Al Jazeera English wins first duPont as 14 news orgs awarded with broadcast, digital honors

December 21, 2011
Category: Uncategorized

Al Jazeera English has won its first Alfred I. duPont award for excellence in broadcast and digital journalism, one of 14 the Columbia School of Journalism announced this morning, a marker of the Qatar-based news network’s expansion into the United States.

The duPont award recognized excellent reporting by “Fault Lines,” AJE’s weekly documentary program that primarily examines the United States’ role in the world; the winning program highlighted the struggles and slow recovery in Haiti six months after the earthquake.

Winning such a prestigious American media award “is an indication of how things have shifted in the way that we’re perceived in the U.S.,” said Sebastian Walker, the Fault Lines correspondent who led the Haiti reporting. “This year in particular there has been a huge change in how Americans think about Al Jazeera, with our coverage of pro-democracy demonstrations that have brought about the Arab Spring.”

Al Jazeera English shares some resources, equipment, video clips and logistical support with sister network Al Jazeera, but each has separate news operations and largely separate audiences. Al Jazeera is a primarily Arab-language network local to the Middle East. AJE is in English and covers issues in America and across the world for an international audience.

More than 40 percent of traffic comes from North Americans, said Sophia Qureshi, head of outreach for the Americas. While many Americans can only watch Al Jazeera programs online through the free livestream and YouTube videos, the network is broadly available in Canada and has found footholds in the U.S., including the recent addition to Time Warner Cable in New York.

Heading into 2012, “Fault Lines” will focus largely on covering the U.S. presidential election, such as profiling the Republican contenders, explaining the Occupy Wall Street movement and examining sources of frustration with President Obama.

“There’s possibly greater interest from an international audience in the machinations of the campaign than there is even domestically,” Walker said. “It’s something that sometimes takes us by surprise, the folks who are based here in the U.S., that there is so much interest.”

Below is the full list of awards and descriptions from the announcement by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The awards jury considered programs that “appeared on air, online or in theaters between June 30, 2010 and July 1, 2011” and contained “accurate and fair reporting about important issues that are powerfully told,” with favor toward “breaking news coverage, reporting with innovative storytelling and content, and stories that have made an impact in the public interest.”

2012 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award Winners

14 Silver batons:

Al Jazeera English
“Fault Lines, Haiti – Six Months On”
Excellent long-form reporting that revealed the ongoing vulnerability of civilians in Haiti and the inaction of international agencies

This outstanding documentary took an uncompromising look at the shortcomings of international aid and peacekeeping in Haiti six months after the devastating earthquake, reminding the world that the survivors still face urgent crises. Reporter Sebastian Walker covered the disaster in Haiti in January 2010 and stayed with the story in the months that followed as Al Jazeera English’s Haiti correspondent. With Al Jazeera English’s flagship news program Fault Lines, Walker scrutinized international aid organizations, local politics, U.N. peacekeeping and reconstruction plans. The team produced an emotional, accurate and visceral report about the lack of progress in reconstruction.

Sebastian Walker, reporter; Jeremy Dupin, Andréa Schmidt, producers; Alfredo De Lara, Snorre Wik, photographers; Andréa Schmidt, Mat Skene, writers; Warwick Meade, editor; Widney Labrousse, driver; Mat Skene, executive producer

CBS News
“60 Minutes: A Relentless Enemy”
A harrowing report about brutal fighting at a remote U.S. Army combat outpost on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan

With extraordinary access, correspondent Lara Logan and her team produced a striking eyewitness account from the border that has become the front line in America’s 10-year- long war in Afghanistan. At the U.S. Army combat outpost, a few miles from the border with Pakistan, the reporting team witnessed some of the fiercest fighting yet in this conflict. Soldiers said that as fast as American forces could kill the enemy, new fighters appeared to pour across the border from sanctuaries in Pakistan. Under fire more than a dozen times during the two-week visit, Logan and her team offered an unsparing look at one of the biggest challenges facing the American military in Afghanistan.

