Announcing the 2016 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award Winners

Dec 15, 2015  •  Post A Comment

Announcement from Columbia University, Dec. 15, 2015:

Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism is pleased to announce 16 winners of the 2016 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards. The winners and one special finalist citation will be awarded at the January 19, 2016 award ceremony at Low Memorial Library.

There are a number of firsts this year. Four news organizations will garner their first duPont Award, and there will be one new winning platform: podcasting.  Both the record number of entries and the chosen winners reflect the year’s most critical issues – civil rights, income inequality, international crises and a growing focus on the rights of transgender adults and children.

Investigative journalism will be honored with eight awards across network and cable television, audio/radio, online, newspapers and local television stations, often in overlapping platforms. Four awards will go to local television news investigations; Cronkite News/Arizona PBS, KMOV-TV, WBAL-TV, WRAL-TV.

Public broadcasting had another robust year with six awards for network longform hours (two for FRONTLINE), series (WETA), radio (WNYC) and multimedia (Arizona PBS). One award, for WBEZ and This American Life’s wildly popular “Serial,” will be the first duPont Award in the burgeoning field of podcasts.

The broadcast networks will take home two duPonts; one each for ABC News and CBS News, while HBO will be honored with two awards. Al Jazeera America and VICE News will win their first duPont Awards. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will be honored for the first time for its digital environmental reporting, and Cronkite News/Arizona PBS will also win its first duPont for a student-professional partnership. This year, KCBS Radio will be awarded a special finalist citation.

Tom Brokaw, special correspondent for NBC News, and ABC News Nightline Anchor Juju Chang will co-host the duPont Awards ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library, which will be livestreamed at bit.ly/cjslive.

The 2016 duPont winners are:

ABC News

Bruce Jenner: The Interview

A substantive, sensitive interview spotlighted one of this year’s most talked about social issues – transgenderism.

ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer and her producing team crafted a thoughtful, sensitive, illuminating two hour special interviewing Olympic champion Bruce Jenner in his last appearance as a man. Weaving historical context, expert testimony and medical definitions with Jenner’s painful personal journey, what could have been a sensational glossy PR stunt was instead substantive and wide-ranging. An estimated audience of 20 million were shown the highly charismatic, engaging human face of a complex, often confusing issue. ABC News leveraged multiple platforms to reach the widest possible number of viewers, making the best use of a critical opportunity to disseminate nuanced, myth-busting information to change the public conversation.

Diane  Sawyer, Anchor; David Sloan, Sr. Executive Producer; Mark Robertson, Sr. Editorial Director; Jessica Velmans, Senior Producer; Margaret  Dawson, Sean Dooley, Lead Producers;       Gail Deutsch, Keturah Gray, Eric Johnson, Tess Scott, Candace Smith, Claire Weinraub, Producers; Mary Kathryn Burke, Mark Abdelmalek, Editorial Producers; Sunny Antrim, Emily Whipp, Field Producers; Francesca Ferreira, Christina Ng, Associate Producers; James Holbrook, Kevin Bartles, Graphic Artist; Robert Ferrari, Ruth Iwano, Luis Mendizabal, Gina Pampinella, Jack Pyle, Bud Proctor, Joi DeLeon, Kenneth Kerr, Jeremy  Phillips, Nicole Swink  Christine “Tine” Fields, Editors; Thomas Buttner, Assistant Editor; Chris Komives, Sam Painter, Herb Forsberg, Tony  Forma, Camera; Dave Coulter, Alex Klymko, David Mitlyng, Jeremy Drowne, Mike  Karas, Audio.

Al Jazeera America

Kartemquin Films

Hard Earned

The immersive verité filmmaking of this six-part series invested viewers in the lives of the struggling working class by creating compelling human portraits.

This riveting six-part program, produced by Kartemquin Films for the network’s documentary series, Al Jazeera America Presents, follows five families who live – across the United States – at or near minimum wage.  The series uses innovative graphics and character driven storytelling to allow individual stories to speak for a larger group. Viewers follows the families both at work and at home, as they juggle the rising costs of housing, education, food, medical bills and more – all while working low-wage jobs.  As widening economic inequality and the wealth gap continue to increase in the U.S., these lower-income families struggle to get ahead, and they illustrate in human terms how wage stagnation, student loan debt and demographic shifts in the workforce contribute to financial instability for many Americans. The production’s gritty approach is coupled with its subjects steely determination to portray their lives honestly. They spring to full, three dimensional life, instead of cookie-cutter stereotypes.  In the strong tradition of duPont Award winning work, this series gives voice to the voiceless.

