Thirty-six recipients of the 68th 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 2008, were named in a ceremony in the Peabody Gallery on The University of Georgia Campus.
“The works recognized by the Peabody Board this year not only reflect great diversity of content and genre, but also true technical innovation and the varied roles of new distribution systems,” said Peabody Director Horace Newcomb. “The list of winners this year clearly indicates a changing media environment that will continue to require judgment and evaluation through the Peabody Awards process.”
The recipients included “Lost,” ABC’s innovative, mind-bending adventure serial; “The Giant Pool of Money,” a remarkably comprehensible explanation of the current financial crisis from public radio’s “This American Life”; and YouTube, the video-sharing website that puts a boundless array of video artifacts, from historic political speeches to cell phone videos, at every Internet user’s fingertips. “Black Magic,” ESPN’s fascinating examination of the integration of basketball and its impact on the programs of Historical Black Colleges and Universities, received a Peabody, as did “Saturday Night Live’s” campaign-season political satire.
A Peabody went to Sichuan Television for its immediate coverage of the deadly earthquake that struck its Chinese province. For several days, SCTV was the only source of video for television news organizations around the world. National Public Radio was also recognized for its exhaustive and sensitive daily reporting on the quake. Peabodys went to CNN’s coverage of the Presidential primaries and debates, and to the election-year broadcasts of “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill.” The Hearst-Argyle television-station group was awarded for its extensive “Commitment 2008” coverage of local and regional political contests.
In the realm of the arts, Peabodys went to The Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series; “The Gates,” an HBO documentary tracking the 24-year making of a now-celebrated installation in New York’s Central Park; and to NBC’s dazzling telecast of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony and the ceremony director, Zhang Yimou. An institutional Peabody was awarded to Turner Classic Movies (TCM), the cable channel devoted to showing, preserving and fostering a critical appreciation of vintage films.
The entertainment series selected included “Breaking Bad,” AMC’s thorny drama about a terminally ill science teacher who turns to making and selling methamphetamine to build an estate for his wife and disabled son. “John Adams,” HBO’s richly detailed miniseries about the lawyerly Founding Father, his wife, Abigail, and the times in which they lived, received the award. Also cited was HBO’s comedy “Entourage,” a wicked take on Hollywood and the joys and sorrows of minor stardom. “Avatar: The Last Air Bender,” an animated, Asian-influenced mythological epic shown on Nickelodeon, received a Peabody, as did “Jungle Fish,” a handsomely stylized slice of South Korean teen life from the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS).
In addition to YouTube, a Peabody was awarded to The New York Times’ website (www.nytimes.com). Another went to Onion News Network (http://www.theonion.com/content/video), where video parodies of newscasts and newsmakers are so shrewdly conceived and produced that they’re often hard to distinguish from the real thing.
“We recognize the great transformations affecting dissemination of news and information,” Newcomb said. “The variety of choices available to citizens does in fact range from the best traditional journalism expanded for the web, to sharp critiques in the form of parody and satire. Both can achieve a level of excellence that reaches the Peabody standard and both require citizens to respond with careful analysis of their own.”
A Peabody went to “NOAH Housing Program Investigation,” a series of more than 50 reports by New Orleans’ WWL-TV exposing problems and possible fraud in a multi-million dollar program designed to help homeowners rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Awards also went to “Failing the Children: Deadly Mistakes,” Denver TV station KMGH’s multi-part expose of tragic incompetence in the city’s Department of Human Services. National Public Radio’s “36 Years of Solitary: Murder, Death and Justice on Angola” received a Peabody for a gripping investigative report questioning the guilt of two inmates at Louisiana’s notorious prison farm. The two have been kept in solitary confinement for more than three decades.
Newcomb commented on a “stunning array of notable documentaries,” saying “this year the Peabody Board was faced with what can only be described as a renaissance in the form. Our decisions came after difficult, but thorough reviews of one of the best pools of docs ever submitted.”
Among the documentary winners, Shanghai Television Group’s “The Red Race” provided a shockingly intimate portrait of the rigorous some would say sadistic training that Chinese child gymnasts undergo. “Campaign,” a quirky “P.O.V.” film, illuminated Japan’s political system by following one guileless candidate’s run for a city-council seat. “Hear and Now,” shown on HBO, poignantly chronicled the process and consequences of a middle-aged deaf couple who undergo cochlear implant operations. One splendid “Independent Lens” documentary, “Mapping Stem Cell Research,” followed a neurologist obsessed with discovering a way to reverse the effects of his beloved daughter’s spinal injury, while another, “King Corn,” is a deceptively whimsical exploration of what our corn-syrup saturated diet means to our health and the environment.
Peabodys also went to “Ape Genius,” a “NOVA” documentary examining the latest research on how the intellectual capacity of gorillas, chimps, bonobos and orangutans compares to ours. Cinemax’s “Nanking” offered a wrenching remembrance of a small group of Westerners who tried to save Chinese civilians from the horrors of the 1937 Japanese invasion. “Crossfire: Water, Power and Politics,” a documentary from Las Vegas’ KLAS-TV that achieved network quality, dared to look hard at a plan to pump massive amounts of water from rural Nevada to its booming, major city and at what this will mean to ranches, farms, Native Americans and the environment.
