The Peabody Awards Celebrates 75 Years and Ushers In Historic Changes

The awards will honor 60 finalists and 30 winners for the first time in its history.
From left: Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Stanley Nelson. (Photos: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images; Mike Coppola/Getty Images; Maarten de Boer/Getty Images)
Promoted byPromoted by Pivot
Apr 12, 2016· 9 MIN READ
Celeste Hoang is the Film & TV Integration Editor for TakePart.

It’s a historic year for storytelling. As the Peabody Awards enters its 75th year, the ceremony celebrating outstanding stories across television, the web, and radio is—for the first time in its history—naming 60 finalists and 30 winners, judged by its board of jurors. The winners, known as The Peabody 30, will be unveiled in a succession of announcements by category over the next few weeks. Previously, no finalists were named, and there was no cap on the number of winners.

Additionally, two individual winners and one institutional winner were announced Tuesday: Late-night-television host David Letterman and documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson will be recognized for their contributions to electronic media, and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart will receive an institutional Peabody.

“What better way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Peabody Awards than to recognize two individuals and a television program that have transformed the cultural landscape through their unique contributions?” Peabody Awards director Jeffrey P. Jones said in a statement Tuesday.

Beginning April 19, winners in the news, radio/podcast, public service, and web categories will be announced via Facebook Live. Entertainment and children’s/youth winners will be announced on the Today show on April 21, followed by documentary and educational winners via Facebook Live on April 26. Winners will be honored at the Peabody ceremony on May 21 in New York City. The awards program will be hosted by Key & Peele star Keegan-Michael Key.

The gala will be televised in a 90-minute special, The 75th Anniversary Peabody Awards, airing on Pivot, TakePart’s sister network, on June 6 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Following are the winners that have been announced so far, with citation descriptions provided by the Peabody Awards, which is administered through the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications at The University of Georgia. As winners are revealed, we’ll be updating this story to reflect the most recent list of awardees.

Individual Winners

David Letterman

With a gap-toothed grin and a mind full of mischief, David Letterman sauntered onto the late-night TV landscape in 1982, ripped it up, and remodeled it in the image we see now on every network and in every late-night host. Letterman's irreverence, his outlandish gags, and his prickly personality all resonated with wary, postmodern viewers. But if he was a brat in the hilarious early years, he literally grew up on the air, maturing into a late-night statesman as comfortable with a sincere commentary as a stupid pet trick. He came to us an enfant terrible; he retired a legend.

Stanley Nelson

A prolific documentary filmmaker, a seeker of truth and justice, Stanley Nelson has examined the history and experience of African Americans in a powerful, revelatory body of work that includes three Peabody winners—The Murder of Emmet Till, Freedom Summer, and Freedom Riders—and ranges from Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple to Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice. A MacArthur Fellow, Nelson is also cofounder of Firelight Media, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing young documentary filmmakers who advance underrepresented stories.

Institutional Winner

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

For decades there had been programs on television that spoofed newsmakers and current events, but The Daily Show With Jon Stewart was something different, transformative. In an era of politicized, echo-chamber news channels and traditional-journalism timidity, Stewart and a cohort of talented farceurs, several of whom have also become household names, didn’t just make jokes about news—they became a crucial source of news for citizens united in their disappointment and disgust with politics and cable news. While The Daily Show is a program that existed before and after Stewart’s tenure, there is little doubt that Stewart and his team, over the course of 17 years, made a lasting impact on political satire, television comedy, and even politics itself.

UPDATED April 19, 2016—11:30 a.m.

News, Radio/Podcast, Web, and Public Service Winners

Burning Questions: WTAE Investigates Fire Response Times (WTAE-TV)

WTAE-TV, Pittsburgh

WTAE reporter Paul Van Osdol provided a four-alarm public service when he doggedly investigated the wildly varying response times of Pennsylvania’s volunteer fire departments and found a chronically inefficient system that hadn’t changed substantially since the days of horse-drawn trucks and bucket brigades. His sleuthing prompted legislative hearings and the passage of bills aimed at quickening response and saving lives, as well as public questioning of the dependence on volunteers instead of professional municipal services.

Desperate Journey (PBS/WETA-TV)

PBS NewsHour

Reporting on the men, women, and children fleeing Syria and other Middle Eastern war zones, NewsHour’s Desperate Journey series captured the life and breadth of the worst displaced-person crisis since World War II: the initial, inspirational hospitality of European hosts, the eventual resistance as the waves of humanity became overwhelming, and the hopes and horrors experienced by the refugees themselves.

Do Not Track (donottrack-doc.com)

Upian, National Film Board of Canada, Arte, Bayerischer Rundfunk, CBC/Radio-Canada

Visiting Do Not Track may leave you feeling like a moth in a spider web. Focused on internet economics and privacy issues, the website’s personalized episodes provide a wealth of provocative information about the science of cookies, tracking, and who is profiting from your social media participation. The user is shocked at the breadth of information he or she regularly gives up in the course of routine and mundane activities across digital and mobile platforms.