Gordon Quinn, Steve James and Justine Nagan, Exec Producers; Maggie Bowman, Series Producer; Katy Chevigny, Maria Finitzo, Ruth Leitman, Brad Lichtenstein, and Joana Rudnick, Directors; David E. Simpson and Liz Kaar, co-directors/editors; Cynthia Kane Senior Commissioning Producer.


60 Minutes

A Crime Against Humanity

Previously unheard testimony and unseen images bore shocking witness to the 2013 Syrian sarin gas attacks.

Scott Pelley and his producing team spent months researching before they traveled to refugee camps near the Syrian border. Both there and back in the U.S. they managed to track down survivors of the August 2013 Sarin gas attacks in Damascus, Syria that killed almost 1500 civilians, and have them bear witness to the atrocities. They found never before seen video accounts of the attacks, and worked with many organizations and experts to corroborate and verify the accounts, including one former U.N. inspector who had been in Damascus at the time and offered indisputable evidence. The images were so gruesome, traditional broadcasting standards would have precluded airing them, but 60 Minutes ultimately decided the evidence needed to be shown. As Pelley said on camera: “We wanted the world to see what happened, in all of its ugliness.”

Scott Pelley, Correspondent; Jeff Fager, Executive Producer; Bill Owens, Executive Editor; Nicole Young, Producer; Katie Kerbstat, Co-Producer; Amjad Tadros, Co-Producer; Ali Rawaf, Associate Producer; Jorge J. Garcia, Editor; Dan Bussell, Chris Everson, Ian Robbie, Camera; Anton van der Merwe and Everett Wong, Sound.

Cronkite News | Arizona PBS

Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona

A local student/professional partnership highlighted a flourishing but hidden heroin epidemic in Arizona.

Arizona PBS’s Cronkite News, part of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, took a raw look into the lives of heroin users, highlighting the recent trajectory from prescription opioid use to the cheaper, more potent heroin.  More than 70 students and eight faculty members participated in this innovative project that chronicles addicts struggling to maintain sobriety, as well as law enforcement’s struggle to tamp down the growing epidemic of young abusers. In an extraordinary move, the resulting documentary was aired simultaneously without commercials by all 33 broadcast TV stations and 93 radio stations in the state of Arizona in a unique partnership with the Arizona Broadcasters Association. During and after the simulcast, 100 recovery counselors answered hundreds of calls at an ABA-sponsored call center at Arizona PBS for assistance on heroin and opioid addiction. A strong online presence featured print stories, data, resource guides, even a graphic novel, all adding up to exemplary public service.

Jacqueline Petchel, Mark Lodato, Executive Producer; Erin Patrick O’Connor, Director/Editor; Elizabeth Blackburn, Producer/Assistant Editor; Sandy Balazic, Lauren Loftus, Hunter Marrow, Reporters; Sean Logan, Jessica Boehm, Dominick DiFurio, Emilie Eaton, Danielle Grobmeier, Lauren Handley, Vivian Padilla, Hannah Lawrence, Liliana Salgado, Reporters/Photographers; Jim Jacoby, Production Manager.


Ebola Outbreak & Outbreak

Two separate comprehensive Ebola hours combined to dominate coverage of this tragic international story.

FRONTLINE was on the ground early in the Ebola crisis with the first of two hour long documentaries that combined to win this duPont Award. Reporters risked their health and their very lives in Sierra Leone embedding with the health officials tracking the deadly disease.  With special access, the producing team was in the field for two weeks in an emergency treatment center run by Medicins Sans Frontieres, alongside an overwhelmed staff dealing with an overflowing morgue. They also accompanied a Sierra Leone Ebola surveillance unit into villages, as members searched for victims. And they brought home the human tragedy of the crisis with moving portraits of some of its victims.

In FRONTLINE’S second documentary hour on Ebola within the same year, producers again at great personal risk set out to provide sweeping context, both by investigating the outbreak’s origins and by holding officials accountable for the cripplingly slow initial response to the epidemic. Under the most difficult conditions, FRONTLINE’S producers demanded answers and received rare admissions of critical errors. And, as in the first hour, the thread throughout is the compelling human stories of those caught up in this tragedy. Both hours exhibited courageous reporting at its finest.