“Depression: Out of the Shadows,” a multi-dimensional, ultimately hopeful examination of the devastating disorder that affects millions of Americans, received a Peabody, as did “Hopkins,” ABC News’ compelling verite series filmed in the halls and operating rooms of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
A Peabody was also awarded to “Richard Engel Reports: Tip of the Spear,” a series of reports under-fire by the NBC News correspondent from the deadliest zone in Afghanistan. “Lifeline,” a “CBS News 60 Minutes” report, received a Peabody. It memorably encapsulated the plight of America’s 47 million uninsured by showing some of the 18,000 people who showed up when a free-clinic mission, designed for Third World charity, set up shop for a weekend in Tennessee.
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 TV and radio stations, networks, cablecasters, Webcasters, producing organizations and individuals.
The Peabody Board is a 16-member group, comprised of television critics, broadcast and cable industry executives, academics and experts in culture and the arts. They make their annual selections with input from special screening committees of UGA faculty, students and staff.
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.
COMPLETE LIST OF 2008 PEABODY AWARD WINNERS
Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony (NBC and Zhang Yimou) NBC Olympics An exponential magnification of what was once known in television as a “spectacular,” the Beijing opening ceremony was crafted and choreographed by creative director Zhang Yimou and directed for television by Bucky Gunts.
This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money (Public Radio International) Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life, National Public Radio, News Division The first-ever collaboration of “This American Life” and NPR’s news division, this report was impressive for the arresting clarity of its explanation of the financial crisis we’re in, and even more so for its having aired so early May 2008.
Coverage of 2008 Presidential Primary Campaigns and Debates (CNN) CNN With state-of-the-art technology and a small army of reporters, producers and analysts, CNN gave viewers unparalleled coverage of a historic presidential election process.
Entourage (HBO) Leverage and Closest to the Hole Productions in association with HBO Entertainment Hollywood gets an affectionately merciless tweaking in this picaresque serial about an ambitious male starlet, his posse of pals, and his multi-faced agent.
Depression: Out of the Shadows (PBS) Twin Cities Public Television and WGBH Boston The documentary explored the many forms of depression and an expanding range of treatment strategies as it dispelled the stigma that often inhibits action and fostered hope.
The New York Times Website (www.nytimes.com) The New York Times Aggressively and imaginatively adding sound and moving images to the news that’s fit to print, the “Gray Lady” became a leader in the emergence of new journalistic forms.
Black Magic (ESPN) ESPN Films in association with Shoot the Moon Productions This unusually penetrating sports documentary illuminated the lives of African American basketball players and their coaches at historically black colleges and universities during the civil rights era.
Jungle Fish (KBS 2TV) Korean Broadcasting System Interactive blogging was integral to the plot of this handsome film, a stylized slice of life among students at a ruthlessly competitive South Korean high school.
China: The Earthquake of Chengdu (National Public Radio) NPR On assignment in China when earthquakes devastated Sichuan province, members of an NPR team were on the air in Chengdu when the tremors began, and they provided riveting, first-hand accounts from around the region for days.
NOAH Housing Program Investigation (WWL-TV) WWL-TV, New Orleans Dogged inquiry by anchor/reporter Lee Zurik embarrassed the New Orleans Authority Housing Program, a non-profit agency intended to help poor and elderly victims of Hurricane Katrina, and prompted a federal investigation of its misuse of funds.
Hopkins (ABC) ABC News All-access filmmaking in the corridors and operating rooms of a fabled teaching hospital produced human drama of open-heart intensity.
Saturday Night Live Political Satire, 2008 (NBC) SNL Studios in association with NBC Universal Studios The late-night legend stole the election-year thunder from its satirical competition on cable and may have swayed the race itself.
John Adams (HBO) Playtone in association with HBO Films The American Revolution was made flesh and blood in this richly detailed miniseries focused on the political evolution of colonial lawyer John Adams and his wife, Abigail.
Hear and Now (HBO) HBO Documentary Films in association with Vermillion Films, Inc. This moving documentary explored the consequences positive, negative, unforeseen of the decision by a sixty-something couple, deaf since birth, to undergo cochlear implant surgeries.
Washington Week with Gwen Ifill (PBS & pbs.org/washingtonweek) WETA-TV, Washington, DC Thoughtful, informed and timely, the political talk show that sets the standard for the genre supplemented its contribution to the national discourse in 2008 with a series of live events far outside the Beltway.
Independent Lens: King Corn (PBS) Mosaic Films, Independent Television Service (ITVS), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) Starting off like a post-grad goof two college buddies plant one acre of corn and follow it to market the documentary ended up raising questions about everything from crop subsidies to animal cruelty to our obesity epidemic: What’s in your gullet?
