Stories That Matter Spell Peabodys for Four Stations

Suggesting local investigative work is alive and well in many markets, four TV stations were represented at the Peabody Awards luncheon in New York May 19: KING Seattle, WBZ Boston, WTVF Nashville and WVUE New Orleans. The Peabodys go to the top “radio and television stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals” for their exceptional work, and are given out by the University of Georgia’s school of journalism. (B&C is a sponsor.)

KING won for “Hanford’s Dirty Secrets,” which shed light on a tank leak at a massive nuclear dump, and a substantial payment to a contractor for its “very successful” management of the site. Investigative reporter Susannah Frame spoke on behalf of KING. “We are so lucky to work for a local TV station that still believes in investigative reporting,” she said, before thanking new parent Gannett, and broadcast president Dave Lougee, for showing up in support.

WTVF—mistakenly referred to as WTCF by host Ira Glass—was awarded for “Question of Influence,” about what it described as rampant “cronyism” in Governor Bill Haslam’s administration. Phil Williams, chief investigative reporter, said the station is focused not on reporting about germs or new products that work/don't work. “We follow the money and show you how governments really work,” he said. “We are driven to do stories that matter to our communities—stories that make the world just a little bit better.”

Journal Communications owns WTVF.

WVUE, no stranger to awards ceremonies, claimed its prize for “Louisiana Purchased,” a collaborative, multi-faceted series with the Times-Picayune’s Lee Zurik cited the “commitment and vision” of his bosses at Louisiana Media Company (Raycom now operates the station) as the reporting crew spent four months unearthing facts on dubious campaign finance practices.

On the stage with Zurik and others was Mikel Schaefer, recipient of B&C’s News Director of the Year award last year.

Then it was WBZ—TV and radio—for its work on the Boston Marathon bombings. Anchor Lisa Hughes spoke on behalf of CBS’ Boston operation. “Nothing was more important to us than getting the story right,” she said. “The community was grieving, still in shock.”

Other winners include AMC’s Breaking Bad, Netflix’s House of Cards, Tom Brokaw and NPR’s The Race Card Project; several winners tackled the topics of race or government malfeasance.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was awarded for The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross on PBS, and had his speech written on the back of his luncheon ticket. Brokaw, who got a standing ovation, said reporting is “not just about 140 characters…it’s about serving mankind.” Bryan Cranston cited the inventiveness of Sony Pictures Television and the courageousness of AMC for taking a chance on Breaking Bad.

Sean Fine, who produced Life According to Sam with his wife Andrea Nix Fine and Miriam Weintraub, similarly credited HBO for green lighting the story of a teenage boy with the rare age-accelerating disease progeria.

Fine got emotional while mentioning Sam Berns’ death earlier this year.

“It takes balls to tell stories that matter,” he said.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.