NEW YORK, N.Y. - Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, a five-part epic documentary television series by Brian Lapping Associates of London, tonight won the Gold Baton, the highest honor of the annual Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards in television and radio journalism. The series, which was televised on both The Discovery Channel and the BBC, was cited for its step-by-step description of the political and military decisions that led to the dismemberment of the country.
"The story of Yugoslavia's disintegration is surely among the most complicated narratives of our time," said Columbia University President George Rupp in presenting the prize to Brian Lapping. "The winner of the Gold Baton accomplished what other media have not yet managed to do. It sorted out the characters involved and found visual documentation of the crucial events and decisions that led to Yugoslavia's collapse."
Twelve Silver Batons for excellence in television and radio journalism in 1995-1996 were also awarded. Winners included the ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS television networks; WFAA-TV in Dallas; KREM-TV in Spokane; independent television producers Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman; HBO; Anne Garrels, Norman Corwin and Mary Beth Kirchner of National Public Radio, and Radio Smithsonian.
Joan Konner, dean emerita of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and chairman of the awards jury, commented on the increasing challenge to news organizations by the public and in the courts.
"Journalism in the public interest has to be aggressive, independent, courageous, even unpopular," she said. "But there is a difference between probing into public corruption - and private pain. Between flashy exposure of wrongdoing - and flashy exposure of confusion, našvetŚ and misunderstanding. Between telling a story that's important and pursuing a story that is simply sexy or sure to raise a ruckus - or ratings. Much of the public mistrust and some lawsuits are self-inflicted wounds - the consequence, intended or not, of questionable habits, practices and excesses of the trade."
Jane Pauley, anchor and correspondent for the NBC News program Dateline, 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 55th year of the awards. The program was televised nationwide by Thirteen/WNET, New York, over stations of the Public Broadcasting Service. The Silver Batons were presented by Charles Bierbauer, senior Washington correspondent for CNN; Elizabeth Farnsworth, chief correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS; John Martin, national correspondent for ABC News; Harry Smith, correspondent for CBS News; and Susan Stamberg, special correspondent for National Public Radio.
Award winners were selected from 627 submissions that first aired between July 1, 1995 and June 30, 1996.
The 13 winners, with judging categories and citations, follow:
To Brian Lapping Associates, London, for Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation on The Discovery Channel.
This five-part epic series, made for the British Broadcasting Corporation and The Discovery Channel, untangles the political and military events that led to the dismemberment of the country that was Yugoslavia. It integrates rare video footage of council meetings and events that had never been televised before with interviews of the heads of all six rival states. The documentaries carefully explain how Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic systematically and brutally increased the territory under his control. Narrated by CNN's Christiane Amanpour, who has become the voice of authority on the region, this series accomplished what other media have not yet managed to do. It sorted out the characters involved and found visual documentation of the crucial events and decisions that led to Yugoslavia's collapse. Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation makes other coverage of this subject pale by comparison.
The Gold Baton was accepted by Brian Lapping.
To Nightline special broadcasts on ABC News: The State vs. Simpson: The Verdict; Journey of a Country Doctor, and Town Meeting: Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Nightline made three notable, enterprising departures from its regular nightly format, exceeding even its own high level of reporting. Anchor Ted Koppel, a master of the interview, brought out the unexpected, provocative and most human in his subjects. Nightline's adaptability in format and flexibility in network scheduling have broadened our expectations of what nightly news coverage can be. The programs are:
The State vs. Simpson: The Verdict, a week-long examination of the implications of the outcome of the O.J. Simpson trial. The series examined the issues of media impact and race, and secured an important interview with a member of the jury.
Journey of a Country Doctor, a two-part broadcast, followed Dr. Claire Hicks in her practice of treating AIDS patients over a broad swath of rural Georgia. It was an uplifting view of a courageous doctor in her struggle to deal with the death of her patients.