Ebola Outbreak

David Fanning, Executive Producer; Raney Aronson-Rath, Deputy Executive Producer; Eamonn Matthews, Executive Producer, Quicksilver Media; Daniel Edge, Senior Producer; Andrew Metz, Series Senior Editor; Wael Dabbous, Producer/Director/Camera;


David Fanning, Executive Producer; Raney Aronson-Rath, Deputy Executive Producer; Andrew Metz, Series Senior Editor; Daniel Edge, Director/Producer; Sasha Joelle Achilli, Co-Producer.


Growing Up Trans

An artful feature length documentary presented a poignant, clear-eyed examination of the complex world of transgender children.

In a year where the transgender experience was front and center in the public eye, this feature length documentary took viewers on an intimate, informative journey inside a new frontier — where it’s now possible for children who feel they were born in the wrong body to be spared going through the puberty of their biological sex. Told from the perspective of parents, doctors, and, most revealing of all, the kids themselves, the documentary takes a powerful look at this new generation, exploring the medical possibilities, struggles and choices transgender children and their families face today. With incredible access, the filmmakers responded to their subjects’ trust with a sensitive, empathetic but hard look at the challenges presented by this growing phenomenon.

Raney Aronson, Executive Producer; David Fanning, Executive Producer at Large; Andrew Metz, Series Senior Editor; Karen O’Connor, Producer; Miri Navasky, Producer


HBO Documentary Films in association with Sky Atlantic and Jigsaw Productions

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

A blockbuster feature length documentary exposé of Scientology challenged powerful interests head on.

Director Alex Gibney builds on Producer Lawrence Wright’s book of the same name to puncture the secrecy of the church of Scientology. The trip from the deluded fantasies of founder L. Ron Hubbard, detailed in film footage of his interviews and the recollections of his ex-wife, to an interview with a woman whose daughter was forced to “disconnect” with her because she’d left the church, is spellbinding. The feature length documentary grounds the story in interviews with formerly high-placed members of the church and includes disturbing footage of antagonistic church representatives intimidating those who left. The filmmakers themselves were under duress from the church, during and after the film was made. The production is outstanding, beautifully shot and edited.  A groundbreaking film that was widely seen, it is sure to change the image of Scientology forever.

Writer/Director, Alex Gibney; Sheila Nevins, Executive Producer; Sara Bernstein, Supervising Producer; Alex Gibney, Lawrence Wright, Kristen Vaurio, Producers; Chris Wilson,  Executive Producer, Sky Atlantic


Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel

The Price of Glory

An exceptional magazine investigation exposed the dark side of Qatar’s plan to host the 2022 World Cup, from buying athletes to exploiting workers.

Spanning four years of research, four continents, and scores of interviews, this extensive investigation into Qatar’s plan to achieve international recognition through sport exposed the price it has exacted in fair play, human rights, and even human lives. Reporter David Scott showed how in order to build world-class athletic teams, Qatar has crisscrossed the world, paying athletes from the poorest countries on earth to become naturalized Qatari citizens. Ten months before a series of arrests of FIFA officials suspected of taking bribes, Real Sports spoke with a former FIFA insider about the corrupt bidding process, and detailed how Qatari officials bought their way to the very top of world soccer. Off the field, the investigation documented how hundreds of thousands of the poorest people in Asia are imported to Qatar and indentured to create a lavish World Cup city in the desert. It also found some of the top people in Qatari sport were using it to fund terrorist organizations.

Josh Fine, Producer; David Scott, Correspondent/Producer; Jake Rosenwasser, Associate Producer; Joe Perskie, Senior Producer; Andy Bowley, Director of Photography; Mike Long, Stuart Ash, Editor; Tim Walker, Coordinating Producer; Nick Dolin, Senior Coordinating Producer; Bryant Gumbel, Host; Rick Bernstein, Executive Producer

KMOV-TV & Craig Cheatham

The Injustice System: Cops, Courts and Greedy Politicians

This commercial-free hour-long documentary exposed a revenue-driven system of law enforcement in St. Louis County.

In the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown and the ensuing crisis in Ferguson, MO, KMOV investigated the criminal justice system in several surrounding St. Louis communities. They found a system driven by profit with mandated quota systems directing police officers to write tickets and small municipal courts making money off speed traps and fines. Veteran reporter Craig Cheatham doorstepped the responsible public officials. This documentary featured classic accountability reporting, and is part of a major ongoing investigation that included more than 40 stories revealing misconduct, incompetence, racism and greed in policing and the courts. KMOV’s investigation had an impact, prompting one local police department to end its ticket quota system. It also forced the resignation of a judge and the termination of a police officer.

