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PBS Science News Series „Novaš Wins

Highest duPont-Columbia Journalism Award

„Nova,š the pioneer science news series on the Public Broadcasting Service, tonight won the Gold Baton, the highest honor of the annual Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards.

„The gold this year goes to őNova,‚ the series that brings us elegant photography, thorough research, often suspense, and always good reporting -- to teach us about our world,š Columbia University President George Rupp said in presenting the prize to Executive Producer Paula Apsell.

Eleven silver batons were awarded for overall excellence to local stations, network, and radio programs aired in 1997-1998.

Tom Goldstein, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and chairman of the awards jury, praised independent producers as „individuals who dream up an idea and through fierce struggles bring it to fruition.š In paying tribute to the late independent producer, Henry Hampton, Dean Goldstein noted that the winners included a steelworker, a teacher and a social worker who were winning for their very first television programs. „A point of view is visible in their work,š he said, „ but so is credibility, the most desirable of journalistic goals.š

Ed Bradley, co-editor and correspondent of CBS News „60 Minutes,š 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 57th year of the a wards. The program will be televised nationwide on PBS by Thirteen/WNET, New York. The Silver Batons were presented by Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent; Cokie Roberts, ABC

News chief Congressional analyst and co-anchor of „This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Robertsš; and Scott Simon, host of National Public Radio's „Weekend Edition.š

Award winners were selected from 634 submissions that first aired between

July 1, 1997 and June 30, 1998. The winners are:

Gold Baton:

Silver Batons:

Learning at Hoover Elementary on PBS.

Lipinski's Primary Campaign.


The 12 winners, with jurors‚ comments, follow:


The five NOVA programs cited by the duPont Jury were:

Everest: The Death Zone

After eight climbers were killed in a single day near the summit of Everest in 1996, NOVA asked a team of three Everest veterans, led by filmmaker-climber David Breashears, to find out the physiological and psychological reasons why the eight had died. The Death Zone grippingly records the effects of high altitude on the brain, and the viewer comes to understand both the magnificence and the hazards of the climb.

The Brain Eater

This fine collaborative effort between NOVA and the BBC is a fascinating, authoritative hour on the potential dangers of the deadly infection "mad cow disease," formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). At its best, the program humanizes the subject by focusing on what is believed to be a related form of the disease in humans, at one point using rare footage of tribal customs in New Guinea. More importantly, this NOVA program uses the series' hallmark technique -- buildi ng the story of science around the natural suspense of pure and applied research.

Supersonic Spies

In this multinational collaboration, NOVA exposes years of Soviet espionage into British and French aviation design in the race to produce the first supersonic passenger airplane. Starting with the dramatic crash in 1973 of the Soviets‚ version of the "Konkordski," the NOVA story knits together the evidence of cold war espionage in the world of industrial production.

China's Mysterious Mummies

NOVA accompanies Chinese and American scholars into remote deserts of Central Asia. The team of anthropologists and archaeologists unearthed perfectly-preserved mummies that indicate European nomads inhabited the region more than 2500 years ago . The storytelling is superb, the facts are surprising and controversial. NOVA applies science to the history of



Coma closely follows the treatment of several patients with severe head injuries to demystify the notion of sudden and miraculous recoveries. By focusing on a pioneering medical technique and the reasons why it was developed, Coma brings complex medical treatment down to human scale. This one NOVA program, in an exceptionally strong season, best exemplifies the overall qualities of the series: elegant photography, fine research, often suspense, and always fine reporting.

The Gold Baton was accepted by the Executive Producer Paula Apsell.



In this powerful four-part series, Ted Koppel penetrates the myth of high-tech maximum security prisons. Far from being the comfortable country club life that the public imagines, Koppel gives viewers an education in how the most violent prisoners liv e. The series illustrates that the ultimate in solitary confinement is

dehumanizing for all of society. With the complete cooperation of the prison staff and many inmates in Cell Block C of the Estelle Prison in Huntsville, Alabama, Nightline's mission is to show the public exactly what their votes and their tax d ollars are buying.

The Silver Baton was accepted by Mark Nelson, senior producer.

Learning at Hoover Elementary on PBS.

Independent filmmaker and fourth-grade teacher Laura Simón is unabashed in her use of this documentary, her first, to demonstrate a point of view -- that California's Proposition 187, California's new immigration policy, is turning teachers into a quas i border patrol. The hour-long documentary is unpretentious and surprising. It provides an intense debate on the issue through the

opposing views of teachers, students, and parents. The central character, Mayra, leads us through Hoover Elementary, her home, and her dilemma. She may be a schoolgirl now, but faced with the deportation of her mother, where will she live and how can she learn?

The Silver Baton was accepted by producer Laura Angelica Simón and Lisa

Heller, executive producer.

A massive investigative undertaking for a local television station, this six-part series on inadequate medical care provided to military families became a national story. For Stuart Watson, and WRAL-TV, the story had a compelling local resonance becau se of the military personnel and bases located in North Carolina.

Still Watson traveled to Boston, Oklahoma and Washington, DC, to document the

pervasiveness of the problem and the human suffering that resulted.

