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From Features To War News, CBS Is a Winner

Oct 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

CBS News won three Murrow Awards this year: for “60 Minutes’” “A Case of Rape,” focusing on the Duke lacrosse players accused of raping a dancer; “Ramadi Embed,” for coverage from a CBS News journalist embedded with Marines and reporting for the series “On the Front Line”; and for “CBS Sunday Morning’s” “Uphill Battle,” about Ralph Green, a disabled ski racer going for the gold at the Paralympics.
“A Case of Rape,” from senior producer Michael Radutzky with producer Tanya Simon, was broadcast Oct. 15, seven months after the research for the story began. Longtime CBS correspondent Ed Bradley reported; it was the last story before his death.
“It was one of those few occasions when a TV reporter and a TV producer could actually take as long as it took to get the story,” said Mr. Ra­dutz­ky. “Originally I thought, as many people did, that this was a case of a bunch of entitled, spoiled rich kids who drank too much and got out of control and may have done the things they were accused of doing.”
He said his intention was “to know what really happened that night.” Amid a blitzkrieg of negative media about the players, Mr. Radutzky began to notice incongruities between the charges and the evidence supporting them.
“There was no DNA linking any of the players to the accuser, and the captains of the team willingly went to the police station and gave DNA samples and reports without lawyers,” he said. “That didn’t jive with what the attorney general was saying. For me, some little red flags were being waved.”
Mr. Radutzky was able to make contact with the parents of one of the indicted players, who contacted parents of the other indicted players. “I told them I wanted to know what happened, and in order to do so, I needed their full cooperation,” he said. He also obtained the case file—all 3,000 pages of it—which revealed dramatically different reports of the night’s event from the two female dancers at the party.
“I found many, many contradictions in the report,” he said. “I thought, How can I be reading in this case file piece after piece of evidence that points to their innocence, and the prosecutor be pursuing this more and more vigorously each month?”
When the story aired, it included first-time interviews with the accused players and the dancing partner of the accuser. “Everything we reported, [prosecutor Mike] Nifong knew while he was asserting these students’ guilt,” said Mr. Radutzky, adding that the CBS report “may have given a little push to this on the national stage. To watch him apologize to these kids and become a defendant himself was a moment I won’t forget. Justice delayed but justice served.”
In “CBS Evening News’” “On the Front Line,” a series that aired in May, chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan took viewers to Ramadi in central Iraq. Ms. Logan, who had previously reported from both Iraq and Afghanistan, was invited to embed with the Marines as they attempted to defend Ramadi’s town hall, surrounded by insurgents. She reported accompanied by a single cameraman/producer, Jeff Newton.
“It was just one of those hellacious places,” said Bill Owens, who was then the senior broadcast producer at “CBS Evening News.” “The Marines were literally holding on to this tiny parcel of real estate that they were desperate to defend.”
During the embed, Ms. Logan was reporting from the street when, with the camera rolling, a Marine was hit in the leg behind her. “As she was producing, she and her cameraman came under intense fire,” said Mr. Owens. “A Marine was hit and she became part of the evacuation.”
Ms. Logan also did some of the videography herself, with a small hand-held camera. After the embed was over, Ms. Logan went to a forward operating base where she fed her footage from the Baghdad office to London. “She and I went over it shot by shot with an editor and producer in London,” said Mr. Owens. Ms. Logan is still reporting from Baghdad.
At CBS News’ “Sunday Morning,” producer Jason Sacca and correspondent Serena Altschul produced “Uphill Battle,” which aired March 5, about Ralph Green, a one-legged man on a quest to become a Paralympic champion in ski racing. The CBS report followed Mr. Green to the Paralympics, where, for nine days, he and 25 teammates on the U.S. disabled ski team competed against 40 other countries on the slopes of Turin, Italy. Some athletes are visually impaired, others partially paralyzed, and others, like Mr. Green, have one leg or one arm.
The report also follows Mr. Green back to his childhood home in the projects of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, where he was a good student and gifted quarterback. He recounts how he was randomly shot at close range and lay in a coma for three months. The doctors saved his life but not his leg. He tried numerous disabled sports until he found skiing, an unlikely choice for a young man from the ’hood.
“Producing ‘Uphill Battle’ presented a number of interesting challenges, both technical and stylistic,” said Mr. Sacca. “First and foremost was trying to capture the speed and grace with which Ralph skis. I’m a skier, as is my cameraman, Scott McLean out of Denver, Colorado, so while I skied carrying the tripod and spare batteries, Scott did his best to shoot video while skiing alongside Ralph at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour.
“Stylistically, the challenge was to show how Ralph was at home in two very different worlds—the housing project where he grew up in Bed-Sty, Brooklyn, and the posh slopes of Vail, Colorado, where he now trains. I think both in the script and the little unscripted moments we caught on tape—Ralph greeting old friends in Brooklyn and chatting with children on the slopes of Vail—we were able to paint a compelling portrait of a remarkable young man who is an inspiration wherever he goes.”

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