Low Plaza

Investigative Radio Documentary on Kosovo Wins Top duPont-Columbia Award

By Kim Brockway

Massacre at Cuska, an investigative radio documentary about Serbian atrocities in Kosovo in 1999, won the Gold Baton, the highest honor of the annual Alfred. I. duPont-Columbia University Awards.

"It is a measure of the times we live through that each year at least one of these winning programs is about man's inhumanity to man. The duPont jury applauds this radio documentary for telling us about ghastly events in a now forgotten part of the world," said Columbia University's President George Rupp.

Eleven silver batons were awarded for overall excellence to local stations, network, radio, and cable programs aired between July 1, 1999, and June 30, 2000.

"Our primary purpose is not to just confer degrees or give out awards," said Tom Goldstein, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and chairman of the awards jury, in presenting a silver baton to alumnus Tom Grant of KXLY-TV in Spokane, Washington. "Our purpose is to ensure that journalism in its many facets--print, broadcast or new media--makes our society a more honest, equitable place to live. Our graduates report so that citizens can know the truth."

Jeff Greenfield, senior analyst for CNN's Election 2000 coverage and Inside Politics, hosted the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards in the Rotunda of Low Memorial Library at Columbia University in New York City in a ceremony that marked the 59th year of the awards. Joining Greenfield in presenting the batons were Len Cannon, correspondent for Dateline NBC; Michel Martin, ABC News correspondent; and Robert Siegel, host of NPR's All Things Considered. The program, Great News! The Alfred I. duPont Columbia University Awards, will be televised nationwide on PBS by Thirteen/WNET, New York, on Thursday, January 18, at 10 p.m. ET. A special companion program, More Great News: Selections from the duPont-Columbia Awards, will air Sun., Jan. 21, from noon to 2 p.m. on Thirteen/WNET with full-length reports and long excerpts of the winners. Award winners were selected from 600 submissions that first aired between July 1, 1999, and June 30, 2000.

The 2001 winners are:

GOLD BATON

American RadioWorks for Massacre at Cuska on National Public Radio

SILVER BATONS

  • KHOU-TV, Houston, Texas, and Anna Werner, for Deadly Tires?
  • Sorious Samura, Insight News TV, London, and CNN Productions for Cry Freetown
  • NBC News Dateline for Paper Chase
  • FRONTLINE and WGBH-TV, Boston, for John Paul II: The Millennial Pope on PBS
  • ABC News Nightline for AIDS in Africa
  • National Public Radio for Radio Expeditions
  • KXLY-TV, Spokane, Washington, and Tom Grant for Public Funds, Private Profit
  • WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Laure Quinlivan for the I-Team Stadium Investigation
  • Steeplechase Films for New York: A Documentary Film on PBS
  • Crowing Rooster Arts, New York, for Abandoned: The Betrayal of America's Immigrants on WGBH-TV, Boston
  • CBS News for Armed America

The 12 winners, with jurors' comments, follow:

GOLD BATON

American RadioWorks for Massacre at Cuska (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3) on National Public Radio

This extraordinary hour-long radio documentary tracks down the perpetrators and the victims of ethnic cleansing in May, 1999, in western Kosovo. The correspondents found Serbian soldiers who give detailed descriptions of their actions and their orders, tracing the chain of command back to the Milosevic regime. The soldiers speak frankly about their motivations--patriotism, an opportunity to steal, and a hatred for Albanian Kosovars. The victims tell of their fear, their grief and anger. Overlaying the first-person accounts are analysis, history and explanations of the International War Crimes Tribunal. This program reaffirms the effectiveness of radio in presenting complicated issues in a compelling way. The Gold Baton was accepted by the Producers Stephen Smith and Michael Montgomery.

SILVER BATONS

KHOU-TV, Houston, Texas, and Anna Werner, for Deadly Tires? (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above)

This superb investigative series spotted a dangerous trend in the link between Firestone ATX tire tread separations and fatal accidents in Ford Explorers. Building a database of accident reports nationwide, these reports triggered the recall of more than 6.5 million Firestone tires. In addition, the series spawned numerous government investigations in the United States and abroad. The reports are beautifully shot, creatively produced, and sharply edited--consummate consumer reporting. The Silver Baton was accepted by investigative reporter Anna Werner.

Sorious Samura, Insight News TV, London, and CNN Productions for Cry Freetown (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above)

Photojournalist Sorious Samura produced a first-person report on the atrocities of civil war in his native country, Sierra Leone. After most journalists had fled the country in January, 1999, Samura risked his life to film brutally honest coverage of the violence committed by rebel soldiers and the Nigeria-led peacekeepers against each other and civilians. The duPont Jury praised Insight News TV in London, and CNN Productions for their roles in presenting Samura's reports to audiences in Britain and the United States. Rarely has a civil war been as truthfully documented on television. The Silver Baton was accepted by Sorious Samura, photographer and producer.

NBC News Dateline for Paper Chase (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above)

NBC News conducted a 15-month investigation and interviewed more than 250 people to reveal a disturbing pattern of "paper reviews" by major insurance companies to reduce their payments to accident victims. Citing State Farm Insurance as an example, Correspondent John Larson interviews a writer with no medical training who had written second opinions that were purportedly made by a doctor. The duPont Jury praised this full-length Dateline report for using compelling cases to examine insurance industry practices. The Silver Baton was accepted by Correspondent John Larson.

