Athens, Ga. – Thirty-five recipients of the 67th 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 2007, were named in a ceremony in the Peabody Gallery on the UGA campus.
The latest Peabody recipients reflect great diversity in content, genre and source of origination. Recipients included The Colbert Report, Comedy Central’s cable-news satire, and A Journey Across Afghanistan: Opium and Roses, a documentary from Bulgaria’s Balkan News Corporation (bTV). Whole Lotta Shakin, the Texas Heritage Music Foundation’s rollicking public-radio series chronicling the 1950s heyday of rockabilly music received the award, as did Univision’s Ya Es Hora, a public-service campaign that taught legal aliens how to apply for American citizenship.
Peabodys went to Wounds of War – The Long Road Home for Our Nation’s Veterans, a series of moving reports by ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff, himself a recovering Iraq War casualty, about the struggles of veterans dealing with severe war injuries and stress. CBS News Sunday Morning: The Way Home captured a Peabody for Kimberly Dozier’s powerful piece about two women veterans who lost limbs in Iraq. Like Woodruff, Dozier survived a near-fatal attack while on assignment in Iraq. Another CBS News series, 60 Minutes, was awarded a Peabody for The Killings in Haditha, a Scott Pelley report that questioned the conventional wisdom about the worst single killing of civilians by U.S. soldiers since Vietnam.
Discovery’s Planet Earth, a majestic use of HDTV technology showcasing natural wonders of the world, was honored, as was Independent Lens for Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life, an expansive portrait of Duke Ellington’s musical collaborator. NATURE: Silence of the Bees, an inquiry into the unsettling decline in the world’s honeybee population from Thirteen/WNET, and WGBH-Boston’s Design Squad, an engineering competition for young people, further indicate the variety of this year’s recipients.
The entertainment series selected included 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s hilarious send-up of TV sketch shows and her own network, NBC; and Project Runway, Bravo’s fashion-designer competition. Peabodys also went to Mad Men, AMC’s richly detailed and evocative drama set in the world of New York advertising in the early 1960s, and Dexter, Showtime’s dark, challenging drama about a serial killer who preys on other sociopaths.
The awards will be presented on June 16 at a luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Brian Williams, the distinguished anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, will be the master of ceremonies.
“The range of genres, the variety of topics and the consistently high quality of submissions for Peabody consideration indicated again that amazing work is being done in electronic media,” said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards. “The Peabody board labored through many hours of discussion and deliberation to select these works from among more than 1,000 outstanding entries.”
Taxi to the Dark Side, a horrifying documentary about an Afghani cabbie who died in U.S. military custody, added a Peabody to its list of awards, which already included an Oscar. Taxi raised disturbing questions about interrogation techniques and U.S. wartime policies. The sweet, sensitive Nimrod Nation received a Peabody. This beautifully shot, eight-part documentary series from Sundance Channel takes viewers into a small Michigan town where life revolves around hunting, high school basketball and true community values. Awards also went to Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, a NOVA installment focused on controversies surrounding the teaching of evolution in public schools, and mtvU: Half of Us, a public-service campaign and supportive Web site for college students struggling with depression.
“As always,” Newcomb said, “it was exciting to discover deeply serious work in entertainment, entertaining work in documentaries, education in news reports and thoughtful perspectives on the news in everything from game shows to parody. The Peabody Awards, in all their diverse and innovative examples, are models for what can and should be done across the board.”
The array of worthy documentaries was again impressive. In Sisters in Law, another installment of Independent Lens, two sisters (one the court president, the other the prosecutor), dominate a small-town courthouse in Cameroon. Cheney’s Law, from Frontline, explored the rationale and implementation of the current vice president’s three-decade campaign to expand the power of the presidency. Arts and crafts were represented by Art:21-Art in the 21st Century, where four artists speak eloquently about their “protest” art, and by Craft in America: Memory, Landscape and Community, an exquisite, insightful tour of furniture makers, quilters, weavers and other craft-artists, classic and modern.
In a strong year for local television news, Dallas’ WFAA-TV was especially potent, earning a Peabody for four reports that underscored its commitment to investigative work: Money for Nothing revealed slipshod lending practices by the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The Buried and the Dead raised questions about the state of Texas’ oversight on the gas pipeline industry. Television Justice looked into a dubiously cozy relationship between a “To Catch a Predator” unit of NBC Dateline and the police in Murphy, Texas. Kinder Prison explored a Homeland Security prison holding immigrant families near Austin, Texas.
A Peabody went to Security Risks at Sky Harbor, from KNXV-TV in Phoenix, an exposé of frighteningly lax baggage screening at the city’s main airport. Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV’s Fight for Open Records, a series of reports about improprieties in Pennsylvania’s state-run student loan agency, received a Peabody. These reports were made possible by a successful-and well-explained-legal battle to obtain the agency’s ostensibly public records. An award also went to Virginia Tech Shootings: The First 48 Hours, from WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Va., for two intense days of live, exhaustive and remarkably calm coverage of the April 16 killing spree.
In addition to the Texas Heritage Foundation’s rockabilly retrospective, Peabody-winning radio programming included The MTT Files, an eight-part American Public Media series in which Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, provided fascinating insights into the work of composers from Igor “Firebird Suite” Stravinsky to James “Cold Sweat” Brown. A Peabody went to Speaking of Faith: The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi, from American Public Media. This edition of the long-running series explored resurgent interest in the 13th century Persian poet. The Brian Lehrer Show, from New York’s WNYC, was cited for being true “community-building radio,” a shrewd blend of news analysis, civil conversation and call-ins that brings together the city’s wildly diverse citizenry.
Just Words, from the Center for Emerging Media, was honored for 55 four-minute documentary pieces, broadcast on Baltimore’s WYPR-FM and other stations. The reports give personal voice to issues such as homelessness, drug abuse and youth violence. Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, a live and very lively weekly quiz show that draws on and has fun with the latest news events, from National Public Radio, Chicago Public Radio and Urgent Haircut Productions, also was awarded a Peabody.
White Horse, a beautiful and probing feature segment of BBC America’s nightly newscast was recognized for illustrating the human and environmental toll of the Chinese government’s massive efforts to modernize its hinterlands. A Peabody went to CNN Presents: God’s Warriors, a three-part, six-hour documentary series that examined the rise and impact of fundamentalism in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The HBO documentary To Die in Jerusalem received a Peabody. This heartbreaking consideration of the Israeli-Palestine conflict followed two mothers who lost their respective teenage daughters, one a suicide bomber, the other one of her victims.
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 are 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.