Breaking Bad (AMC) AMC, Sony Pictures Television, High Bridge Productions, Gran Via Productions Bleak, harrowing, sometimes improbably funny, the series chronicled the consequences of a mild-mannered, dying science teacher’s decision to secure his family’s future by cooking methamphetamine.
The Gates (HBO) Maysles Films in association with HBO Documentary Films and CVJ Filmmakers explored how the now-celebrated Central Park installation by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude came to be in this memoir of a creative process that survived a 24-year odyssey of bureaucratic hoop-jumping.
The Red Race (Shanghai TV Station) NDR Fernsehen, Shanghai Media Group Without narration or judgment, this documentary, riveting from its first frame, depicted the rigorous training of China’s potential gymnastic stars, age 6.
36 Years in Solitary: Murder, Death and Justice on Angola (NPR/All Things Considered) NPR Laura Sullivan’s gripping three-part report raised questioned about the guilt of two Louisiana prison farm inmates who been kept in solitary confinement for more than three decades.
Avatar: The Last Air Bender (NICK) Nickelodeon Unusually complex characters and healthy respect for the consequences of warfare enhanced this American-made, anime-influenced martial-arts adventure.
Crossfire: Water, Power and Politics (KLAS-TV, Las Vegas) KLAS-TV This network-quality documentary by Las Vegas’ CBS affiliate was a brave, meticulous examination of a plan to pipe massive amounts of water from rural Nevada to booming Sin City and the potential consequences for ranchers, farmers, Native Americans and the environment.
Ape Genius (PBS) NOVA, National Geographic Television, John Rubin Productions, Inc. A synthesis of the latest research on the intelligence and creative capacity of gorillas and other great apes, this stimulating documentary also explored what it means to be human.
CBS News 60 Minutes: Lifeline (CBS) CBS News 60 Minutes The world of the uninsured and underinsured in America was unforgettably illuminated by this report about a free-clinic mission, designed for Third World communities, that set up shop in Tennessee for a weekend and treated hundreds of patients.
Lost (ABC) ABC Studios Breezily mixing metaphysics, quantum physics, romance and cliffhanger action, the genre-bending series about a group of air-crash survivors on a mysterious island has rewritten the rules of television fiction.
Sichuan Earthquake Coverage (Sichuan Television) Sichuan Television (SCTV) When a massive earthquake devastated its province, Chengdu-based Sichuan Television dispatched its camera crews and for several days was the only source of images for TV news organizations around the world.
Independent Lens: Mapping Stem Cell Research Terra Incognita (PBS) Kartemquin Educational Films, Independent Television Service (ITVS) Neither scientific facts nor ethical complexity nor emotional drama was sacrificed in this documentary about a neurologist who took up stem-cell research after his beloved daughter suffered a spinal injury.
P.O.V.: Campaign (PBS) Laboratory X Inc., American Documentary Inc., P.O.V., Center for Asian American Media Soda Kazuhiro’s revealing, sometimes painfully funny documentary observed the ragged political campaign of a naf handpicked and backed by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Failing the Children: Deadly Mistakes (KMGH-TV) KMGH-TV, Denver Motivated by the starvation death of a 7-year-old boy, the station’s persistent investigation turned up systemic incompetence in Denver’s Department of Human Services, and then broadened into a state-wide story.
Richard Engel Reports: Tip of the Spear (NBC) NBC Nightly News Under fire at times, the war correspondent and his team produced an extraordinary series of reports from remote outposts in Afghanistan, making vivid and visceral the hardships and danger faced by American soldiers.
The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD Series The Metropolitan Opera Association With vividly designed, smartly annotated productions of “Hansel and Gretel,” “Dr. Atomic,” “Peter Grimes” and other operas, the Met used state-of-the-art digital technology to reinvent presentation of a classic art form.
Nanking (HBO) A Ted Leonsis Production in association with HBO Documentary Films Human decency rises to confront human atrocity in this powerful, newly documented remembrance of a small group of Westerners who saved thousands of Chinese during the 1937 “rape of Nanking” by Japanese invaders.
Hearst-Argyle Television: Commitment 2008 (Hearst-Argyle Stations) Hearst-Argyle Television Exemplars of public-service broadcasting, 25 Hearst-Argyle stations fulfilled a company mandate with extensive reporting on candidates and issues in their respective communities and supplemented on-air reports with online forums, profiles and debate coverage.
Onion News Network (www.theonion.com) The Onion The satirical tabloid’s online send-up of 24-hour cable-TV news was hilarious, trenchant and not infrequently hard to distinguish from the real thing.
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Turner Broadcasting System Inc. It’s a wonderful network, this dedicated presenter and preserver of vintage films, and after 20 years, no other in the cable spectrum has stayed truer to its original mission.
YouTube (www.youtube.com) YouTube, LLC The video-sharing website, a “Speakers’ Corner,” where Internet users can upload, view and share clips, is an ever-expanding archive-cum-bulletin board that both embodies and promotes democracy.