Lara Logan, correspondent; Max McClellan, Jeff Newton, producers; Ray Bribiesca, Daniel J. Glucksman, Donald Lee, cameramen; Eric Kerchner, sound; Claudia Weinstein, story editor; Richard Butler, Reuben Keyman-Kanto, associate producers; Paris Magaziner, broadcast associate; Bill Owens, executive editor; Jeff Fager, executive producer

Danfung Dennis, Impact Partners, Roast Beef Productions, Sabotage Films, Thought Engine, and Channel 4 BritDoc Foundation
“Hell and Back Again”
A transcendent documentary about the human cost of war in Afghanistan that intercut life on the battlefield with recovery back home

Following one soldier’s experience fighting the war in Afghanistan and recovering from a serious injury back in the U.S., filmmaker Danfung Dennis intercut both worlds in this gripping and significant feature-length documentary. Beautifully filmed and skillfully edited, the producers juxtaposed intense battle scenes with the grinding routine of life at home connecting the experiences and giving audiences a unique entrée into the mental and physical impact of war. The soldier’s treatment included medications, physical therapy and doctors’ visits resulting in a lack of independence. These challenges can be as daunting as leading soldiers into hostile territory. Visually stunning, the film showed the central experiences affecting today’s veterans.

Danfung Dennis, director; Martin Herring, Mike Lerner, producers; Fiona Otway, editor;
J. Ralph, music, lyrics, sound design; Dan Cogan, Thomas Brunner, Maxyne Franklin, Karol Martesko-Fenster, Gernot Schaffler, executive producers; Willie Nelson, performing an original song

Detroit Public TV
“Beyond the Light Switch”
An ambitious and thoughtful documentary series that laid out the facts and conundrums of energy policy facing us all

In this outstanding example of explanatory journalism, director Ed Moore and reporter David Biello from Scientific American make the complex and important subject of energy policy engaging and accessible to audiences. This smart two-part series takes a balanced look at where Americans get their energy today, and where it might come from tomorrow. The producers explore the current debates over fracking for natural gas and nuclear power, weighing the environmental and economic costs and benefits as demands for power continue to grow in the digital age. With context and clarity, clear graphics and excellent writing, the team explains scientific issues that are impacting our world.

Ed Moore, director, producer; David Biello, Ed Moore, writers; Jordan Wingrove, editor; Bill Kubota, cinematographer; Paul Dzendzel, audio; Bill Kubota, Genevieve Savage, co-producers

HBO & Blowback Productions
“Triangle: Remembering the Fire”
A riveting historical documentary that unearths untold stories about a preventable and tragic fire

With never-before-seen photographs and new information about those who were there, filmmakers Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson bring to life the victims of the Triangle Fire in New York City in 1911. Using interviews of the descendants of workers, owners, politicians and firemen to tell the story of the tragedy, the filmmakers make the story fresh and dynamic. The recreation of the fire itself is done with painstaking detail, including the grisly sight of desperate workers jumping to their deaths. Images of family members identifying charred remains are riveting. Political and social context inform the storytelling about the fire that ultimately helped to galvanize reform in the country.

Daphne Pinkerson, director; Michael Hirsch, Richard Lowe, Daphne Pinkerson, writers; Marc Levin, Daphne Pinkerson, producers; Michael Hirsch, Richard Lowe, co-producers; Nancy Abraham, senior producer for HBO; Sheila Nevins, executive producer for HBO

HBO, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel
“Head Games”
A series of investigative reports that broke significant new ground on the issue of concussions and sports

This informative final report in a multi-part investigative series performs a public service by revealing the causes and consequences of a deadly disease affecting an alarming number of athletes. The science behind the disease ALS and its possible connection to sports-related concussions are clearly presented for the first time. Correspondent Bernard Goldberg’s interviews are sensitive and probing, moving the story forward. Goldberg and his team investigate the historical precedent of Lou Gehrig bringing to light new information about concussions he suffered as a baseball player at Columbia University and as a Yankee. The reporting raised awareness for the public, the NFL and Congress about this important health issue.

Bernard Goldberg, correspondent; Joseph Perskie, producer; Andrew Bennett, Zehra Mamdani, co-producers; Nisreen Habbal, production assistant; Brian Derr, Oliver Lief, Andrew Moreale, editors; Nick Dolin, coordinating producer; Kirby Bradley, senior producer; Rick Bernstein, Ross Greenburg, executive producers; Bryant Gumbel, anchor

MediaStorm & Walter Astrada
“Undesired” for the Alexia Foundation
A haunting multimedia report about India’s lethal social customs that devalue the lives of women and girls

This interactive story about an underreported issue detailed the cultural pressure on Indian women to bear sons and the decimation of the female population. The story is skillfully told with photographs and interviews. In a first person narrative, photographer Walter Astrada described India’s expensive dowry system and the lethal impact it has had on the country’s view of girls and women. At a hospital, Astrada photographed a family’s distraught reaction when a female baby is born, and later a warehouse for widowers with nowhere to turn. One woman described her fight to save her female baby despite pressure for a selective abortion. Without sensationalism, the producers portrayed cultural prejudice, its terrible effect on the Indian population and possible reforms.

