Lee's 'Levees' wins Polk Award

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NEW YORK -- Spike Lee's HBO documentary on New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and an NBC News investigation into a U.S. Army contract on Tuesday were among the winners of the George Polk Awards for Journalism.

"When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" was Lee and Sam Pollard's look at what happened to New Orleans in September 2005 and how the government mishandled the disaster. It appeared on HBO as a two-part series in 2006.

NBC's award goes to the "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams," senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers and producer Adam Ciralsky. The four-part series, which aired in September 2006, analyzed whether the U.S. Army awarded a $70 million contract for a rocket-propelled grenade defense system when a cheaper solution existed. Congress ordered an investigation following Myers' reports.

"Lisa and her team did incredible reporting, important reporting, on what the Army had allegedly failed to do," "Nightly News" executive producer John Reiss said. " 'Nightly' gave them the time they needed to tell the story right."

One of the reports clocked in at more than four minutes, which is a long time for a 22-minute newscast. It also apparently is the first time a network newscast has won a Polk Award, named after CBS News correspondent George W. Polk, who was killed in 1948 while covering a civil war in Greece.

Lee will participate in a panel discussion called "Illuminating Catastrophe: Covering New Orleans and Darfur" on April 11 in New York. The awards will be handed out the next day.

"Early Signs: Reporting From a Warming Planet" won the award for radio reporting. "Early Signs" was produced by 11 journalism students from the University of California at Berkeley, American Public Media and "Living on Earth."

Also receiving Polk awards were Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times for foreign reporting; Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman of the Hartford Courant for military reporting; Robert Little of the Baltimore Sun, medical reporting; Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling of the Los Angeles Times, environmental reporting; James Bandler and Mark Maremont of the Wall Street Journal, business reporting; Jeff Kosseff, Bryan Denson and Les Zaitz of the Oregonian, national reporting; Debbie Cenziper of the Miami Herald, metropolitan reporting; the Lakefront Outlook, a free weekly in Chicago, local reporting; and Ray Ring of High Country News in Paonia, Colo., political reporting.
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