Low Plaza

2002 duPont-Columbia Awards Recognize Reports on Political Turmoil Among Winners

By Jonnet Abeles

A report on a Taliban terrorist camp, nearly a year before Sept. 11, joins reports on lapsed security at U.S. naval bases and the covert world of U.S. intelligence as winners of the 2002 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for outstanding television and radio news.

"Television and radio news have never been more central to our lives than during these past few months. These winning news programs point right at the crucial issues that have riveted us since Sept. 11," said Tom Goldstein, chair of the duPont jury and dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, which administers the most prestigious prizes in news reporting. He added: "In fact, if we had absorbed the meaning of news stories covered prior to Sept. 11 by CBS News and WABC-TV in New York, we might have been better prepared to understand the acts of terrorism that took place at home and abroad so recently."

The duPont-Columbia jury selected the winners from programs that aired in the United States between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001.

"This year's winners include reports on terrorist training camps, American national security, and political instability in Pakistan and Northern Ireland as well as investigations into toxic paint in southern California schools and genetically modified food," said Columbia University President George Rupp. "Not only do these duPont-Columbia Award winners alert us to the scope of problems in our society, but also, particularly in light of the events of Sept. 11, they highlight how interconnected the world is."

Tom Brokaw, anchor of the NBC Nightly News will host the televised Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards ceremony on Wednesday, January 16, 2002, in the Rotunda of Low Memorial Library at Columbia University in a ceremony marking the 60th year of the awards. Thirteen Silver Batons will be presented at the event, which will be televised nationwide on PBS stations on Sunday, January 20, at 10:00 p.m. (check local listings). In the New York market the awards will be aired on Thirteen/WNET.

Joining Brokaw in presenting the batons will be Kwame Holman, correspondent for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, Dave Marash, correspondent for ABC News Nightline, and Lesley Stahl, co-editor of 60 Minutes on CBS News.

The 13 winners of Silver Batons for overall excellence go to local stations, networks, radio and cable programs. Selected from nearly 600 submissions, the award winners are:

  • CBS News 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft and Leslie Cockburn for "America's Worst Nightmare?"
  • CBS News, David Martin and Mary Walsh for Reporting on National Security on The CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes II
  • WABC-TV, New York, Jim Hoffer and Daniela Royes for "Caught Off Guard"
  • CNN, Nic Robertson and Jonathan Miller for "Northern Ireland: Dying for Peace"
  • ABC News, Terence Wrong and Peter Bull, for "Hopkins 24/7"
  • Palfreman Film Group, FRONTLINE/NOVA and WGBH-TV, Boston, for "Harvest of Fear" on PBS
  • CBS Evening News and Steve Hartman for "Everybody Has a Story"
  • National Public Radio and Peter Overby for Campaign Finance Coverage
  • Court TV for "The Interrogation of Michael Crowe"
  • WNYC Radio, New York, and Beth Fertig for "The Edison Schools Vote"
  • KIRO-TV, Seattle, for "Why the Orcas of Puget Sound Are Dying"
  • KCBS-TV, Los Angeles, and Randy Paige, for "Poison Paint"
  • KOLD-TV, Tucson, and Chip Yost, for "Exploding Patrol Cars?"

The 13 winners, with jurors' comments, follow:

- CBS News 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft and Leslie Cockburn for "America's Worst Nightmare?"

This strikingly prophetic report examines the threat to the security of the United States and the world from Pakistan's political instability, its nuclear weapons and its ties to the Taliban. Broadcast on Oct. 15, 2000, 11 months before the suicide bombings in the U.S., Kroft and Cockburn questioned Pakistan's ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, Islamic militants tied to Osama bin Laden, and U.S. General Anthony Zinni about the volatile region. Using hidden cameras and facing obvious danger, these journalists prove the importance of international reporting when it is solidly researched, clearly told and visually impressive.

Steve Kroft, correspondent; Leslie Cockburn, producer; Don Hewitt, executive producer.

- CBS News, David Martin and Mary Walsh for Reporting on National Security on The CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes II

Because the covert world of U.S. intelligence is largely unknown to the public, David Martin's consistently excellent reporting on the beat of national security hits its peak this year. Gaining unprecedented access to the National Security Agency, Martin takes viewers through an agency struggling to regain its priorities in a post-Cold War environment. Paired with Producer Mary Walsh, the team breaks news on a wide range of defense and security stories with details that only experience and doggedness can ferret out. This is exemplary reporting that repeatedly breaks through the barriers of official statements.