Walter Astrada, photographer; Eric Maierson, producer; Shreeya Sinha, associate producer; Walter Astrada, Shreeya Sinha, videographers; Andrew Maclean, assistant producer; Tim Klimowicz, graphics; Brian Storm, executive producer

NBC News & Richard Engel
Coverage of the Arab Spring
Exemplary breaking news coverage from across the region

Under difficult conditions, NBC News’ coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings, led by the stellar reporting of Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel, was consistently outstanding. From Tunisia to Egypt, and Libya to Yemen, Engel reported from the frontlines with skillful substantive stories that were rich in insight. With his knowledge of the region and command of Arabic, Engel showed enterprise in reporting on this fast- changing story and helped audiences understand the dramatic events half a world away. Stories about socioeconomic tensions among Egypt’s poor gave context to the larger story. Standing with protesters in Tahrir Square or on the frontlines of the conflict in Libya, this body of work by NBC News and Richard Engel covered a complex story with unique challenges: technical, reportorial and logistical.

Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent; Ghazi Balkiz, Charlene Gubash, Paul Nassar, producers; John Kooistra, Mohamed Muslemany, Bredun Edwards, cameramen; Julian Prictoe, Stewart Scanlon, engineers; Ron Allen, Stephanie Gosk, correspondents; Yuka Tachibana, producer; Madeleine Haeringer, senior producer; NBC News Staff

The New York Times
“A Year at War” and “Surviving the Earthquake: Children”
Two powerful online stories artfully told with depth and context

These two stories demonstrated the strength of interactive storytelling and narrative reporting at The New York Times.  The first is an engaging multimedia series that chronicled the deeply personal challenges and struggles of individual soldiers deployed to Afghanistan over a 12-month period with leading-edge interactive platforms. Using video, audio, photography, words and interactive technology, the multimedia series captured universal themes of loss, hope, fear and sacrifice.

The second story, produced by documentary filmmakers Brent and Craig Renaud for the Times, showed viewers the human cost of the Haitian earthquake. This 11-minute-long digital story followed two badly injured Haitian children from the time of their rescue days after the earthquake to one year later when they were learning to walk again in Boston. The Renauds succeeded in transmitting the painful experience of these two children as they struggle to heal, ending with an uncertainty that is authentic, moving and profound.

James Dao, reporter; Catrin Einhorn, additional reporting; Damon Winter, photography, videography; Rob Harris, Marcus Yam, additional photography and videography; Gabriel Dance, Nancy Donaldson, Catrin Einhorn, Jon Huang, Andrew Kueneman, Meaghan Looram, production; Brent Renaud, Craig Renaud, producers, reporters, cameras, editors; David Rummel, senior producer for the New York Times; Ann Derry, editorial director for the New York Times

WFAA-TV, Dallas & Byron Harris
“Bitter Lessons”
An outstanding investigative series that uncovered fraudulent practices at unregulated for-profit trade schools in Texas

This nine-part investigative series uncovered a lack of state oversight and rampant fraud in student recruitment, job placement and recordkeeping at local for-profit career schools. Reporter Byron Harris and producer Mark Smith methodically showed how schools falsify job placement and employment records to remain tapped into the lucrative federal student loan system. The reporters also detailed how unscrupulous school recruiters gained access to parolees, probation departments and homeless shelters. Students were left with worthless degrees, few job prospects and debt. WFAA-TV obtained placement and employment records that ultimately prompted a federal probe and initiated tighter state regulations.

Byron Harris, reporter; Mark Smith, producer; Billy Bryant, editor, photographer; Michael Valentine, executive news director

“NOVA: Japan’s Killer Quake”
An in-depth documentary that told the bigger story behind Japan’s earthquake

NOVA quickly brought together an extraordinary amount of information, footage and insight to tell the bigger story behind the most violent earthquake ever recorded in Japan. Critical questions were answered; what caused the earthquake and how this quake fits into the history, science, and understanding of the phenomenon. Within days of the quake, an international NOVA team was shooting in Japan filming from the air to explain what occurred on the ground. The team tackled the devastating human tragedy with authoritative on-site reporting while staying true to its science-based mission. Graphics succeeded in making complex scientific issues understandable. With confidence and clarity, NOVA presented the first full-length news documentary with gripping human stories and an in-depth scientific perspective.

