NEW YORK — With Jon Stewart hosting and “South Park” as one of the honorees, the 65th annual Peabody Awards ceremony Monday had a comedic bent.
But with four awards recognizing the challenges of covering Hurricane Katrina, the humor was balanced out by examples of journalists’ highest calling to provide news and vital information to the public in times of crisis.
“Here at the Peabodys, I’m a satirist,” Stewart said during a typically self-deprecating monologue. “It’s very important, what I do, and you’re lucky to have me.”
All the winners were announced in April by the event’s organizer, the University of Georgia. The awards honor “distinguished achievement and meritorious service by radio and television networks, stations, producing organizations, cable television organizations and individuals.”
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Stewart called the ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria “less entertaining than the Emmys,” and said the honorees were “good, but not Latin Grammys good.” He also quipped that he didn’t want to see the statuettes being handed out ending up on eBay.
The biggest cheers went to Trey Parker and Matt Stone, co-creators of Comedy Central’s “South Park.” In introducing them, Stewart said he marveled at “at their ability to keep the show fresh and hilarious” after nearly 10 years on the air. The two, though, kept their remarks brief and irreverent, with Parker throwing a swear word into a joke about their “artistic responsibility” and Stone spending his time praising fellow honorees “Battlestar Galactica.”
Martin Scorsese was honored for his PBS “American Masters” documentary “Bob Dylan: No Direction Home.” FX’s “The Shield” and ABC’s “Boston Legal” also received awards, with Glenn Close and Candice Bergen accepting the statuettes, respectively.
Four television news teams received Peabody Awards for their work in covering Katrina and its aftermath. Jim Walton, president of the CNN News Group, accepted his team’s award, saying, “This story continues to test us.” Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor for “NBC Nightly News,” received the honor on behalf of the citizens of New Orleans, who were “failed by their government,” he said.
WLOX-TV in Biloxi, Miss., which continued broadcasting even as its newsroom’s roof was blown off, also was honored as was New Orleans’ WWL-TV. Sandy Breland, executive news director at WWL, choked up as she accepted the award, saying that too many Americans had already forgotten about Katrina.
Stewart kept his closing remarks sincere, describing the work of the honorees as “moving and inspiring.” “Most of all,” he added, “for someone who spends his time in a protective bubble on 11th Avenue, I find it heartening.”
Copyright 2012 The Hollywood Reporter