ABC News Wins duPont Gold Baton

Photograph: ABC News President Roone Arledge, CC '52, and reporter Linda Pattillo, J '81. Photo Credit: Joe Pineiro.
Photograph: Host Tom Brokaw of NBC News with Silver Baton winner Charles Kuralt of CBS News. Photo Credit: Joe Pineiro.
Photograph: Presenter Charlayne Hunter-Gault of PBS with Ed Bradley of CBS. Photo Credit: Joe Pineiro.

The Gold Baton, the highest honor of the annual Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, was presented to ABC News last Thursday "for the depth and range of its news coverage, producing, in a single year, outstanding television journalism in various programs and in all forms."

It was accepted by Roone Arledge, president of ABC News and a 1952 graduate of Columbia College, who praised the award-winning reporting of network correspondent Linda Pattillo, a 1981 graduate of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

ABC News was honored by the jury for five reports: coverage of Haiti by Pattillo; and the programs "American Agenda: Women's Health Week"; "Day One: Smokescreen"; "Turning Point: Inside the Struggle -- The Amy Biehl Story," and "Peter Jennings Reporting: While America Watched -- The Bosnia Tragedy."

Twelve Silver Batons for excellence in television and radio journalism in 1993-94 were also awarded.

"The Gold Baton represents exceptional achievement -- a rare convergence of talent, knowledge and performance that illuminates the potential and pushes the boundaries of television and radio journalism," said President Rupp in presenting the Gold Baton to Arledge and Peter Jennings, anchor and senior editor of "World News Tonight." "This year the jury found that excellence in ABC News, in five specific entries that were all judged to be outstanding," Rupp said.

Joan Konner, dean of the Journalism School and chairman of the awards jury, reported on the year in broadcast journalism, saying that both quantity and quality were rising. In the last 15 years, annual news and public affairs programming on the four networks, including PBS, has increased from 3,000 to 6,000 hours, she said, and, with cable services, the total last year was 50,000 hours. "While the critics are often right that more of television is quick and dirty, commercial and sensational, so also is there more of it that is excellent, and outstanding."

The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards were presented in Low Rotunda in a ceremony marking their 53rd year. The program was broadcast nationwide by Thirteen/WNET, New York, over stations of the Public Broadcasting Service.

Tom Brokaw, anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw," was the host. The Silver Batons were presented by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, national correspondent for "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" on PBS; Lynn Sherr, correspondent for the ABC News program "20/20"; Richard Threlkeld, CBS News national correspondent; Judy Woodruff, CNN prime anchor and senior correspondent; and Neal Conan, correspondent for National Public Radio and host of "Weekly Edition: The Best of NPR News."

Award winners were selected from 538 submissions that first aired between July 1, 1993, and June 30, 1994.

The 13 winners, with judging categories and comments of the jury, follow:

GOLD BATON to ABC News for the depth and range of its coverage, producing, in a single year, outstanding television journalism in various programs and in all forms.

The five entries cited by the jury are:

Coverage of Haiti by Linda Pattillo: ABC News correspondent Linda Pattillo provided clear and consistently strong reports that focused on Haitian civilians and their suffering under military rule. Pattillo's courageous and informed reports, supported by illuminating video, brought new perspective to the situation and to well-documented cases of civil rights abuses, including rape and murder by Haitian authorities.

"American Agenda: Women's Health Week" on "World News Tonight": This powerful series of 10 reports on an array of health issues affecting women aired on five consecutive editions of "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings." The solid reporting, concise and clear presentation, and, most important, consolidation of up-to-date information about medical care for women's specific health needs were examples of journalism at its finest.

"Day One: Smokescreen": This series of five outstanding reports by correspondent John Martin investigated various aspects of the tobacco industry and aired on ABC News' prime-time newsmagazine "Day One" between Nov. 22, 1993, and May 16, 1994. ABC News broke the story that tobacco companies added nicotine to reconstituted tobacco to boost the nicotine level in cigarettes. This was one of several disclosures in the series, which also covered the list of 13 chemical additives that are allowed in cigarettes but banned from food products. Another segment reported on the "secret sickness" of tobacco workers exposed to the raw leaves during harvest. "Smokescreen" played a major role in raising the level of national debate on the hazards of cigarettes and smoking.

"Turning Point: Inside the Struggle -- The Amy Biehl Story": In an intensely emotional hour-long program, ABC News followed the poignant journey of an American family retracing the steps of their daughter Amy, a Fulbright Scholar, who was slain in a black South African township simply because she was white. Correspondent Don Kladstrup accompanied the Biehls to South Africa, where they met their daughter's friends and colleagues as well as other South Africans who assembled in tribute. As the family was swept up by the force of Amy's commitment to ending apartheid, they came to understand the tremendous social transformation that occurred there.

"Peter Jennings Reporting: While America Watched -- The Bosnia Tragedy": In this hour-long special, Peter Jennings took a critical look at Washington's failure to respond to the disintegration of Bosnia. He examined "ethnic cleansing" and other atrocities by the Serbs in Bosnia as well as America's paralysis in post-Cold War foreign policy. The hour was both a gripping assessment of American policy and a personal and compelling account of the continuing bloodshed.

The Gold Baton was accepted by ABC News President Roone Arledge and Peter Jennings, anchor and senior editor of "World News Tonight."

Following are the Silver Baton winners and their categories:

Network Television:
Charles Kuralt of CBS News
CBS News for "60 Minutes: Semipalatinsk"
CNN for Coverage of the Moscow Uprising
"Frontline" for "Innocence Lost: The Verdict" on PBS
"Frontline" for "Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo" on PBS

Major Market Television
WTVS-TV, Detroit, HKO Media and Children's Hospital of Michigan for "The Last Hit: Children and Violence"

Medium Market Television:
WCCO-TV, Minneapolis, for "Missing the Beat"

Small Market Television
Wisconsin Public Television for "My Promised Land: Bernice Cooper's Story"

Independent Television Production:
Blackside, Inc., for "The Great Depression" on PBS

Cable Television
HBO and Alan and Susan Raymond for "I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School"

Michael Skoler and National Public Radio for Coverage of Rwanda

National Public Radio for Coverage of South Africa

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 Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

Dedicated to Leonard

The ceremony was dedicated to the late Bill Leonard, the director of the duPont-Columbia Awards for nine years and a former president of CBS News who died in October at the age of 78.

Columbia University Record -- February 3, 1995 -- Vol. 20, No. 15