From sexual assault to humanitarian issues to politics, the Peabody Awards highlighted the year's most influential works in journalism.
The Peabody Awards were established in 1940 at Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication — the college remains its permanent home. Since then, each year the Peabodys honors 34 pioneers and storytellers who moved past boundaries and limits to display innovating, impactful stories.
University of Georgia students and faculty take pride in the esteemed award's history with the university.
“The Peabodys being housed at Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication speaks to the quality of research and education that are integral to UGA,” said Shira Chess, an entertainment & media studies professor.
This year’s award ceremony will take place May 18 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. During the awards program, 34 creatives will take home their Peabodys trophy while Sesame Street and Kartemquin Films will receive the Institutional Award — this esteemed award is given to organizations centered on producing ground-breaking, educational, important content.
New to the Peabodys this year is the Catalyst Award, which is presented to a story or program that produces immediate results or changes to a social, political or humanitarian issue.
“ProPublica’s documentary, ‘Zero Tolerance,’ received this award for not only being just a good story but for the immediate, real-world effect it had,” said Executive Director of the Peabody Awards Jeffrey P. Jones.
The ProPublica documentary uncovered the conditions at Border Patrol detention centers where thousands of children and families were separated. Only 48 hours after ProPublica released “Zero Tolerance,” President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end separation policy and keep migrant families together.
Documentaries and storytelling exposing social and humanitarian issues were at the forefront of the Peabodys.
“These winners pushed boundaries; they raised awareness,” Peabody Media Center Academic Director Taylor Miller said. “And they are bringing about real change in the culture, in policy, and in storytelling itself.”
Trends and favorites
Common trends, noticed by UGA students and faculty, among the winning programs highlighted sexual assault survivors, immigration policies and struggles within minorities.
“In Grady College, we’re taught that the best stories uncover hidden or forgotten stories."
— Anjali Howlett, junior journalism major
Two documentaries covering the cases of children at the border were awarded a Peabody as well as programs such as “Monumental Lies,” which focused on controversies in Confederate monuments.
“In Grady College, we’re taught that the best stories uncover hidden or forgotten stories. I love that these documentaries were rewarded for doing that,” junior journalism major Anjali Howlett said.
Some shows focused on sexual assault survivors and awareness for the LGBT community such as Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, comedy special on Netflix, and The Apology, a documentary directed by Tiffany Hsiung.
“A common theme we highlight each year are stories depicting the lives of African Americans, such as ‘Pose’ and ‘Random Acts of Flyness.’ Both great shows,” Jones said.
Chess, noticed another trend in exposing forgotten moments and injustices in history at this year’s Peabodys.
This year’s Peabodys also made headlines for announcing Rita Moreno, a Puerto Rican performer, as the recipient of its Career Achievement Award. She is the first Latina to win this award — sparking pride in some UGA students.
“As a Latina myself, hearing that the Peabodys would be recognizing Rita Moreno, was most exciting,” freshman EMST major Jasmine Vasquez said.
Moreno is most well known for her role in “West Side Story”, and she is currently taking part in the revival of the film. Moreno’s career as a singer, actress and dancer spans more than six decades, and Jones highlighted her perseverance against adversity.
“She’s also a Latina woman so if you think about most of her career, both the sexism and the racism, she’s faced across time,” Jones said. “To be someone who perseveres, and survives as long as she has is an amazing feat.”
The Peabody standard
For the past 78 years, the Peabody Awards have defined the standards for true, effective storytelling, Miller said.
The Trump administration has repeatedly accused media outlets and journalists of producing fake news. In an era of comments and questions circling around fake news, The Peabody sets the caliber and displays proof of accurate, effective stories, Jones said.
“The beauty of the Peabody Awards is that we’ve been helping define what journalism since before all of us were (sic) born, 78 years before Donald Trump was born,” Jones said.
Since its creation at Grady College, the Peabodys has raised the standards for reporting, storytelling and innovation around the world — but also with UGA students.
“As an EMST major, the Peabodys forming at UGA gives me hope and pushes me to one day be a recipient of one of the awards,” Howlett said.