In Depth

Summing Up the Peabody Award Winners

By Elizabeth Jensen

Thirty-six programs will take home George Foster Peabody Awards in May, the program’s 69th year.

The awards honor the best in electronic media for 2009 and are conferred by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, in Athens. Multiple winners included PBS programs, which received a total of six awards, and HBO, which is being honored for two series and a documentary. NPR received two awards, as did “BBC World News America.”

CBS News’ “60 Minutes” won for its fourth year in a row, with both of its awards going to correspondent Steve Kroft.

The awards will be presented in a ceremony hosted by ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Monday, May 17, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

Modern Family (ABC)
Twentieth Century Fox Television in association with Levitan Lloyd Productions

The judges said: “This wily, witty comedy puts quirky, contemporary twists in family ties but maintains an old-fashioned heart.”

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: An Evening with Archbishop Desmond Tutu (CBS)
Worldwide Pants Inc.

Calling the interview with the Nobel Peace Prize winner “fascinating, often funny,” the judges said the Scottish-born Ferguson “has made late-night television safe again for ideas.”

Noodle Road: Connecting Asia's Kitchens (KBS1 TV)
Korean Broadcasting System

According to the judges, this show is “the who, where, what, why and how of Asia's culinary staple, rolled into one visually delicious hour.”

A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains (ABC)
ABC News

Diane Sawyer and her producers and camera crew spent nearly two years in central Appalachia reporting this documentary on children coping with adult-created problems, which the judges said “reminds us that not all critical problems lie in ‘developing’ nations.”

SesameStreet.org
Sesame Workshop

The website was given a complete makeover in 2008 and the judges approved, noting that “Bird and company display prodigious adaptability on this delightfully educational, interactive site.”

BBC World News America: Unique Broadcast, Unique Perspective (BBC America)
BBC World News America, BBC America

The cable broadcast is “a nightly newscast like none the United States has ever had,” which “places our actions and concerns in a global context,” said the judges.

The Cost of Dying (CBS)
CBS News, 60 Minutes

This report treated the costs of end-of-life medical care “with courage and compassion,” the judges said.

Independent Lens: Between the Folds (PBS)
Green Fuse Films, ITVS

This documentary about the art of paper folding “makes you gasp at the possibilities — of paper and of human creativity,” the judges said.

Glee (FOX)
Twentieth Century Fox Television

Fox’s hit musical dramedy about members of a high school choral club is “dependably tuneful and entertaining,” the judges found.

The OxyContin Express (Current TV)
Vanguard on Current TV

This documentary about drug-dealing M.D.s in Florida and Appalachia “makes clear the enormity of the prescription-drug epidemic,” the judges said.

NPR.org
National Public Radio

“One of the great one-stop websites,” the judges said, with the added plus of “music you can dance to.”

Diane Rehm Personal Award

The NPR talk show, which has been heard for decades on Washington's WAMU-FM, “is the gold standard for civil, civic discourse,” said the judges.

The Day that Lehman Died (BBC World Service)
A Goldhawk Essential Production/BBC World Service Production

This radio docudrama based on exhaustive interviews mixed news and dramatic reconstruction and “put listeners in the boardroom and halls of Lehman Brothers as the financial giant collapsed.”

In Treatment (HBO)
Leverage, Closest to the Hole Productions and Sheleg in association with HBO Entertainment

This fictional series about psychiatrist-patient sessions, adapted from an Israeli series, “is the very essence of drama,” the judges said.

Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times (PBS)
Peter Jones Productions

There’s “drama enough for several feature films” in this documentary about the longtime owners of the Los Angeles Times, the judges said.

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (HBO)
Mirage Enterprises and Cinechicks in association with The Weinstein Company, BBC and HBO Entertainment

The judges noted that Alexander McCall Smith's novels about African detective Precious Ramotswe “come vividly to life in this groundbreaking series.”

Sabotaging the System (CBS)
CBS News, 60 Minutes

Steve Kroft's examination of cyber threats to the country’s infrastructure was “alarming and then some,” the judges said.

Brick City (Sundance Channel)
Sundance Channel, Brick City TV LLC

This five-hour documentary series about the challenges of the city of Newark, N.J., is “sociologically instructive and dramatically compelling,” the judges wrote. Sundance has ordered a second season.

Thrilla in Manila (HBO)
Darlow Smithson Production, HBO Sports, HBO Documentary Films

This documentary about Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier “pulls no punches and lays bare misconceptions about their rivalry,” the judges said.

