Stories from Afghanistan, Arab Spring Dominate News & Documentary Emmys
The 33rd Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards were dominated by the stories that continue to make headlines; the Arab Spring and the war in Afghanistan, which last weekend hit a grim milestone 11 years on: 2000 U.S. soldiers dead. And stories that revolved around monsters and tyrants dead (Gaddafi) and still living (Jerry Sandusky) earned Emmy recognition.
Christiane Amanpour’s Nightline interview with a hubristic and, it turns out delusional Muammar Gadhafi, earned the Emmy for coverage of a breaking news story in a regularly scheduled newscast. The clip of Gadhafi telling Amanpour that his people still love him drew derisive laughter from the crowd gathered Monday night at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall.
The Tillman Story, about the investigation into the friendly-fire death and cover up of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan earned the Emmy for informational program for Showtime and producer A&E Indie Films. And Nightline's American Valor: Land of the Brave -- about correspondent Mike Boettcher's lengthy 2011 embedment with the with the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan’s deadly Kunar Province -- earned two Emmys, including the prized best story award.
Bob Costas, whose last-minute phone interview with now-convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky, was a shoo-in for the outstanding interview Emmy, thanked Brian Williams (on whose Rock Center the interview aired) as well as NBC News president Steve Capus and Rock Center executive producer Rome Hartman. And then he added: “I would especially like to thank [Sandusky] attorney Joseph Amendola who decided it would be a very good idea to have his client speak to us.” Costas said he was honored to be recognized by the News & Documentary Emmys along with only two other sportscasters: “the late, great” Jim McKay, for his coverage of the Munich massacre, and Costas’ colleague Al Michaels, who was pressed into service as a newscaster when the 1989 San Francisco earthquake struck just before Game 3 of the World Series in Candlestick Park.
And as usual, PBS’ POV illuminated the foreign and esoteric. Last Train Home, Lixin Fin’s searing film about China’s 130 million factory workers who every year return to their home villages for the New Year, earned multiple Emmys including the prestigious best documentary award beating out three other POV films and HBO’s How To Die in Oregon.
PBS earned the most Emmys with nine including five for POV films and two for Frontline for Revolution in Cairo and Syria Undercover, which both earned Emmys for continuing coverage of a breaking news story.
CBS News' 60 Minutes took home five Emmys including the feature story award for Gospel for Teens and a writing Emmy for Scott Pelley and producer Bob Anderson’s Families in Cars, one of two Hard Times Generation reports about the effects the recession has had on children. Holding his gold statue aloft, Anderson thanked Pelley “because it was his writing and this is what you get when you work with Scott Pelley."
And the network’s newsmagazine 48 Hours won the Emmy for continuing coverage of a news story for Grave Injustice, about the wrongful death row conviction of Anthony Graves and the misconduct of Texas prosecutors who withheld evidence in the case. Taking the stage to accept the Emmy along with Graves and 48 Hours producers, correspondent Richard Schlesinger observed: “It’s been a long time since 48 Hours has been here, it’s great to be back.” And then he asked if 48 executive producer Susan Zirinksy was present. When she called from the audience, Schlesinger said: “I know you didn't want to do this but it worked out pretty well for us.” It was a rare zinger on a night marked by thanks and congratulations.
CBS News took home seven Emmys in all. So did ABC News, which was seven more than the network won last year. Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz’s 10-month investigation into the murder of Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey uncovered a systemic failure to protect Peace Corps volunteers who were the victims of rape or those who tried to report it earned multiple awards. The three-part report for ABC’s 20/20 spurred a new law protecting volunteers that was signed last year by President Obama. Peace Corps: A Trust Betrayed earned Emmys for investigative journalism and best report in a news magazine, beating out five 60 Minutes segments in the latter category. Accepting the Emmy for investigative journalism, Ross thanked ABC News president Ben Sherwood for preserving a “vibrant and robust” news organization that “again and again takes on powerful, vested interests.” And he dedicated the award “to the Puzey family for telling their story.”
NBC News earned three Emmys including one for Dateline’s Rescue in the Mountains about a Tennessee-based non-profit’s rescue mission in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. And CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 took home the news discussion and analysis Emmy for its town hall Bullying: It Stops Here.
Univision anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas were this year’s recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Emmy. Diane Sawyer, who is now their colleague care of a joint venture with ABC News, gave Ramos and Salinas their Emmys, delivering a tribute peppered with “Rosetta Stone level one” Spanish. Sawyer characterized them as “film pioneers and advocates” and noted Ramos’ “near biblical authority” in the Hispanic community and Salinas’ dedication to social advocacy for immigrants.
A film of the anchors’ more than 25 years together prompted Salinas to remark that it “was an amazing video of 30 years of hair ‘dos.”
Ramos, who first came to the United States from Mexico on a student visa in 1983, noted that Hispanics are “60 million strong and changing the face of America.”
“Not a lot of people are aware of that, including the Commission on Presidential Debates,” he said, referring to the Commission’s decision not to include a Hispanic anchor among its presidential debated moderators.
Salinas added that being the first Hispanics to receive the organization’s Lifetime Achievement award “tells us that news is news regardless of what language it’s delivered in.”
And she used the occasion to apologize to her teen daughters Julia and Gaby, who were in the audience at Rose Hall, for missing Julia’s kindergarten graduation to travel to Los Angeles for the 2001 mayoral election (which current Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa actually lost) and for leaving Gaby when she was “only 3 months old” to cover the 1997 death of Princess Diana.
“And now that I have apologized and you see this,” said Salinas, pointing to her Emmy. “I really hope that you understand why mom did what she did.”
Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com; Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie