Peabody Awards Announce First-Ever Catalyst Award and 2019 News and Radio/Podcast Winners

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Courtesy of University of Georgia

The Peabody Board of Jurors have selected “$2 Tests: Bad Arrests,” “Anatomy of a Killing,” “Back of the Class,” “Cambridge Analytica,” “The Plastic Problem,” “Separated: Children at the Border” and “Spartan Silence: Crisis at Michigan State” as the 2019 Peabody Award winners in the news category, Variety has learned.

Additionally, “Believed,” “Buried Truths,” “Caliphate,” “Kept Out” and “Monumental Lies” have been named the 2019 winners in the radio/podcast category. And for the first time, the Peabody Awards have a Catalyst Award, which is being given to ProPublica.

ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom, made headlines in June 2018 for publishing nearly eight minutes of audio of 10 sobbing Central American children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Within 48-hours of publication, the Trump administration retreated, halting its “zero tolerance” immigration policy practice of family separation.

“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.”

On the news side, “$2 Tests: Bad Arrests,” from WAGA-TV FOX 5 Atlanta, saw reporter Randy Travis dive into the reliability of drug-testing kits, which are commonly known as the titular “$2 Tests” and are used by police around the country as a quick and inexpensive way to analyze suspicious substances in the field. The coverage led police departments to stop using these tests and “compelled professional associations to educate law enforcement, prosecutors, and public defenders on the fallibility of the tests.”

“Anatomy of a Killing,” from BBC Africa Eye for the BBC, used open source technology and “meticulous” reporting in a collaboration 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. These men were Cameroonian army soldiers who were eventually arrested.

“Back of the Class,” from King Television for NBC affiliates and King,” saw reporters Susannah Frame and Taylor Mirfendereski reveal “stunning failures” of Washington public schools to provide support and services for students with disabilities. As a result, the state legislature began to prioritize education for all children.

“Cambridge Analytica,” from ITN in coordination with The Guardian and the New York Times, for Channel 4 News, exposed the vulnerability of personal data to harvesting and misuse. The piece leveraged information from a whistleblower and a secret recording of Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, which proved the political consulting firm used espionage and entrapment to destroy political opponents. In response, Facebook lost more than $100 billion in share price and Cambridge Analytica closed operations soon thereafter.

“The Plastic Problem,” from PBS NewsHour for PBS, featured correspondents Jeffrey Brown, Amna Nawaz and Paul Solman in an in-depth look at how dependence on plastic affects ecosystems worldwide. The series showcased how an appetite for durability and convenience created a pervasive and overwhelming problem — one that has become more acute since China has adopted much stricter requirements for plastic imports — and explored the recycling industry and its limits.

“Separated: Children at the Border,” from Frontline for PBS, responded to the U.S. government’s decision to separate migrant children from their parents in processing centers by exploring the roots of the policy a year before it made headlines. It also drew a line from “Obama-era practice and infrastructure to current policy,” showing the human cost and trauma of the story, in addition to the politics and rhetoric.

“Spartan Silence: Crisis at Michigan State,” from E:60, OTL, ESPNW and Sportscenter for ESPN, demonstrated “how rape culture works systemically, and the traumatic and horrible costs it has on women’s lives.” Through tough original reporting, the series looked at Michigan State University’s institutional knowledge of two decades of Larry Nassar’s abuse of hundreds of athletes. For the first time on camera, the programs provided testimony by a former sexual assault counselor, who recounted the rape culture machinery at work, including the insulated internal handling of cases, lack of transparency and discouragement of victims from seeking external resources. It also included testimony from 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.

For radio/podcasts, “Believed,” from Michigan Radio for NPR, was an account of how former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar got away with abusing hundreds of women for two decades. This podcast also dove into the cultures that enabled such abuse, with reporters Kate Wells and Lindsey Smith peeling back the layers of the case, beginning with Nassar’s “good guy” image, and eventually piecing together the survivors’ collective story through numerous interviews.

“Buried Truths,” from WABE, followed journalist Hank Klibanoff and his Emory University students’ investigation of Isaiah Nixon’s death. Nixon was a black man who was gunned down outside his Georgian home in 1948 after exercising his right to vote. Using FBI documents, microfilm of archival newspapers, medical records, NAACP reports and additional evidence held in private collections, the podcast centered on a true crime but tackled deeper historical issues.

“Caliphate,” from the New York Times, followed Rukmini Callimachi and audio producer Andy Mills as they tried to answer the question of why people would join ISIS. They utilized reports from Iraq and interviews with a wide range of subjects, including ISIS members, as well as a young Yazidi girl who was tortured by ISIS troops.

“Kept Out” was from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, PRX, PBS NewsHour and the Associated Press. The report exposed the inequality of mortgage applications in 61 metro areas across the country, proving that people of color are far more likely than Caucasian individuals to see such documents denied. 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” was from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX and Type Investigations. This investigation explored the “contested history surrounding monuments in the South and the Southwest” and how “Lost Cause ideology” often substitutes for accuracy. In order to do so, the program send Black reporters and Caucasian reporters, individually, to a Mississippi site dedicated to Jefferson Davis. Different “truths” were told with each report. The series also addressed the problematic nature of such monuments on a national scale, “as Southwestern states memorialize moments of settlement and colonization.”

Peabody winners, including Rita Moreno, who is receiving the Career Achievement Award, and the previously announced entertainment and documentary honorees, will attend a red carpet celebration on May 18 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. Ronan Farrow will host the event, sponsored by Mercedes Benz. Variety is the exclusive media partner of the event.