ProPublica has won the first-ever Peabody Catalyst Award for a story that revealed a controversial government practice of family separation at the border, the Peabody Board of Jurors announced Tuesday morning.
The independent, nonprofit newsroom was recognized for publishing approximately eight minutes of audio of ten sobbing Central American children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Within 48 hours of publication, the Trump administration halted its “zero tolerance” illegal immigration policy practice, which had been blamed for the separation of families crossing the border.
“No fake news here,” said Jeffrey Jones, executive director of the Peabody Awards. “Rather, ProPublica worked with local sources to find and publicize incontrovertible evidence of government policies — and their horrific application — that the government was also overtly downplaying. That is what courageous and effective journalism looks like.”
Other winners for the Peabody’s News and Radio/Podcast categories for programs released in 2018 include:
“Anatomy of a Killing” (BBC)
BBC Africa Eye
A masterful example of using open source technology and meticulous reporting, BBC Africa Eye collaborated with Amnesty International, the Bellingcat network, and independent analysts on Twitter to source a viral video of two women and their two young children being murdered by men in military fatigues. Despite government claims that the video was “fake news,” painstaking analysis showed the men to be Cameroonian army soldiers, who were eventually arrested and held accountable for the atrocity.
“Back of the Class” (NBC affiliate/KING)
Reporters Susannah Frame and Taylor Mirfendereski reveal the stunning failures of Washington public schools to provide support and services for students with disabilities. The only state with a fixed cap on special education funding, Washington faces an education crisis in special education classroom inclusion and graduation rates. The result is impressive journalism that led the Washington state legislature to prioritize education for all children.
“Cambridge Analytica” (Channel 4 News)
ITN for Channel 4 News
In coordination with The Guardian and The New York Times, Channel 4’s exposé shows the vulnerability of personal data to harvesting and misuse. A political consulting firm that mined millions of Facebook users’ profiles for data, Cambridge Analytica’s clients included Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Brexit. Leveraging information from a whistleblower and a secret recording of CEO Alexander Nix admitting the firm used espionage and entrapment to destroy political opponents, the impact of the reporting was immediate. Facebook lost more than $100 billion in share price and Cambridge Analytica closed operations soon thereafter.
“Separated: Children at the Border” (PBS)
In response to the U.S. government’s decision to separate migrant children from their parents in processing centers, “FRONTLINE” shows characteristic attention to broader contexts undergirding the policy and its enactment. “Separated: Children at the Border” explores the roots of the policy in El Paso, Texas, 12 months prior to it making headlines, and draws a line from Obama-era practice and infrastructure to current policy. From Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border to Washington, the report and its makers commendably show as much care and attention to the humans and traumas of the story as to its politics and rhetoric.
“Spartan Silence: Crisis at Michigan State” (ESPN)
“E:60,” “OTL,” ESPNW, “Sportscenter”
A precise demonstration of how rape culture works systemically, and the traumatic and horrible costs it has on women’s lives. Through tough original reporting, the series digs deep into Michigan State’s institutional knowledge of Larry Nassar’s abuse of hundreds of gymnasts and athletes dating back almost two decades. For the first time on camera, the programs provide testimony by a former sexual assault counselor who recounts the rape culture machinery at work–insulated internal handling of cases, lack of transparency, and discouraging victims from seeking external resources. The reporting includes powerful testimony by many abuse survivors, culminating in a roundtable discussion with five former athletes, and more than 140 “sister survivors” walking onstage to accept the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2018 ESPYS.
“The Plastic Problem” (PBS)
Correspondents Jeffrey Brown, Amna Nawaz and Paul Solman take an in-depth look at how our dependence on plastic is affecting ecosystems worldwide. The series effectively describes how our appetite for durability and convenience has created a pervasive and overwhelming problem — one that has become more acute since China has adopted much stricter requirements for plastic imports. In an exploration of the recycling industry and its limits, viewers are pushed to confront the difficult truth that recycling — a virtuous habit for many Americans and the basis for one of our long-time leading exports — will not solve a growing crisis.