Town Meeting: Thou Shalt Not Kill, a two-hour live discussion in Jerusalem shortly after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Ted Koppel managed to control an often vitriolic debate among the deeply divided panel and audience of 900 Israelis. He permitted many voices to be heard, revealing much about the passions and problems besetting the country.
The Silver Baton was accepted by Ted Koppel, anchor and managing editor.
To 60 Minutes on CBS News for Punishing Saddam and Too Good to be True.
In Punishing Saddam, produced by Catherine Olian, the 60 Minutes team reported on the impact of UN sanctions on civilians in Iraq. Focusing on shortages of food and medicine as well as the decline in sanitary conditions because of the embargo, Lesley Stahl demonstrated the moral dilemmas of foreign policy.
In Too Good to be True, produced by Suzanne St. Pierre, Morley Safer revisited graduates of West Side Prep, a private inner-city school in Chicago, the same group he had profiled 16 years before. The success of these students refuted charges by social scientist Charles Murray in his book The Bell Curve that the school could not have improved the prospects of its poor, deprived children.
The Silver Baton was accepted by Lesley Stahl.
To Dateline on NBC News for Class Photo.
Starting with a 1982 photograph of a fourth grade class in the poor Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, Dateline did some empirical research by tracking down 21 of the 24 students, now in their 20's. The effort took nine months to complete, and the program devoted forty minutes to the significant results. A frightening number of the men were in prison or had been involved in crime; the women, for the most part, were successful. Their reunion was enlightening and powerful.
The Silver Baton was accepted by Producer John Block.
To NOVA: Plague Fighters and WGBH-TV on PBS.
The only film crew permitted in the "hot zone" of the deadly Ebola epidemic in Zaire was a team from NOVA. They spent a month near Kikwit, taking the same risks as the international medical rescue team, to record Ebola's effects on the local population and the heroic scientific war against the disease. Plague Fighters, a one-hour program, is a suspenseful human story of doctors and patients pitted against a terrifying villain in a race between science and death.
The Silver Baton was accepted by Paula Apsell, executive producer.
To Frontline: Shtetl on PBS.
This three-hour special edition of Frontline was a first-person journey of history and remembrance of Europe before World War II. The filmmaker, Marian Marzynksi, returned to his native Poland with a friend to rediscover the Jewish village, or Shtetl, of their past, to see how much had survived the Holocaust. They befriended a young Polish non-Jew and explored the shards of Jewish culture he collected in the shtetl called Bransk. Their visit is full of stories of warmth, betrayal, humor, and reconciliation. It is as much a report on modern Poland as it is a healing journey of mutual understanding.
The Silver Baton was accepted by Marian Marzynski, producer and director.
MAJOR MARKET TELEVISION (For television stations in the ten largest cities.)
To WFAA-TV, Dallas, Texas, and Robert Riggs for Investigative Reporting.
In 1995, senior reporter Robert Riggs and WFAA-TV broke the story of suspicious payments and commissions between a member of the Dallas Independent School Board and the insurance agent who provided the schools' many insurance and pension policies. The investigative team examined more than 4,000 documents and conducted more than 250 interviews in its uncompromising coverage.
(The ceremony did not include an excerpt from these reports for legal reasons.)
The Silver Baton was accepted by Robert Riggs, senior reporter for WFAA-TV.
MEDIUM MARKET TELEVISION
(For television stations in cities with 500,000 to 1.5 million television households.)
No Award SMALL MARKET TELEVISION
(For television stations in cities with fewer than 500,000 television households.)
To KREM-TV, Spokane, Washington, and Tom Grant for Investigative Reporting on the Wenatchee Child Sex Ring.
Tom Grant of KREM-TV was the only reporter to investigate a rash of indictments on charges of child sexual abuse in the rural area of Wenatchee, Washington in 1995. With more than 100 people implicated, 40 arrested, and 28 jailed, Grant found that many of the accused were poor, illiterate or below average in intelligence. He reported the story for more than a year and discovered that the cases hinged on the work of one police detective whose key witness was his 13- year-old foster child. Grant uncovered the criminal record of the detective and brought into question the reliability of children as witnesses in cases of sexual abuse. The 13-year-old recanted her testimony.