FRONTLINE and WGBH-TV, Boston, for John Paul II: The Millennial Pope (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above) on PBS

This epic documentary about the life and papacy of John Paul II is a masterful accomplishment because it takes a challenging subject, who is not interviewed at all, and weaves a tapestry of great intellectual and visual sophistication. In two and a half hours, Producer Helen Whitney examines the Pope's character and impact through seven lenses, including the history of Poland and the fall of Communism, and more abstract subjects like faith. The program pushes the form of biography well beyond chronology, and it incorporates a richly varied group of interviews that are clear and profound. The Silver Baton was accepted by Producer Helen Whitney.

ABC News Nightline for AIDS in Africa (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above)

Nightline devoted three consecutive programs to the massive problem of AIDS in Africa, focusing particularly on Zimbabwe. Correspondent Dave Marash is a master of reporting on suffering abroad. Even as he describes the AIDS epidemic as a "holocaust," he gently coaxes his interview subjects to talk about sexuality, lifestyles and death. Marash takes viewers from urban slum to bush country, from high-level officials to burial grounds, marshalling evidence as if he challenges an American audience to face the impact of this story. The Silver Baton was accepted by Correspondent Dave Marash.

National Public Radio for Radio Expeditions

National Public Radio and the National Geographic Society have collaborated in the use of pioneering audio techniques to take listeners where they have never been before. With fine writing and storytelling, the reporters in this nine-part series enter the world of bats, insects and archaeological expeditions. The duPont Jury commends the team for taking radio journalism to a new level of journalistic accomplishment. The Silver Baton was accepted by Producer Carolyn Jensen.

KXLY-TV, Spokane, Washington, and Tom Grant for Public Funds, Private Profit (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above)

This series of more than 50 pieces demonstrates how a reporter with ingenuity and persistence can take a story about a parking garage and a bond issue and unravel public and private conflicts of interests behind a shopping mall in Spokane. Reporter Tom Grant has a conversational style that makes the web of connections between powerful commercial interests and city officials an important story and a model of local television reporting. Reporter Tom Grant accepted the Silver Baton.

WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Laure Quinlivan for the I-Team Stadium Investigation (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above)

Reporter Laure Quinlivan pursued virtually every detail about the construction of a stadium for two years, and her digging uncovered a wide variety of abuses. The cumulative reports are devastating--from faulty construction to bogus hiring of minority and female subcontractors. The 22 stories are crystal clear, and the station's commitment of time and resources to this subject is commendable. The Silver Baton was accepted by Investigative Reporter Laure Quinlivan.

Steeplechase Films for New York: A Documentary Film (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above) on PBS

This sweeping ten-hour series is masterful in its scope and authenticity. Producer Ric Burns captures the eccentricities of the place while unfurling the history of New York against broad social trends. The series is beautifully written, well-organized and thoroughly researched. It makes an outstanding contribution to the genre of history on television. The Silver Baton was accepted by Ric Burns, producer and director.

Crowing Rooster Arts, New York, for Abandoned: The Betrayal of America's Immigrants (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above) on WGBH-TV, Boston

This startling documentary examines the plight of immigrants that resulted when Congress quietly passed a strict deportation law in 1996. Using powerful stories about immigrants trapped in federal detention centers, the hour-long program highlights the senselessness of mandatory deportation, especially for legal residents who committed minor offenses long before the law was passed. This documentary uses strong storytelling to illustrate the flaws of immigration policy. The Silver Baton was accepted by Producer David Belle.

CBS News for Armed America (28.8Kb Modem, ISDN/Cable Modem or above)

CBS News took a broad look at the practices of local police and sheriffs' offices that sold their used weapons to dealers who then resold them to the public and to criminals. Using computer-assisted reporting techniques to evaluate public records of weapons sales, Reporter Vince Gonzales documents how the sale of handguns, machine guns and rocket launchers contributes to dangerous crimes. This series of eight reports on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather led to reforms in several cities. The Silver Baton was accepted by Reporter Vince Gonzales.

The awards honoring excellence in broadcast journalism were established in 1942 by the late Jessie Ball duPont in memory of her husband, Alfred I. duPont. This is the 28th year they have been administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Serving on the eight-member jury with Dean Goldstein are: Philip S. Balboni, President of New England Cable News; Barbara S. Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association and former CBS News Washington Bureau chief; John Dinges, assistant professor at the Journalism School and former NPR editorial director; Lawrence K. Grossman, a former president of NBC News and PBS; Cinny Kennard, former CBS news correspondent and now visiting professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications; Eric Mink, television columnist for the New York Daily News and earlier for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and George Strait, senior vice president at drspock.com. and former chief medical correspondent for ABC News.

Christopher Lukas is producer and writer of the broadcast; Wayne Palmer is director. The broadcast is a co-production of Thirteen/WNET in New York and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Award winners receive batons designed by the late American architect Louis I. Kahn and executed by the MJF Silversmiths in Williamsburg, VA. The batons are inscribed with the famous observation of television by the late Edward R. Murrow: "This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box." (Address to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Chicago, Oct. 15, 1958.)

Published: Jan 18, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002


Search Columbia News    Advanced Search  Help

Phone: 212.854.5573    Office of Public Affairs