Thirty-six recipients of the 69th annual Peabody Awards were announced March 31. The winners, chosen by the Peabody board as the best in electronic media for 2009, were named in a ceremony in the Peabody Gallery on campus.
The latest Peabody winners reflect great diversity in genre, sources of origination and content. The recipients included Modern Family, ABC’s comedy about a multicultural extended family; HBO’s Thrilla in Manila, a documentary that probes the hype, mythology and meaning of the politically charged Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier boxing matches in the early 1970s; and The Great Textbook War, a radio documentary from West Virginia Public Broadcasting about a 1974 skirmish that presaged “cultural wars” still raging in America. Jerome Robbins—Something to Dance About, a portrait of the director-choreographer from Thirteen/WNET’s American Masters, received a Peabody Award, as did the Desmond Tutu installment of CBS’ The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, a talk show.
Peabodys went to Sichuan Earthquake: One Year On, an assessment of the damage, grief and anger in the quake-ravaged Chinese province by Hong Kong’s Now-TV News, and A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains, ABC News’ illumination of the abiding poverty of Central Appalachia. Peabodys also were awarded to The Madoff Affair, an examination by WGBH’s Frontline of the Ponzi scheme that cost investors $65 billion, and “Hard Times,” Oregon Public Broadcasting’s radio coverage of the impact of the financial crisis on ordinary folks.
Other entertainment programming recognized by the Peabody Board included Glee, Fox’s musical dramedy about diverse members of a high-school choral club; In Treatment, HBO’s therapy-session drama; The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, HBO’s series about a female private eye in Botswana; and Endgame, a PBS/Masterpiece film about the secret negotiations that facilitated the end of apartheid in South Africa.
A Peabody also went to The Day That Lehman Died, a radio docudrama from the BBC World Service that reconstructed the negotiations that preceded the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy filing that shook the financial world.
In the realm of arts and culture, Peabodys were awarded to Noodle Road, a survey of the Asian culinary staple by South Korea’s KBS 1TV; PBS’ Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times, a portrait of a family newspaper dynasty that pursued civic goals and personal agendas with equal zeal; and two Independent Lens documentaries: The Order of Myths, a look at race relations through the prism of the Mardi Gras of Mobile, Ala., and Between the Folds, a study of the art of origami and paper folding.
A Personal Peabody was awarded to Diane Rehm, whose show on Washington, D.C.’s WAMU-FM and National Public Radio epitomizes vigorous, courteous political discourse. Peabodys also went to BBC World News America: Unique Broadcast, Unique Perspective, a model “world” newscast crafted for U.S. cable subscribers by BBC America; National Public Radio’s Web counterpart, npr.org; and SesameStreet.org, the children’s television series’ educational Web site.
“Every year the Peabody board faces the daunting task of selecting examples of the most outstanding work in electronic media,” said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards. “Our work is made more difficult because every entry is selected by a producer, a studio, a network or cable channel as their best work of the previous year. We begin at the top and have to go even higher.”
The Peabody board recognized the meritorious efforts of several local news organizations.
Awards went to “Under Fire: Discrimination and Corruption in the Texas National Guard,” an investigative series by Houston’s KHOU-TV that led to the firing of three Texas Guard generals; “Derrion Albert Beating,” a series of reports by Chicago’s WFLD-TV about the sidewalk murder of an honor student that had national repercussions; and “BART Shooting,” a series of reports in which KTVU-TV in Oakland, Calif., pursued the facts of a deadly train station confrontation.
In the Peabody-honored Up in Smoke, Los Angeles’ KCET-TV explored the state’s cannabis culture and found, among other surprises, that medicinal marijuana clinics, thanks to an inadvertent regulatory loophole, outnumbered Starbucks shops in the city.
“To those who say all media content is the same or is presented from a single perspective, we offer this great range of material as a response,” said Newcomb. “Our selections demonstrate that great work available in 2009 varied widely and appealed to viewers and listeners with very different tastes, interests, and concerns.”
The complete list of 2009 Peabody winners is online.