“$2 Tests: Bad Arrests” (WAGA-TV)
WAGA-TV FOX 5 Atlanta
In a prime example of the ripple effect of excellent local investigate reporting, reporter Randy Travis delves into the reliability of drug-testing kits, known as “$2 Tests,” used by police around the country as a quick, cheap way to analyze suspicious substances in the field. Despite warnings of the tests giving false positives, dashcam videos show how police regularly relied on them to arrest individuals for everyday items such as headache powder, vitamins, or cleaning supplies. The coverage led police departments to drop the tests and compelled professional associations to educate law enforcement, prosecutors, and public defenders on the fallibility of the tests.
A searing account of how Larry Nassar got away with abusing hundreds of women and girls for more than two decades, this podcast is also an amazing exploration of the cultures that enabled this abuse. Reporters Kate Wells and Lindsey Smith peel away the successive layers of the case, starting with Nassar’s veneer of being a “good guy” to the many institutions that failed the survivors. Using numerous interviews and primary source materials, they carefully piece together the survivors’ collective story while zeroing in on key issues the story brings to light. The result is a laudable balance between revealing the victimization perpetrated by Nassar with a determination to give the survivors agency, strength, and a right to tell their stories.
“Buried Truths” (WABE)
Journalist Hank Klibanoff and his Emory University students investigate the death of Isaiah Nixon, a black man gunned down outside his South Georgia home in 1948 for exercising his right to vote. With intensive research of FBI documents, microfilm of archival newspapers, medical records, NAACP reports, and primary evidence held in private collections, the podcast has the appeal of the “true crime” genre but constantly strives for deeper historical understanding. The largely forgotten incident gains new immediacy when read alongside Georgia’s more recent struggles over voter suppression, helping us understand how the past touches the present.
“Caliphate” (The New York Times)
The New York Times
When the tanks rolled out of towns and cities liberated from ISIS control, Rukmini Callimachi moved in, searching for diaries, receipts, computer files, anything that would help her answer the key question of this gripping podcast: why did people join ISIS? Callimachi and audio producer Andy Mills present their answers in absorbing style, wedding storytelling, reports from Iraq, and interviews with a wide range of subjects–from Abu Huzayfah to a Yazidi girl tortured by ISIS troops–to produce a wonderful example of what longform audio reporting can and should sound like.
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“Kept Out” (Public radio stations nationwide)
Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, PRX, PBS NewsHour, and the Associated Press
Although some might assume redlining — the practice of discouraging non-white people from living in certain neighborhoods by manipulating rentals and homebuying — a thing of the past, this report found people of color are still far more likely than whites to see mortgage applications denied in 61 metro areas across the country. The review of 31 million records also unearthed redlining in ethnically and racially diverse areas. The series prompted investigations in several states, inspired the establishment of a $100 million affordable housing fund in Philadelphia, and forced banks to open branches in underserved areas.
“Monumental Lies” (Public radio stations nationwide)
Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX and Type Investigations
Exploring the contested history surrounding monuments in the South and the Southwest, this nuanced report adds depth to current debates about how the public should mark troubling chapters of our national history. The investigative teams explore how “Lost Cause ideology” often substitutes for historical accuracy by sending black and white reporters, individually, into Beauvoir, a Mississippi site dedicated to Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Listeners hear what “truths” each get told. The series also addresses how monuments to racist pasts is a national, rather than regional problem, as Southwestern states memorialize moments of settlement and colonization.
The Peabody Awards have recognized stories that matter since 1941. A jury comprised media professionals, scholars, journalists and critics evaluate the submissions each year, with 30 eventual winners named. Earlier this month, winners in the entertainment and documentary categories were announced. This year’s Career Achievement Award will go to Rita Moreno. The annual Peabody Awards Ceremony will be held on May 18 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York with journalist Ronan Farrow as the host.