FRONTLINE: The Madoff Affair (PBS)
FRONTLINE, RAINmedia

The judges singled out this documentary on Bernie Madoff's devastating Ponzi scheme for taking “viewers into the very heart of” the scandal and “explaining how and why it worked for so long.”

I-Witness: Ambulansiyang de Paa (GMA Network)
GMA Network Inc., Philippines

This report about poor villagers “who carry their sick and injured over dangerous terrain to distant medical care using ‘ambulances on foot’ simultaneously condemns deplorable conditions and celebrates neighborliness and ingenuity,” the judges found.

Independent Lens: The Order of Myths (PBS)
Folly River Inc., Netpoint Productions, Lucky Hat Entertainment, ITVS

Margaret Brown explored the race-divided Mardi Gras traditions in Mobile, Ala., in a documentary the judges called “highly original, moving and insightful.”

Hard Times (OPB Radio)
Oregon Public Broadcasting

This series of radio reports on how the Wall Street meltdown affected ordinary citizens was singled out by the judges for “humanly and thoughtfully” documenting its subject.

Iran & the West
Brook Lapping Productions for the BBC in association with National Geographic Channel, France 3, NHK, VPRO, SVT, RTBF, VRT, NRK, SRC/CBC, DRTV SBS, YLE, TVP and Press TV

The judges called this “a spectacular, epic documentary that explains in fascinating, sometimes startling, detail how the West and Iran arrived at the present standoff,” adding that “it's imminently watchable and historically invaluable.”

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson: Covering Afghanistan (NPR)
National Public Radio

NPR’s Kabul bureau chief is praised by the judges, who note that “No reporter in any medium gives us a better sense of the variety of life inside Afghanistan.”

The Great Textbook War (West Virginia Public Broadcasting)
Trey Kay Productions

The roots of the current culture wars are traced through a 1974 battle over textbook content in rural West Virginia, in what the judges called a “thoughtful, balanced and gripping radio documentary.”

Mind the Gap: Why Good Schools Are Failing Black Students (Public Radio Stations)
Nancy Solomon

The independent producer “exhibited great empathy” and asked “tough, necessary questions” of students and teachers at a suburban New Jersey high school, judges said.

Endgame (PBS)
Daybreak/Channel 4/Target Entertainment, Presented on PBS/MASTERPIECE by WGBH Boston

Dramatizing secret negotiations at an English country estate, which helped end apartheid in South Africa, this film “offers a lesson in the possibilities of peaceful conflict resolution,” judges said.

Sichuan Earthquake: One Year On (Now-Broadband TV News Channel)
Now-TV News, Hong Kong

This report on the anniversary of China’s Sichuan earthquake was reported “with respect for the victims and their families and hard questions about the substandard construction that worsened the death toll,” the judges said.

BART Shooting (KTVU-TV)
KTVU, Oakland, Calif.

When a train station altercation ended in a fatal shooting, KTVU's quick response “gave its reporters an edge, but it was their persistent digging afterwards that revealed serious, systematic problems in the Bay Area Rapid Transit police's tactics,” the judges noted.

American Masters: Jerome Robbins — Something to Dance About (PBS)
Thirteen/WNET

This retrospective documentary of Robbins’ life and work, filled with performance clips and comments from his ballet and Broadway colleagues, “captured the legendary director-choreographer's ‘dark genius,’” the judges said.

Chronicle: Paul's Gift (WYFF-TV)
WYFF 4, Greenville, S.C.

This public service special, which followed the donated organs of an accident victim to their various recipients, was “simple, ingenious and effective,” the judges found.

Under Fire: Discrimination and Corruption in the Texas National Guard (KHOU-TV)
KHOU-TV, Houston, Belo, Inc.

The judges noted that “dogged work by the Houston station's investigative reporters found such blatant discriminatory treatment of female soldiers that three top Texas Guard generals were fired and a new commanding officer was appointed.” The series also won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award in January.

Derrion Albert Beating (WFLD-TV)
FOX Chicago News: WFLD-TV and myfoxchicago.com

WFLD obtained horrifying video of the beating death of a Chicago high school honor student, but the judges said “the greater feat was its comprehensive follow-up coverage of the suspects, the legal process and prevalence of similar violence.”

Where Giving Life Is a Death Sentence (BBC America)
BBC World News America, BBC America, BBC World News, Newsnight

Correspondent Lyse Doucet “trekked deep into Afghanistan's rugged Badakshan province” for this report on the world’s worst recorded rate of maternal mortality.

Up in Smoke (KCET-TV)
KCET, Los Angeles

For the judges, this report on KCET’s "SoCal Connected" provided “lively, eye-opening coverage” of the medical marijuana business.