Craig Cheatham, Executive Producer/Investigative Reporter; Mike Murphy, General Manager; Brian Thouvenot, Executive News Director; Jim Thomas, News Photographer/Editor; Ryan Bellamy,Photographer/Editor.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A Watershed moment: Great Lakes at a Crossroads

An informative multimedia project clearly illustrated the damage caused to the Great Lakes by invasive species.

This deeply reported online project about the Great Lakes does just what an investigative piece of journalism should do – present a situation that has many layers and peel them back for deeper understanding. Individually, reporter Dan Egan’s stories blend important new findings with historic, scientific and political context about invasive species and read as clearly as a novel. There are 11 stories told in four chapters with engaging videos and motion graphics accompanied by a well written and fascinating narrative that explains the damage and points to solutions. The series provides a path for policymakers whose decisions at this key point in time will determine if the Great Lakes will be restored and protected, or allowed to continue their decline.

Dan Egan, Reporter – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Erin Caughey, Bill Schulz, Multimedia journalists; Lou Saldivar, Graphic artist; Mark Hoffman, Photojournalist.


Selfie Soldiers: Russia’s Army Checks in to Ukraine

Innovative reporting tracked Russian soldiers to Ukraine through their social media accounts

In this compelling online video, VICE News reporter Simon Ostrovsky set out to answer an elusive question: did Russian soldiers actively participate in Ukraine’s recent civil conflict?  Russia denies deploying soldiers there, but in the age of the “selfie”, open sources indicate otherwise. Using open sources such as social media – with help from citizen journalist Eliot Higgins and the Atlantic Council – Ostrovsky selected one prolific Russian soldier who posted on social media throughout a recent deployment, and then recreated many of the photos the soldier had posted online. Viewers follow Ostrovsky from Red Square to the Ukrainian border — and to a checkpoint in Ukraine itself, recreating and matching photos the Russian soldier had taken, then tracked down the soldier himself. This engrossing storytelling and creative reporting made a convincing case.

Simon Ostrovsky, Host/Producer; Shane Smith, Jason Mojica, Eddy Moretti, Suroosh Alvi,  Executive Producers; Martina Veltroni, Supervising Producer; Neha Shastry, Nilo Tabrizy, Associate Producers; Mikhail Galustov, Director of Photography; Dina Rayzman, Dmitriy Khavin, Editors; Brittany Ross, Associate Editor.

WBAL-TV & Jayne Miller

Freddie Gray Investigation

Outstanding local breaking news coverage of the death of Freddie Gray

WBAL-TV’s lead investigative reporter Jayne Miller led the way locally and nationally on the investigation into what happened to Freddie Gray, the 25 year-old Baltimore man critically injured while in police custody, who died one week later.   Gray was arrested and injured on April 12, 2015.  Miller immediately started questioning the official story.  Over the next three weeks she filed more than a dozen reports, utilizing multiple sources and witnesses that revealed a troubling timeline and detailed the moment Gray was arrested, the stops police made, and how long it took them to finally get Gray the medical attention he so desperately needed.  Her exemplary reports raised important questions about probable cause, police policy, and accountability.   Miller asked probing, smart questions and followed up with clear analysis of a fast changing story.

Tim Tunison, News Director; Jayne Miller, Lead Investigative Reporter.

WBEZ & This American Life

Serial: Season One

A groundbreaking podcast series about the inadequacies of the criminal justice system

Reporter Sarah Koenig offered listeners a unique perspective on the circuitous process of investigative journalism by releasing her real time examination of a questionable conviction in the form of a podcast series. Serial’s twelve episodes have top notch production values. The theme music and the show’s distinct voice resonated so widely on social media and in the public conversation, its reach increased to over 110 million downloads–shattering what was once thought possible for a podcast. Without a clear verdict on the innocence or guilt of convicted murderer Adnan Syed—this gripping  series does offer two invaluable things to listeners: a microscopic look at the inadequacies of the criminal justice system, and a behind-the-scenes portrait of an investigative reporter at work.

Sarah Koenig, Host/Executive Producer; Julie Snyder, Executive Producer; Dana Chivvis, Producer; Ira Glass, Editorial Advisor; Emily Condon, Production & Operations Manager.


Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies

An ambitious documentary series tackled a challenging topic with depth, context and humanity.