European Migrant Crisis/"A New Life in Europe"/"The Year of Migration" (BBC News, BBC World Service, BBC Radio)

BBC

The BBC reminded us why it’s the gold standard of electronic-media news with its wide-ranging, richly detailed, deeply humane television and radio reporting about the reality and ramifications of the surge of millions of Middle Eastern refugees into Europe.

Meet the Composer (WQXR.org)

WQXR’s Q2 Music

Fascinating, intelligent, enlightening podcasts devoted to the work of current classical composers. The show integrates music with thoughtful conversation about it without distracting from either.

911: Lost on the Line (WXIA-TV)

WXIA-TV, NBC, Atlanta

Inspired by a single 911 call for help that failed fatally, WXIA reporter Brendan Keefe launched an ambitious, enterprising multimedia probe that revealed government oversights and technical shortcomings in supposedly smart iPhones and in telecommunications infrastructure that were causing needless deaths across the country.

Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel: The Killing Fields (HBO)

Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel

Reporting from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Kenya, Real Sports documented the billion-dollar criminal enterprise that is the ivory trade, the sickening slaughter of elephants that fuels it, the devotion and bravery of rangers trying to protect them, and the delusion of trophy hunters who insist the money they bring to Africa somehow slows the decimation.

Secret Mustard Gas Experiments (NPR)

NPR News

Horrifying and infuriating, although, alas, not surprising, this unforgettable report documented the U.S. Army’s testing of an abominable chemical weapon on some 60,000 of our own World War II soldiers, most of whom were black.

The Case for School Desegregation Today (This American Life)

This American Life

In a collection of powerful, personal stories about the nexus of education and race, This American Life weighs the statistical benefits of desegregation against the pressure, even humiliation, that many minority students experience. The two-part broadcast is a bold, honest examination of what can happen when social engineering meets reality.

The Laquan McDonald Investigation (WMAQ-TV)

WMAQ-TV, NBC, Chicago

Launching its probe six months before a Chicago police officer was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, WMAQ’s relentless, unrivaled reporting brought to light a host of police procedural infractions, official disinformation, and outright lies and contributed to a police department shake-up.

UPDATED April 22, 2016—1:30 p.m.

Entertainment and Children’s Winners

Beasts of No Nation (Netflix)

Red Crown Productions, Participant Media, Come What May Productions, New Balloon

A superbly acted, strikingly photographed film about an African warlord training an orphan child to join his guerrilla army, it never loses sight of their humanity, brutal acts notwithstanding.

Black-ish (ABC)

ABC Studios

A bright, boisterous, big-hearted comedy about an affluent African American family working overtime to keep it real, Black-ish doesn’t let jokes get in the way of insights about race, class, guns, and other hot-button topics that most popular entertainment shows scarcely mention.

Deutschland 83 (SundanceTV)

Fremantle International/Kino Lorber

A suspenseful, well-acted spy drama that takes place a few years before the Soviet bloc cracked and told from the perspective of East Germans and West Germans, it reheats Cold War conflicts in surprising ways.

Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios for Netflix

This part superhero saga, part neo-noir program asks unpopular questions about power and consent while constructing vivid and compelling characters. Krysten Ritter helps us discover the strengths and vulnerability of Jessica, a hard-boiled private detective who has rejected the role of superhero but must still figure out how to overcome the evil that threatens her, her friends, and her community.

Master of None (Netflix)

Universal TV, Oh Brudder Productions, Alan Yang Productions, Fermulon

By turns profound and mundane, ridiculous and deadly serious, this imaginative, shape-shifting comedy chronicles the misadventures of Dev (series creator Aziz Ansari), a 30-year-old Indian American who’s still trying to figure out what to do with his life. To say it resonates with young adult viewers is an understatement.

Mr. Robot (USA Network)

Universal Cable Productions

A riddle wrapped in a mystery shrouded in a hoodie, Mr. Robot’s hero, Elliot, is a tormented, antisocial cybersecurity whiz caught up in techno-anarchy conspiracy. The series’ twisting, turning, Rubik plot is almost as startling as its overtly anticorporate stance. Occupy Prime Time?

The Leftovers (HBO)

HBO Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television in association with Damon Lindelof Productions and Film 44

After an inexplicable global cataclysm—a massive, random harvest—thins Earth’s population by 140 million, the survivors in this challenging, deeply philosophical, boldly imagined drama are left to figure out how to get on with life in a world that has stopped making sense.

Transparent (Amazon Video)

Amazon Studios

Jeffrey Tambor’s transsexual Maura is not just the lead character of this bold, honest dramedy—she’s the catalyst for her typically dysfunctional modern family’s ongoing reevaluation of itself. Its broadened scope and lively sense of self-awareness, along with irreverent wit and poignant moments, made Transparent’s second season even stronger than the first.

