CBS, NBC upset PBS at News & Doc Emmys

Nominated Letterman extortionist loses to '60 Minutes'

NEW YORK -- In an upset at Monday night's 31st annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards, CBS News with seven honors and NBC News with six wins plus a CNBC award edged out usual frontrunner PBS, which earned five awards.

Fox News doesn't submit entries, and with the exception of the one CNBC award, the other cable news networks were shut out.

David Letterman extortionist Joe Halderman, who was nominated for his work as producer on an episode of CBS' "48 Hours Mystery," did not win. It wasn't clear whether Halderman was in attendance during the event, held at Jazz at Lincoln Center, but he wasn't expected to be in the house.

Among the surprising winners: Sundance Channel and Planet Green won two awards, and VH1 won one.

One underlying theme was the state of the TV news industry as speakers at the event repeatedly put the spotlight on staff and budget cuts that have swept the news industry in recent years.

For example, Darryl Cohen, chairman of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, opened the evening at Jazz at Lincoln Center in midtown Manhattan by telling attendees that while news organizations have struggled with smaller budgets, "your pursuit of excellence is undiminished."

Presenter Paula Zahn, executive producer and host of Investigation Discovery's "On the Case With Paula Zahn," highlighted challenges to the news industry. "We're seeing staff and resources shrinking," which only makes the work of all present more important, she told the crowded room of attendees.

After picking up an Emmy for business and economic coverage on a newsmagazine -- for a "Dan Rather Reports" piece on "Iran's Manhattan Project" on HDNet -- news veteran Rather along with producer Andrew Glazer, who was honored for the first time, faced reporter questions about the state of TV news. "We're in a crisis period right now," Rather said. "But I am an optimist. We will get through it."

Rather onstage later in the night also called on his fellow news people, saying: "The country needs you and your work now more than ever."

But he also told The Hollywood Reporter backstage that recent staff and budget cuts are unlikely to be reversed. "The old model for journalism is over," he said. But since a new model isn't established yet, the industry is in an interregnum. "We must preserve the iron core" of digging deep, so that once the current crisis is over, "we'll have enough of it left." He particularly emphasized the importance for the industry of continuing to do investigative stories, international and on-scene reports, which are at particular risk amid reduced resources.

Other news veterans also struck more positive tones. Jim Lehrer of PBS' "NewsHour," which was this year's recipient of the Chairman's Award, told THR that while journalism may be struggling these days, "a democratic society can't work without news."

David Fanning, executive producer of PBS flagship "Frontline," expressed hope that things would improve thanks in part to new technology. "You hate to be the only guys left doing this," he told THR about his team's in-depth longform journalism after it picked up a couple of awards early on. "It is good for the country."

But he said that cheaper digital production and distribution tools, as well as possible pooling of resources, may bring a shift. "You can produce smart, complex [news] for relatively little," Fanning said. "There is a future."

Among other things, CBS News won its second investigative award in as many years for a report on rape in America, leading chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian to laud CBS News boss Sean McManus onstage for giving his team the time and money to produce quality work.

And NBC News anchor Brian Williams similarly lauded his bosses and told THR backstage that he doesn't feel cramped for resources. Thanks to NBC News' leading news programs, he said he can travel to New Orleans or overseas alike when news breaks.

ABC News' Diane Sawyer, CBS News' Katie Couric, CNBC's Maria Bartiromo and "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon were among the other big news names who made acceptance or introductory speeches Monday night. New CNN U.S. head Ken Jautz also was seen stopping by before the awards show to say hello to industry folks.

Afghanistan and economic stories were represented prominently among winners. For example, the honor for best story in a regularly scheduled newscast went to "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric" for an Afghanistan report, and CBS' "60 Minutes" picked up the best news magazine award for a piece on unemployment in a small town in Ohio. The best documentary award that closed the night went to Sundance Channel's "War/Dance" about how music transforms the lives of three kids in Uganda's civil war. Documentarian Frederick Wiseman accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award.

In one of the night's upsets, HDNet beat three "60 Minutes" nominees and a PBS "Bill Moyers Journal" report with a report on modern-day slavery in South Africa that was tied to this summer's soccer World Cup.

"60 Minutes" still won awards for best magazine story, best interview (with pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger about his landing in the Hudson River), continuing coverage of a news story in a news magazine and a promo.

A complete list of winners can be found here.