NBC News and Nightly News anchor Brian Williams were selected Wednesday as winners of the prestigious Peabody Award for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
The George Foster Peabody Awards, for broadcasting excellence in both news and entertainment, are given annually by the University of Georgia. Thirty-two awards will be handed out June 5 in New York, hosted by two-time recipient Jon Stewart, who anchors Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”
Peabody judges said Katrina brought out the best in local and national broadcasters. CNN also was recognized for its Katrina coverage.
"This is an enormous honor, and a huge recognition of the coverage of a news story that has become a major commitment of this news division," Nightly News anchor and managing editor Brian Williams said in a written statement.
(MSNBC is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC)
"This award goes to the network personnel who made sure we had diesel fuel for our generators, and trucked in food and water to keep us alive," Williams said. "It's for the camera crews, producers and correspondents who saw things none of us ever thought we would see outside a war zone."
Two Gulf Coast stations that stayed on the air throughout Hurricane Katrina also received awards. WWL-TV, which judges said was the only New Orleans station to broadcast in the city through the storm and its aftermath, and WLOX-TV, which kept Biloxi, Miss., residents informed even after broadcasters were forced to the halls when the roof of their building was blown off, were both recognized for their coverage.
Comedy Central’s irreverent comedy “South Park” also picked up an award, as did Fox’s medical drama “House” and ABC’s “Boston Legal,” a David E. Kelley creation.
“South Park,” which receives its first-ever Peabody, was praised as a show that “pushes all the buttons, turns up the heat and shatters every taboo,” Newcomb said. “Through that process of offending it reminds us of the need for being tolerant.”
The Sci Fi Channel won its first Peabody for “Battlestar Galactica,” a drama about a war-ravaged civilization trying to start anew. Also winning their first awards were FX, for the police series “The Shield,” and the Sundance Channel, for presenting “The Staircase,” an eight-part documentary about a North Carolina murder case.
HBO picked up three awards. The pay cable outlet was honored for “Children of Beslan,” a documentary about the aftermath of the September 2004 terrorist capture of a Russian elementary school and “Yesterday,” a South African-produced film. Also winning was “Classical Baby,” which judges called “an inventive, whimsical marriage of animation to classical music.”
Besides the two Gulf Coast broadcasters that were honored, two more local TV stations won Peabodys. KNBC-TV in Burbank, Calif., won for its investigative coverage of an apartment development built on a toxic and potentially flammable site, and KCNC-TV in Denver won for what judges called a “funny and frightening” expose that showed how far the Army would go to lure recruits.
Internationally, CBC/Radio-Canada picked up an award for its report on how global warming is affecting the Arctic and the Inuit people living there. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. also won for its eight-part documentary on the impact of electricity on music. Madrid’s TVE was awarded for its coverage of China’s sweeping rural-to-urban shift.
The British Broadcast Corp. received four Peabodys, including one for its multimedia campaign to encourage organ donations and another for the dramatization of Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House.”
The winners were announced at the University of Georgia in Athens. The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia has administered the Peabodys since the program’s inception in 1940.