David Martin, national security correspondent; Mary Walsh, producer; Jim Murphy and Jeff Fager, executive producers.

- WABC-TV, New York, Jim Hoffer and Daniela Royes for "Caught Off Guard"

In a series of four enterprising reports produced over several months, security around naval bases on the east coast proved to be surprisingly vulnerable. One report was shot in Norfolk, Virginia, coincidentally on the day terrorists blew a hole in the side of the USS Cole while it was moored off Yemen. While military security proved tighter on land, the reporter and photographer motored right up to submarines and battleships, even after their first report aired.

Jim Hoffer, reporter; Daniela Royes, producer; Bryan White, photographer/editor.

- CNN, Nic Robertson and Jonathan Miller for "Northern Ireland: Dying for Peace"

This one-hour documentary profiles Martin McGuinness, the former Irish Republican Army commander who is now Northern Ireland's Minister of Education. CNN's Nic Robertson creates a primer on the bloody conflict between Catholics and Protestants and brings the story back into view at a critical moment in the peace effort. With exceptionally close access to McGuinness and those who know his past, Robertson reveals the contradictions in McGuinness' life that make him both an ideal peacemaker to the Catholics and a Trojan horse to the Protestants. CNN breaks its own mold by stepping back from breaking news for this valuable perspective.

CNN Productions, Nic Robertson, senior correspondent; Jonathan Miller, producer/director; Vivian Schiller, executive producer.

- ABC News, Terence Wrong, and Peter Bull, for "Hopkins 24/7"

The ABC News team obtained access to virtually anything they wanted to follow at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. The result is six illuminating hours aired in prime time, each of them focused on several doctors and their most challenging patients. Viewers suffer with the doctors as well as the patients, agonize over their failures, the health care system and the daring treatments they perform so routinely. Nothing is sensationalized and there are no exposés, yet the series is a tour de force for the hospital and ABC News.

Terence Wrong and Peter Bull, producers; Sylvia Chase, correspondent; Severn Sandt, coordinating producer; Richard Chisolm, director of photography; Rudy Bednar, executive producer.

- Palfreman Film Group, FRONTLINE/NOVA and WGBH-TV, Boston, for "Harvest of Fear" on PBS

This two-hour special FRONTLINE and NOVA collaboration provides a stunning, comprehensive look at genetically modified agriculture and its global consequences. Part scientific explanation, part investigative reporting on the potential for ecological disasters, this program is very even-handed in its approach. With superior photography and graphics, the program lays out the benefits of manipulating the genetic characteristics of wheat, corn and milk and also explains the fears of those who oppose these laboratory feats.

Jon Palfreman, producer; Kathleen Boisvert, associate producer; Peter Rhodes, editor; David Fanning and Paula Apsell, executive producers.

- CBS Evening News and Steve Hartman for "Everybody Has a Story"

With a boyish sense of wonder and precision writing, Correspondent Steve Hartman breaks open the definition of news in his feature stories about ordinary Americans. His method is to throw a dart at a map, point his finger at a name in the local telephone book, and then turn a blind call into a parable of life. Hartman is a unique reporter who consistently strikes a deep emotional chord with the people he covers and his audience.

Steve Hartman, correspondent; Les Rose, photographer; Jim Murphy, executive producer.

- National Public Radio and Peter Overby for Campaign Finance Coverage

Peter Overby's prolific reporting on campaign finance for National Public Radio has set the bar for stories about money, power and political influence. Often he reports on the micro-level of campaign money, tracking the stakes in a judicial race in Ohio, for example. At other times, he follows the flow of soft money into both the Republican and Democratic Parties for issue advertising, proving that loopholes in campaign finance regulations have grown in proportion to the coffers of corporate interests.

Peter Overby, reporter; Ron Elving, senior editor; Bruce Drake, vice-president, news.

