News Emmys Gain Respect

Sep 20, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The News and Documentary Emmy Awards ceremony produced by the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is no longer the dowdy half-sister of the Primetime Emmy Awards produced by the Los Angeles-based Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

On Sept. 13 the News Emmys offered everything from a witty host (“Saturday Night Live’s” well-informed Darrell Hammond) and generous sponsors (network news executives and talent had politely refused offers to arrive in a 2005 Cadillac, and circulars tumbled out of a packet placed on every seat) to a presentation so ambitious that not even attempts to keep national, local and international winners’ speeches to 30 seconds could bring the evening in at under five hours.

Some highlights:

  • Lifetime Achievement honors: Presented to outgoing “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw and to C-SPAN, cable TV’s fly-on-the-civic-wall. PBS icon Gwen Ifill referred to C-SPAN as her “guilty pleasure,” and founder Brian Lamb slyly urged network executives to continue to limit coverage of Republican and Democratic national conventions. “I never understood why seven channels have to carry the same thing,” Mr. Lamb said.

    Mr. Brokaw was praised by successor Brian Williams, CBS News’ Dan Rather and ABC News’ Peter Jennings, the late David Brinkley’s son, Alan Brinkley, NBC Universal Chairman and CEO Bob Wright and former NBC News President Reuven Frank, who said of Mr. Brokaw: “He has never diddled with the news.”

    Mr. Brokaw said that one thing had not changed during his decades in TV news: “The audiences take us very seriously and we cannot fail.”

  • An unexpected winning streak: Martha Teichner made her way to the stage twice to accept Emmys for “CBS Sunday Morning” for two very different stories on which she was the correspondent.
  • An odds-on outcome: Oft-honored “Frontline” producer Ofra Bikel accepted an Emmy for a story that was the only nominee in its category. “I couldn’t be more shocked,” she said.
  • Poignant moments: NBC News cameraman Craig White was on Hurricane Ivan duty and unable to pick up the Emmy for his first-person account of a 12-hour battle outside Baghdad that raged a mere 24 hours after correspondent David Bloom, with whom Mr. White provided riveting coverage of the assault on Iraq, died as the result of a pulmonary embolism.
  • Elegant acceptance speeches. Freelance-war-correspondent-turned-ABC-News correspondent Mike Cerre-who received an Emmy for producing and reporting on one Marine unit’s experience spanning from its preparation for deployment to its homecoming from Iraq-said: “The story is not over. Neither is this war, and I hope we can cover it justly.”
  • A Michael Moore moment: Don Campbell earned an Emmy for writing History Channel’s “Land of the Tsars.” “See what happens when their leaders systematically lie to them,” said Mr. Campbell, who not-so-cryptically urged leaders to “speak the truth. Don’t lie. Don’t [expletive likely to be deleted from the Discovery Times Channel telecast of News Emmy highlights at 8 p.m. Sept. 25] the people.”
  • A blue red carpet: It was inside and it was short. Instead of a Joan Rivers-type inquiring mind, there was an E! crew deployed on behalf of Howard Stern to see what response there would be to questions posed in Italian. “Graceful evasion” sums up the general response.