"For 70 years the Peabody Award has defined excellence in electronic media," said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards. "This list of Peabody recipients continues the commitment of the University of Georgia and the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the stewards of the award. With that commitment, we challenge media makers and distributors to reach higher, try harder and be ever mindful of their central role in public life."
The latest Peabody winners reflect diversity in content, genre and sources of origination. The recipients included The Pacific, an epic HBO miniseries about American soldiers and sailors fighting in the Pacific theater of World War II; Men of a Certain Age, TNT's world-wise comedy-drama about three middle-aged pals; Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian, an Independent Lens documentary that entertained as it set the checkered cinematic record straight; and The Moth Radio Hour, where the ancient art of storytelling is honored and expanded weekly.
International recipients included Report on a New Generation of Migrant Workers in China, a report by Hong Kong's Phoenix InfoNews Channel about challenges facing the latest wave of Chinese workers abandoning rural life for urban, and Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children, BBC Four's presentation of Xoliswa Sithole's secretly-filmed documentary about the abysmal living conditions of her homeland's youngest citizens.
The entertainment programs selected included The Good Wife, a CBS dramatic series about a political spouse's life after her husband's scandalous downfall, and Justified, FX's modern-day Western set in the wild, wild hills and hollows of Appalachia. Peabodys also went to Sherlock: A Study in Pink, Masterpiece/Mystery!'s ingenious 21st century update of Sherlock Holmes, and Temple Grandin, an inspirational, visually creative HBO movie about an animal-rights activist who is autistic. Degrassi, the long-running youth drama, was honored for My Body Is a Cage, a two-part episode that dealt sensitively and forthrightly with a transgender teenager.
In the realm of the arts, two American Masters documentaries won Peabodys: LennonNYC, a poignant, revelatory documentary about John Lennon's life and work in his adopted home city, and Elia Kazan: A Letter to Elia, an homage to the theatrical and film director by Martin Scorsese. Peabodys also went to William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible, an Art21 film that provided an intimate look at the creative process of a multifaceted artist whose work includes sculpture, animation, theater and tapestries, and Macbeth, a Great Performances production that sets Shakespeare's bloody tragedy in a modern, militaristic society.
An especially rich year for radio yielded seven Peabody winners in addition to The Moth. They included WNYC's series Radiolab, part theater of the mind, part scientific expedition; Lucia's Letter, a cautionary composite of several Guatemalan girls' accounts of abuse at the hands of "coyotes" hired to sneak them into the U.S.; The Promised Land with Majora Carter, a forum for deep, eye-opening conversations about the environment and justice; and Trafficked, a Youth Radio investigation of child-sex-trafficking made more powerful by first-person accounts.
Three examples of National Public Radio's journalism won Peabodys: Covering Pakistan: War, Flood and Social Issues, reports that made the country vivid beyond the headline disasters; Behind the Bail Bond System, an investigation that revealed inequities and conflicts of interest; and Seeking Justice for Campus Rapes, a study of sexual assaults at colleges and the shockingly light penalties that the perpetrators often receive.
In the area of news, Peabodys went to Reality Check: Where Are the Jobs?, in which WTHR-TV reporters exposed grossly inflated job-creation statistics by Indiana state agencies and officials; KSTP-TV's Who Killed Doc?, an investigation of a Minnesota sailor's accidental electrocution in Iraq; and Bitter Lessons, a probe by Dallas station WFAA-TV of government-funded "career" schools that fail miserably to do their jobs. A Peabody also went to The Lord Is Not On Trial Here Today, presented by WILL-TV of Champaign, Ill. This artfully assembled documentary examined the landmark court case that established separation of church and state in public schools.
C-Span's new Video Library—a free, searchable website uploaded with every program the public-affairs channel has televised since 1987—was honored with a Peabody for its contribution to history, scholarship and public life. And CNN was cited for comprehensive Coverage of the Gulf Oil Spill that encompassed every impact from economic to environmental to political.
The documentary honorees underscored the robust, diversified state of the non-fiction form. They included If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise, Peabody-winner Spike Lee's survey of New Orleans' ongoing recovery, five years after Hurricane Katrina; Wonders of the Solar System with Brian Cox, a dazzling, simulated tour of our celestial neighborhood; and Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, a touching, surprising history of two iconic athletes' rivalry and enduring friendship. The world of sports also was represented with commendable depth, breadth and insight by the Peabody-winning 30 for 30, a collection of documentaries commissioned by ESPN for its 30th anniversary.
Wars, past and ongoing, were the focus of several Peabody-winning reports. They included My Lai, an elegiac American Experience documentary that shed new light on the worst atrocity in U.S. military history; The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, a P.O.V. account of one man's deeply personal decision and its lingering impact; The Wounded Patrol, a FRONTLINE special that dealt with the psychiatric casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and The Cost of War: Traumatic Brain Injury; Coming Home a Different Person, a multimedia Washington Post website report about soldiers' concussive injuries and the science being used to treat them.
Rounding out the list of documentary winners were a trio of HBO films: For Neda examines what the life and death of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose senseless shooting made her the international face of Iranian opposition, has meant for her family, friends and country. 12th and Delaware takes stock of the unending abortion debate via the metaphoric coincidence of an abortion clinic and a pro-life pregnancy center on facing street corners in Ft. Pierce, Fla. Burma VJ chronicles the heroism of video journalists who clandestinely recorded the Burmese government's vicious crackdown on human-rights protests in 2007 and smuggled the images to the outside world.
"The Peabody Awards were established with deep respect for the critical role played by electronic media in contemporary society and culture," said Newcomb. "The annual announcement of the recipients continues in that spirit to recognize work that sets the highest standards for the media industries."
The Peabodys, the oldest awards in broadcasting, are considered among the most prestigious and selective prizes in electronic media. The Peabody Awards recognize excellence and meritorious work by radio and television stations, networks, webcasters, producing organizations and individuals. The 16-member Peabody Board is a distinguished panel of television critics, industry practitioners and experts in culture and the arts. Selection is made by the board following review by special screening committees of UGA faculty, students and staff.