Richard Burke-Ward, Robert Strange, writers, producers; Rae Gilder, Tom Pearson, edit producers; Stephanie Kern, Brian Leckey, Simon Ludgate, Callum Macrae, location directors; Andy Flynn, Sarah Hewer, Rob Sylvester, editors; Joe Baram, Carl Davis, Boyd Estus, Paul Lang, Brian Leckey, Allan Palmer, Robin Probyn, Anna Rieke, videographers; Frank Coakley, Tomo Kitani, David Lerner, Paul Miller, David Pickner, Dan Tokumaru, sound recording; Luisella Palladino, location producer; Corey Johnson, narrator; Katie Brimblecombe, Lindsey Truman, Helen Wollner, researchers; Zoe Elliot, line producer; Steve Gilbert, online editor; Paula S. Aspell, senior executive producer; Howard Swartz, executive producer

WNYC & Ailsa Chang
“Alleged Illegal Searches by the NYPD”
An excellent two part investigative series that revealed abuses in the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy

Reporter Ailsa Chang’s investigation into marijuana arrests and illegal searches by the NYPD found a disturbing pattern; people arrested in the city’s poorest neighborhoods were routinely targeted and mischarged with misdemeanor marijuana possession without a factual basis to support the arrest. Through extensive interviews with current and former police officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers and dozens of young people arrested by police, Chang methodically showed how authorities were conducting illegal searches during stop and frisks. The reports also spotlighted racial disparities in marijuana arrests. New York state legislators introduced a bill to decrease incentives for police to conduct aggressive and potentially illegal searches during stop-and-frisks after the reports aired.

Ailsa Chang, reporter; Karen Frillmann, editor; Paul Schneider, engineer; Wayne Shulmister, engineer; John Keefe, senior editor for data news

WSB-TV, Atlanta & Jodie Fleischer
“Stealing Houses”
A series of eight investigative reports that doggedly exposed a scheme in which suspects fraudulently claimed ownership of houses in foreclosure

In this excellent series of eight investigative stories, reporter Jodie Fleischer showed tenacity and enterprise in tracking this developing story about foreclosure fraud. Fleischer spent a month following a paper trail of deeds and records to reveal how a group of so-called “sovereign citizens” were acting in concert to file fraudulent paperwork and take ownership of homes that were in foreclosure. The reporter and the station stayed on top of the story as it spread throughout the state of Georgia and were ahead of national coverage of the “sovereign citizen” movement. The investigation relied on volumes of paperwork, affidavits and promissory notes and it led to more than a dozen arrests.

Jodie Fleischer, reporter; Josh Wade, photographer, producer, editor; Sonja King, research assistant

WTVF-TV, Nashville & Phil Williams
“Policing for Profit”
A relentless investigation into state agencies’ abuse of a law that allowed them to seize cash from out-of-state drivers in Tennessee

This investigation, months in the making, uncovered an outrageous abuse of power by law enforcement agencies. Reporter Phil Williams and his team exposed how some Tennessee state agencies abused a law intended to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the state. Instead, agencies confiscated cash off of out-of-state drivers based on the alleged suspicion that it was drug money. As part of the investigation, Williams set up surveillance on one interdiction team, documenting questionable stops and tactics, and obtaining dash cam videos, as well as traveling out of state to interview victims. As a result of this series, officials admitted that interstate agents’ jobs depend on seizing cash. Lawmakers are discussing legislation to change Tennessee’s civil forfeiture laws.

Phil Williams, chief investigative reporter; Kevin Wisniewski, producer; Iain Montgomery, Byron Staples, producers, photojournalists

1 finalist:

“Radio Rookies: Coming Up in 2011”
Unflinching self-portraits that examine the lives and realities of young people

WNYC’s youth media project, Radio Rookies, brought together a group of young people from Staten Island in New York facing varying degrees of personal challenges to bravely and unsparingly tell their own stories. Bright and committed, the reporters went to the heart of what it is like to be a teenager today. Interviews were successfully interwoven into the storytelling, and production quality and writing were strong. The reporters offered great insight into how difficult it can be to grow up including stories about sexuality, mental health and foster care. The illuminating stories offered listeners a unique opportunity to understand how cultural shifts are affecting the generation coming of age right now.

Staten Island Radio Rookies, reporters; Sanda Htyte, Courtney Stein, Veralyn Williams, producers; Marianne McCune, editor; Kaari Pitkin, senior producer


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