Thoroughly researched and beautifully produced, this engaging documentary series explored the scourge of cancer from every angle. The cost of the disease is vividly illustrated through the personal stories of families, survivors, doctors and researchers. The science behind the disease and its treatments are clearly explained and explored. The politics of fundraising and government spending on “the war on cancer” are unpacked. All of this is presented in the context of the long and fascinating history of cancer with a three-part, six-hour documentary that sustains to the end. The horrible beauty of cancer cells attacking the body from within is unforgettable. Cancer is a difficult, multi-layered subject that the producers have made compelling through a well-written script and interviews with people who are passionate about the subject.

Ken Burns, Executive Producer, Co-Writer; Barak Goodman, Series Producer/Director/Co-Writer; Dalton Delan, Pamela Oas Williams, David S. Thompson, Laura Ziskin, Executive Producers; Siddhartha  Mukherjee, Author; Chris Durrance, Deborah Dickson, Jack  Youngelson, Directors; Peter Livingston, Karen Sim, Nancy Novack, Editors; Geoffrey  Ward, David Blistein, Co-Writers


NYPD Bruised

The hard hitting series of investigative radio reports used data analysis to show questionable NYPD practices.

In the immediate aftermath of the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, WNYC embarked on a months-long exploration that went far beyond routine coverage of the NYPD’s use of force. The team used public data on complaints against New York City police officers to make some valuable observations. Most officers, for example, are never or rarely the subject of civilian complaints. But the WNYC analysis found that about a thousand cops have 10 or more complaints and one officer was the subject of 51 complaints. Reporter Robert Lewis looked for and found telling patterns in the conduct of a minority of NYPD officers, including the one whose chokehold led to Garner’s death. Along the way, one story flows into another, expanding on questions raised earlier in the series and clearly illustrating the problems with both individual stories and big picture data analysis. This is fair, balanced, sharp and complete–original and valuable.

Jim  Schachter, Vice President, News; Robert Lewis, Investigative Reporter; David L. Lewis, Metropolitan Editor; Noah Veltman, Data News Reporter; John Keefe, Senior Editor, Data News.


Journey Alone

An enlightening short documentary about the surge in illegal immigration of unaccompanied minors and its impact on North Carolina

In this excellent example of local reporting, WRAL reporter Leyla Santiago and photographer Zac Gooch traveled from North Carolina to the Rio Grande Valley where tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors illegally crossed the border from Mexico into the US. The team traced the children’s journey to find out how they got there, what kind of care they received and how the crisis is impacting North Carolina. It is commendable that WRAL devoted the resources to a project so far away from North Carolina, but there is a local connection: many of the refugees resettle into towns like Raleigh or Charlotte. The program is well shot and well paced, and expertly tackled a humanitarian and political issue of both national and local importance. The station also hosted a live web chat immediately following the broadcast, and posted resources for viewers online.

Leyla Santiago, Anchor/Reporter; Kelly Hinchcliffe, WRAL.com Reporter; Rick Gall, News Director; Aysu Basaran, Assistant News Director; Zac Gooch, Photographer/Editor; Steve Loyd, Graphic Artist.


KCBS Radio

Unholy Water

An unvarnished series of investigative radio reports exposes a church soaking the homeless overnight to keep them from sleeping on the church steps.

Acting on a tip, KCBS reporter Doug Sovern spent the night outside St. Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco, and made a startling discovery: the Cathedral was systematically soaking homeless people at night to keep them from sleeping on the church steps. Sovern started digging, and his investigation revealed that the Archdiocese had installed an illegal plumbing system, specifically to chase the homeless away. He interviewed victims, neighbors and witnesses, advocates for the homeless, church officials and city inspectors. He documented the frequency and severity of the unwanted showers with a creative use of sound. Sovern reviewed city records and found out that the Cathedral was in violation of building and planning codes, and was wasting hundreds of gallons of water a night in the middle of the worst drought in California history. With clear and direct writing, Sovern used restraint in this series of five reports to describe an outrageous situation. As a result of the series, the illegal sprinkler system was removed.

Doug Sovern, Reporter; Ed Cavagnaro, Director of News & Programming.


The 16 winning programs and one citation appeared on air, online or in theaters between June 30, 2014 and July 1, 2015. The duPont Jury looks for accurate and fair reporting about important issues that are powerfully told. Breaking news coverage, innovative storytelling and content, and stories that have an impact in the public interest are paramount.

The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards honor excellence in broadcast, digital and documentary journalism. The awards, established in 1942 by Jessie Ball duPont in memory of her husband Alfred I. duPont, are generously supported by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

dupont-columbia award

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