Lights, a richly textured serial in which a football-obsessed, Texas town becomes a microcosm of America, and Brotherhood, Showtime’s riveting drama about two Irish-American brothers in Providence, R.I., and their morally comprised pursuits of the American dream. Peabodys also went to ABC’s Ugly Betty, a telenovela makeover that explores clashing concepts of beauty, class, race and footwear with intelligence, warmth and wit; NBC’s The Office, a British comedy of workplace manners that has been transferred with pitch-perfect brilliance to Scranton, Pa., USA; and Scrubs, a unstintingly creative, sixth-season NBC comedy that never loses its respect for humanity despite a narrative style akin to Looney Tunes.
“Return of the King,” an especially provocative installment of the prickly animated series Boondocks, was the first program televised by Cartoon Network to win a Peabody. The episode imagined a reawakened Martin Luther King Jr.’s reaction to contemporary phenomena from gangsta rap to the war on terror. Three other basic cable channels televised Peabody-winning programs for the first time. Awards went to Good Eats, a deliriously inventive series for Food Network in which Alton Brown educates viewers about food, science, history and culture. Beyond Borders: Personal Stories from a Small Planet is a series of short films presented on the Independent Film Channel. These films demonstrate that young people around the world had stories to tell and that, given equipment and a little training, could tell them powerfully. For My Country? Latinos in the Military, an even-handed exploration of how Latinos have come to be disproportionately represented in the armed services, is the first Peabody to be presented to mun2, a Telemundo subsidiary aimed at younger viewers.
Also cited for excellence was the BBC, BBC America, Talkback production Gideon’s Daughter, a complex, delicately knitted study of a father-daughter relationship, grief, and the cult of celebrity, all against the backdrop of Princess Diana’s death.
Cable network HBO received Peabody Awards for a varied range of productions. Spike Lee’s elegiac documentary about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, was recognized by the Peabody Board. So, too, was HBO Family’s The Music In Me, an irresistible showcase for superb young performers playing everything from classical cello to zydeco accordion. HBO Sports’ Billy Jean King: Portrait of a Pioneer explored the tennis great’s impact on politics and culture as well as women’s athletics. The cable channel also was recognized for Elizabeth I, a richly detailed biographical movie in which Helen Mirren’s performance was a royal splendor in itself; and Baghdad ER, a powerful documentary testifying to the extraordinary dedication of medical personnel confronting the overwhelming carnage of war.
ABC News devoted an hour of prime time to “Out of Control: AIDS in Black America,” a devastating report about how African-Americans, who make up 13 percent of the nation’s population, now account for more than 50 percent of new cases of HIV infection. ABC News also was cited for “Brian Ross Investigates: Conduct Unbecoming,” broadcast reports and blog postings by Ross that broke the story of Rep. Mark Foley’s sexually explicit emails to young Congressional pages and speeded Foley’s resignation. CBS’ 60 Minutes won for “The Duke Rape Case,” an Ed Bradley-led investigation of rape allegations against Duke University lacrosse players that stood widespread assumptions – and the prosecution’s case – on their heads.
Local TV stations captured four 2006 Peabodys. WTNH-TV in New Haven, Conn., was cited for “Defective Parts on Blackhawk Helicopters.” This investigation of quality-control problems at a nearby Sikorsky Aircraft plant resulted in corrective action and a corporate shakeup. Another military-equipment issue, inadequate protective padding in U.S. Marine helmets, was the subject of an ambitious, Peabody-worthy investigation, “Command Mistake,” by Indianapolis’ WISH-TV. A second Indianapolis station, WTHR-TV, was cited for two pieces, “Prescription Privacy” and “Cause for Alarm,” that demonstrated the importance and different possibilities of local TV news investigations. KMOV-TV in St. Louis garnered a Peabody for “Left Behind: The Failure of East St. Louis Schools,” a series of 21 reports that found the school system had violated national and federal special-education requirements and uncovered widespread political and nepotistic hiring by the school board.
A rare Institutional Award went to StoryCorps, a deceptively simple, invaluable project that encourages people to step into StoryCorps recording booths to tape oral histories, from personal matters to their experience of public events. Edited versions are regularly broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR), while the full recordings, thousands of hours’ worth, are archived at in the Library of Congress.
NPR also was recognized for “Mental Anguish and the Military,” a hard look at post-traumatic stress disorder, notable for its candid, sometimes shocking interviews with Iraq War veterans at Ft. Carson, Colo. Public Radio International was cited for Crossing East: Our History, Our Stories, Our America, an eight-part series about Asian-American history that drew on more than 500 hours of interviews conducted for the project. “Crossing Borders,” a Hearing Voices special, broadcast by Arizona Public Radio, gave listeners a multi-textured account of illegal immigration that included vivid, you-are-there audio from the Mexican desert. “Habeas Schmabeas,” an installment of WBEZ Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life, won for a look at the endangerment of a fundamental American legal right. It included Kafka-esque stories of two former terrorism suspects who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
A Peabody went to The Three Amigos HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme, a series of cautionary spots starring a trio of animated condoms. This whimsical public-service campaign with deadly serious intentions is available for telecast in 41 different languages.
Peabody Awards also went to two impressive Websites. “Being a Black Man,” featured on washingtonpost.com, allows visitors to see, hear and respond to a huge range of history and personal experiences that defied stereotypes and statistics. FourDocs (www.channel4.com/fourdocs), a site created and curated by Magic Lantern Productions and Great Britain’s Channel 4, offers visitors the history and how-to of nonfiction filmmaking while providing a showcase for an array of original documentaries under four minutes in length.
“With all these awards,” Newcomb said, “the aim of the Peabody Awards is to demonstrate the excellence possible in these media. We hold up our selections as examples of what can and should be done in the worlds of journalism, entertainment, documentary, education and public service.”
The Peabody Board is a 16-member group, comprised of television critics, broadcast and cable industry executives and experts in culture and the arts, that judges the entries. Selection is made by the board following review by special screening committees of University of Georgia faculty, students and staff.
The Peabody Awards, the oldest honor in electronic media, do not recognize categories nor is there a set number of awards given each year. Today the Peabody recognizes distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals.
All entries become a permanent part of the Peabody Archive in the University of Georgia Libraries. The collection is one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most respected moving-image archives. For more information about the Peabody Archive or the Peabody Awards, visit www.peabody.uga.edu.