The Silver Baton was accepted by Tom Grant.
INDEPENDENT TELEVISION PRODUCTION
To Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman for Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud on PBS.
This 90-minute biography of a fabulously quirky character aired on the PBS series American Masters. The producers found superb archival footage that demonstrated the genius and the iconoclast in Buckminster Fuller--architect, engineer, poet, inventor and philosopher, whose most memorable legacy is the geodesic dome. The interviews with many artists, cultural observers, and scholars, provide insight and light-hearted reflections on Fuller's exceptional life.
The Silver Baton was accepted by independent producers Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman
To HBO for its commitment to serious long-form programming as exemplified by High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell and The Celluloid Closet.
HBO has become an important showcase for long-form non-fiction programming on important social issues. As a cable programming service, HB0 has offered television audiences a broader range of controversial subjects that are often more explicit than network broadcasts. This commitment was exemplified in two documentaries last year:
High On Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell, an hour-long cinema verite portrait of several crack addicts in a declining Massachusetts neighborhood. The camera took viewers uncomfortably close to addiction, leaving no romance in this view of the drug culture.
The Celluloid Closet, an engaging documentary about the evolution of gay and lesbian characters in Hollywood films. Intercut with anecdotes and observations by many film industry professionals are historical film clips, funny and poignant, once obscure and now remarkably frank. Narrated by Lily Tomlin and based on a book of the same name, this program turned the best of Hollywood's skills into a revealing self-portrait.
The Silver Baton was accepted by Sheila Nevins, senior vice president for documentary and family programming for HBO.
To NPR and Anne Garrels for Coverage of the Former Soviet Union.
Fluent in Russian and an expert on the Soviet Union, Anne Garrels is equally adept at political and economic coverage as she is with feature stories about cultural curiosities. She is as insightful about hunters in Siberia as she is about the war in Chechnya. Garrels' reporting is full of history, context, analysis and humor combined with the skillful use of natural sound as she covers 11 timezones and many more ethnic groups. Especially in her ability to find individual characters to personalize her stories, Garrels' journalism represents the best of NPR's international coverage.
The Silver Baton was accepted by Anne Garrels.
To Norman Corwin and Mary Beth Kirchner for Fifty Years After 14 August on NPR.
This half-hour elegy on the 50th anniversary of the Allied victory over Japan was written and directed by Norman Corwin, the pioneering writer of documentaries and dramas during radio's golden age. Based on the original essay that he created for Orson Welles on CBS Radio, Corwin, now 86, evokes the patriotism and grand emotions of America during World War II. This version was produced for NPR by Mary Beth Kirchner and narrated by Charles Kuralt. The Silver Baton was accepted by Norman Corwin and Mary Beth Kirchner.
To Radio Smithsonian for Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was on PRI.
This 13-part, six-and-a half-hour series created for Public Radio International is a masterpiece of historical programming. The producers gathered hundreds of rare tapes dating back to the 1920's from private individuals and stations, out of cellars and attics and long-forgotten tape libraries. Narrator Lou Rawls tours the vibrant and increasingly popular world of black radio and documents its influence on the changing black community.
The Silver Baton was accepted by Jacquie Gales Webb, executive producer for Radio Smithsonian.
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 29th year they have been administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Serving on the seven-member jury with its chairman, Dean Konner, are: Philip S. Balboni, president of New England Cable News; Henry Hampton, independent producer and president of Blackside, Inc.; Frances Hardin, executive producer for the International Monetary Fund Video Project and former CNN correspondent; Peter Herford, associate professor at the Journalism School and former CBS News producer; Eric Mink, television columnist for the New York Daily News; and Sander Vanocur, former correspondent for ABC News and NBC News.
Vern Diamond was producer and director of the broadcast; Mary Drayne was co-producer. 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 silver workshop of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 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.)