UnReal (Lifetime)

A+E Studios

A spot-on, behind-the-scenes sendup of ersatz “reality” shows such as The Bachelor, UnReal makes viewers care about venal producers and petty contestants even as it skewers them.

Wolf Hall (PBS)

A Playground Entertainment and Company Pictures Production for BBC and Masterpiece in association with BBC Worldwide, Altus Media, and Prescience

Based on Hilary Mantel’s celebrated novels about the intrigues of Henry VIII’s court, Wolf Hall is an intimate, humanized history, told from the viewpoint of the king’s main man, Thomas Cromwell. Enhanced by literate scripting and superb acting, with historic-location and natural-light filming, this exceptional series sets a new standard for the genre.

Katie Morag (CBeebies)

Move On Up

Mairi Hedderwick’s popular books about a feisty, wee, redheaded girl (the splendid Cherry Campbell) and the Scottish island community she’s growing up in are exquisitely realized in this series. Timeless, perhaps old-fashioned, but never precious or blindly idyllic, Katie Morag deals honestly and gracefully with death, loss, rivalry, and other serious themes.

UPDATED April 26, 2016—12:05 p.m.

Documentary and Education Winners

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (HBO)

Jigsaw Productions, HBO Documentary Films, and Sky Atlantic

More than an exposé, more like a demolition, Alex Gibney’s film about the history and hardball tactics of the Church of Scientology draws its persuasive power from letters and documents contradicting the fabrications of its late founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and from blistering testimonials by prominent ex–church officials and former members about abuse and corruption.

How to Dance in Ohio (HBO)

HBO Documentary Films, Gidalya Pictures, and Blumhouse

Filmmaker Alexandra Shiva focuses on three young women in Columbus, Ohio, who are living with autism and facing the daunting prospect of their first spring formal. The power and beauty of this closely observed, intimate documentary is that it doesn’t patronize its subjects or its viewer with easy sentimentality.

Independent Lens: India’s Daughter (PBS)

Assassin Films, BBC Storyville, UK-INDIA and Tathagat Films in association with Gamini Plyatissa Foundation, Vital Voices Global Partnership, DR, Plus Pictures Aps, CBC News Network, SVT, IKON, RTS, SRF, and RAI

The internationally infamous 2012 gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old medical student, in Delhi is the impetus for this unflinching, deeply unflattering examination of the misogyny embedded in Indian society.

ISIS in Afghanistan (PBS/WGBH)

Frontline

Making the most of a difficult, dangerous assignment, Afghani journalist Najibullah Quraishi and his producing team got deep into ISIS-held territory to document its growing power and appeal in Afghanistan, its conflict with the Taliban, and, most unnerving, its indoctrination and weapons training of children as young as five.

Listen to Me Marlon (Showtime)

Showtime Documentary Films Presents, A Passion Pictures Production, Cutler Productions

Thanks to an imaginative director, a collection of audio tapes that Marlon Brando recorded over the years, and a voice-synced, holograph-like image of the late, great Method actor, we get to hear Brando share deeply personal thoughts about how he became the man and artist he was. It’s strange and wonderful, like a CGI resurrection.

Night Will Fall (HBO)

Spring Films, Angel TV, and Ratpac Documentary Films in association with HBO Documentary Films

Night Will Fall deftly weaves two stories into one documentary tale—one about the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps, the other about the changing policies of postwar reconstruction that pulled atrocity images in and out of public view. The film artfully shows us an obscure moment in Holocaust history that attests to the enduring power of visual documentation.

POV: Don’t Tell Anyone (No le digas a nadie) (PBS)

A coproduction of Portret Films and American Documentary & POV and Independent Television Service in association with Latino Public Broadcasting with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

An activist on behalf of young, undocumented immigrants like herself, 24-year-old Angy Rivera, a New York City resident since she was four, is the eloquent focus of this documentary. What makes it even more memorable is how filmmaker Mikaela Shwer uses Rivera’s story to illuminate the plight of untold numbers of immigrants living in secrecy and fear.

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO)

Hit the Ground Running

Andrew Jarecki’s seductive true-crime documentary takes viewers through a dark looking glass, down a rabbit hole, and into the mind of Robert Durst, a real estate tycoon’s heir and an elusive suspect in three murders, who tells a self-serving tale but then, stunningly, offhandedly, and on microphone, confesses.

What Happened, Miss Simone? (Netflix)

A Radical Media Production in association with Moxie Firecracker for Netflix

Tracing Nina Simone’s rise from classical piano prodigy to jazz-pop star, civil rights activist, and expatriate while showcasing her brilliance without dodging her mental health problems and explosive personal life, this finely crafted documentary is both a celebration and a compassionate postmortem.