(WRAL-TV's investigative team shared information with the Dayton Daily News and the Cox News Service. These news organizations collaborated on the costs and research efforts involved in filing requests for records and creating a nationwide datab ase of doctors who had been disciplined for their work. Reporters Russell Carollo and Jeff Nesmith of the Dayton Daily News received the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in national reporting for their series on military medicine. Both the newspaper series and the television series first appeared in October

1997, bringing the story instantly before a nationwide audience.)

The Silver Baton was accepted by Stuart Watson, investigative reporter.

This half-hour documentary chronicles the discovery of the wreckage of an American fighter plane and its pilot, Wilton Erickson, shot down by German gunfire over Belgium during World War II. Reporter Bill Sheil follows Erickson's Ohio-based family to Europe to meet the young German who has worked inexorably to locate the wrecked plane and the remains of the airman. The story is restrained and symbolic; the grandson of a German soldier finds closure with the family of a long-lost fighter pilot.

The Silver Baton was accepted by Bill Sheil.

In this seven-part series for the CBS Evening News, Eric Engberg and Vince Gonzales broke the story that the Vietnam war hero buried at Arlington National Cemetery was anything but an unknown soldier. The investigative team pursued two strands of this story: evidence that forensic scientists are now able to use DNA

samples to identify virtually any soldier's remains as well as evidence that the Pentagon deliberately obscured forensic reports so that they could enshrine an unknown soldier from the Vietnam War. After 26 years, these reports brought the remains of Sgt. Michael Blassie back to his family.

The Silver Baton was accepted by Eric Engberg, correspondent.

This hour-long independently-produced radio documentary is the autobiographical account of a cancer patient. National Public Radio health reporter Rebecca Perl is blunt and compelling as she records her treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. After chem otherapy and radiation have failed, she plunges into the rigors of a bone marrow transplant. All the more startling because Perl's voice and the sounds of the hospital are so stark, this is a diary full of the reporter's medical expertise and emotional r esponses. It is an illuminating

report on cancer and the ravages of the most radical treatment. Because of the reporter's wry insight, the documentary is well-suited to the series in which it aired -- This American Life distributed by Public Radio International.

The Silver Baton was accepted by producer Dan Collison, writer and narrator Rebecca Perl, and field producer Tom Jennings.

This one-hour documentary is beautifully focused on the role of African-American laborers throughout the history of the steel industry. It is suffused with the filmmaker's passion for revealing what had been deliberately overlooked: that black lab orers most often had the grittiest, most dangerous jobs in the mines and the mills, and they never rose up through the ranks into management. This is independent filmmaking at its very best, simply produced by a retired steelworker with a mission and his filmmaker friend.

The Silver Baton was accepted by co-producers Raymond Henderson and Tony


Lipinski's Primary Campaign.

Chicago Reporter Carol Marin is intrepid in her reporting on illegal petitions that favored Democratic Congressman William Lipinski in his last primary campaign. She has the details firmly in hand in confronting Lipinski and his volunteer precinct wor kers. They had circulated petitions on behalf of both the Democratic and Republican candidates and nominated a bogus Republican candidate just to weaken Lipinski's Republican opponent. This three-part series is local reporting at its best.

The Silver Baton was accepted by Carol Marin, reporter.

These three reports amass shocking evidence that the international pharmaceutical industry preys on the sick, especially in developing nations. In one segment, Mike Wallace demonstrates that antifreeze produced in China was mislabeled as glycerin and then became an additive in children's fever medicine sold in Haiti. Eighty-eight Haitian children died before American experts helped to identify the deadly additive. The second report focuses on how counterfeit and

substandard medicines are shipped around the world with the unwitting help of the World Health Organization. The segment also features a high-level WHO executive, who had faked his credentials. The final report looked at the blood plasma industry and how companies manipulated the shortage of immunoglobulin to reap higher profits.

The Silver Baton was accepted by Mike Wallace.

Reporter Renee Ferguson coolly and convincingly uncovers racial discrimination by immigration agents at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Black women were disproportionately targeted for strip-searches by customs agents, who suspected them of ca rrying drugs. Customs guidelines were surprisingly vague and contradictory, yet immigration agents inspected black women twice as

often as white women and subjected them to degrading and upsetting body

checks. Sixty women were interviewed in this investigation, none of

whom were found to be carrying drugs. WMAQ's reports stimulated a

federal review of customs practices nationwide.

The Silver Baton was accepted by reporter Renee Ferguson.

This riveting hour by a social worker making her first documentary is a compassionate look at the troubled system of foster care in New York City. With the intimacy of a hand-held camera, the program examines the lives of a brother and sister, their b irth parents, and their foster home. It painfully demonstrates how difficult it is for society to make the choice between birth parents and foster


The Silver Baton was accepted by producer Vanessa Roth.


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 26th year they have been administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Serving on the seven 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 Din ges, assistant professor at the Journalism School and former NPR editorial director; Lawrence K. Grossman, a former president of NBC News and PBS; David Klatell, associate dean and coordinator of the broadcast program at the School; and Eric Mink, televis ion columnist for the New York Daily News and earlier for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Christopher Lukas was producer and writer of the broadcast; Wayne Palmer was director. The broadcast is a coproduction 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 ins trument 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.š (Address to the Radio and Television News Directo rs Association, Chicago, Oct. 15, 1958.)

Satellite coordinates for the PBS feed are: GE3 Transponder 24 Virtual Channel 502 at 16:00 to 17:00 E.T., Thursday, January 21, 1999.

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