- Court TV for "The Interrogation of Michael Crowe"

This one-hour Court TV documentary reconstructs the police investigation and forced confession of a 14-year-old boy charged with murdering his sister. Using tactics that are legal but highly manipulative, police questioned him without a lawyer or a parent present. Recording the interrogation on videotape, the police gradually broke Michael down until he said that he killed his sister. Because Michael's parents and public defender never believed his confession, they persisted with their own criminal investigation, one that led directly back to a mentally ill drifter, a suspect the police had dismissed a year earlier. This report raises fundamental questions about the tactics of police interrogators, even in situations where video cameras record the process and the questioning is allowed by law.

Jonathan Greene and Marc Wallace, producers; Carolyn Kresky, executive producer.

- WNYC Radio, New York, and Beth Fertig for "The Edison Schools Vote"

Reporter Beth Fertig has mastered the complexities of the nation's largest school system as well as the craft of strong, active writing and radio production. This four-part series for public radio station WNYC dissects the reasons why New York City parents voted against hiring the for-profit company, Edison Schools, to run several of the city's worst elementary schools. Fertig lets all of the constituencies speak for themselves as she reports on the interplay of teachers, minority parents, school officials and Edison's public relations campaign. She explains why the vote was doomed to fail, despite the best intentions of everyone involved.

Beth Fertig, reporter/producer; Mark McDonald, executive producer.

- KIRO-TV, Seattle, for "Why the Orcas of Puget Sound Are Dying"

This one-hour documentary takes a well-known subject that is especially critical to the Seattle region and turns it into a splendid piece of journalism that is at once informative, affecting, urgent and thoughtful. There is breathtaking photography of whales above and below water and superior sound recording. The scenes are seamlessly edited and expert interviews are judiciously spliced into the main thread of the story. Viewers easily grasp why PCB contamination, reduced supply of food and whale watching have become what the program calls the "great harpoon of the 21st century."

Steve Raible, reporter; Ben Saboonchian, producer/writer; Tom Matsuzawa, Bill Skok, photographers; Peter Gamba, editor; Bill Lord, news director.

- KCBS-TV, Los Angeles, and Randy Paige, for "Poison Paint"

Reporter Randy Paige reexamines the well-known hazard to children's health, lead paint, and finds it still to be a pervasive problem in southern California schools. In this five-part series, Paige demonstrates on video how children rub their hands on peeling paint and contaminate their mouths and skin. Backing up the pictures with tests measuring the lead content on school buildings and picnic tables, Paige confronts the appropriate school officials and state leaders. Within days of the first reports, schools began inspections and repairs, children's blood levels were tested for lead and legislators sprang into action. This series proves the value of reporting on new aspects of the leading environmental health threat to children.

Randy Paige, reporter/producer; Larry Greene, Francisco Alferez, Dolores Lopez, photographers; Clay Thornton, editor; Jennifer Cobb, executive producer.

- KOLD-TV, Tucson, and Chip Yost, for "Exploding Patrol Cars?"

This classic two-part investigation demonstrates the enterprise of a young reporter in a small-market station who examines why local police patrol cars often explode when hit from behind, leaving officers trapped inside when the car bursts into flames. Chip Yost assembles crash data from far and wide to support the claim that the Ford Motor Company knowingly mounts the gas tanks in Crown Victorias between the rear axle and the frame, the "crush zone" that is highly vulnerable to rear-end collisions. Because Crown Victorias are used by 85 percent of the nation's law enforcement agencies, the local story takes on national importance.

Chip Yost, reporter; Ed Ayala, photographer/editor; Bob Richardson, news director.

The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards honoring overall excellence in broadcast journalism were established in 1942 by the late Jessie Ball duPont in memory of her husband. The Graduate School of Journalism has administered them since 1968.

Serving on the nine-member jury with Journalism School Dean Tom 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; Martin Haag, former senior vice president for news for the broadcast division of the A.H. Belo Corporation; Lawrence K. Grossman, 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 Communication; David Klatell, associate dean and coordinator of the broadcast program at the Journalism School; Eric Mink, television columnist for the New York Daily News; and George Strait, senior vice president for drspock.com and former chief medical correspondent for ABC News.

The PBS broadcast in January is a co-production of Thirteen/WNET New York and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Christopher Lukas is producer and writer of the broadcast; Wayne Palmer is director. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge for Thirteen/WNET. Jonnet S. Abeles is director of the awards and executive producer.

Award winners receive batons designed by the late American architect Louis I. Kahn and executed by MJF Silversmiths in Williamsburg, Virginia. 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: Dec 19, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002


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