Columbia Journalism School

2015 duPont Award Winners


Watch the Jan 20, 2015 duPont ceremony:



See the video thanking our funders, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund


Read the full press release

Spring Prep Day: 2015 Winner's Panels



WEED: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports

Enterprise reporting on a timely and controversial topic combined with compelling human portraits that broke new ground

Over the last two years, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent and practicing neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta and a team of producers traveled the world for a critical look at the research on medical marijuana and its impact on the lives of its users. With compelling personal cases, over two groundbreaking primetime hours, CNN illustrated how medical marijuana can heal and help when traditional drugs, also often harmful, don’t work. The documentary also took a critical look at recreational use and how the marijuana of today is much more potent and potentially dangerous than in previous generations. WEED was accompanied by a robust online opinion piece by Dr. Sanjay Gupta in which he apologized for his previous reporting on medical marijuana and made the case for its medical use today.  Shortly after WEED aired, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a law allowing the use of medical marijuana for use in children. 

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, correspondent, Roni Selig and Bud Bultman, senior executive producers; Melissa Dunst Lipman, senior producer/writer; Carl Graf, Steve Kellner,  and Dave Herrod, producers/editors; Saundra Young and Ben Tinker, senior producers; Max Newfield and Kristen Kiraly, associate producers.

Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter @CNN.


KPNX 12 News, Phoenix & Wendy Halloran

Raked Over the Coals

A probing, relentless investigation into the Phoenix Fire Department's arson squad. 

Reporter Wendy Halloran and her KPNX 12 News team relentlessly pursued and ultimately refuted claims that their city's arson squad had the highest arson clearance rate of any major U.S. city's fire department. She discovered one dog handler's false claims that his dog was infallible at detecting arson had led to the unjust prosecution of at least four innocent people. One woman spent hundreds of thousands in legal bills and lost her home. Another man spent over a year in prison before charges were eventually dropped. The KPNX team uncovered tapes that showed the dog trainer drawing his own conclusions even when the dog found nothing. The reporting triggered an FBI investigation, an Arizona Department of Public Safety criminal probe, and two days after the Fire Chief reluctantly sat down with Halloran and admitted mismanagement, he announced his early retirement. 

Wendy Halloran, senior investigative reporter; Jeff Blackburn, photojournalist/editor; Mark Phillips, deputy managing editor watchdog/political reporting; Bryan West,  multimedia journalist/graphic artist; Mark Casey,  station manager and V.P. News.

Behind the story.  Visit the website.  Visit their 2015 duPont Award page.  Follow on Twitter @12News.


MPR News

Betrayed by Silence

A heartbreaking, exhaustive investigation of sexual abuse and cover up in the Twin Cities Catholic Church


MPR News' yearlong investigation exposed how leaders of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis continued to cover up abuse of children by priests, despite decades of assurances that the Catholic Church was safe. Reporters found that bishops provided secret payments to pedophiles, hid the names of abusers, failed to notify police of alleged sex crimes and didn’t warn parishioners of priests’ sexual misconduct. The report included everything from interactive databases of allegations against priests and where they served, and a display of internal church documents, to police records, court records, and victim settlement documents all showing extensive cover ups. MPR's reporting has led to numerous actions to protect the public such as the opening of a criminal investigation of the archdiocese itself, resignations, forced retirements, leaves of absences, firings, and the release of names of abusive priests. The investigative team overcame the challenges rife in reporting this type of story: understanding the church’s complex structure and legal system; verifying old events and claims; the lack of documents available digitally; and the insular, private world of the priesthood.

Madeleine Baran, lead reporter; Sasha Aslanian, Mike Cronin, Tom Scheck, and Laura Yuen, reporters/producers; Jennifer Simonson, Amanda Snyder, Jeff Thompson, photographers; Eric Ringham, copy editor; Meg Martin, web editor; Will Lager, web producer; Mike Edgerly, Jon Gordon, Regina McCombs, and Bill Wareham, editors; Chris Worthington, project editor.

Behind the story.  Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter: @mprnews.




An artful blend of nature film, political exposé, risky conflict reporting, and gripping thriller


This cinematic feature-length documentary, streaming on Netflix, dramatically captures a fight against corrupt powers and human greed, while bringing home important environmental issues that concern us all.  Virunga National Park, in the forested depths of eastern Congo, is one of the most bio-diverse places in the world and home to the last of the mountain gorillas. Here, an embattled team of park rangers protect the UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. With brilliant and shocking use of hidden cameras, the film exposes life in the Congo and how the highest level government officials appear to be bought and sold. The drama plays out in real time, under a cloud of intense danger, but with beautifully tender scenes of man's relationship to the natural world. The film has also been nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

Orlando von Einsiedel, director; Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara, producers; Joanna Natasegara, impact producer; Jon Drever, Maxyne Franklin, Jess Search, Adam del Deo, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lisa Nishimura, and Howard G. Buffett, executive producers; Franklin Dow, and Orlando von Einsiedel, cinematography; Masahiro Hirakubo, Katie Bryer, David Charap, Miika Leskinen, St. John O'Rorke, Peta Ridley, editors; Patrick Jonsson, composer. 

Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter @virungamovie @netflix.


NPR & Joseph Shapiro

Guilty and Charged

A hidden two-tiered system of justice and informal debtors prison is exposed. 

NPR’s investigative series told the little-known story of the emergence of a two-tiered system of justice


that more harshly punishes the poor with fees and costs. The six-part series, which ran on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition, was the result of a year of reporting and research by Joseph Shapiro. It combined compelling personal narratives and unique data gathering to create memorable, insightful and in-depth stories. The series showed how defendants now get charged for a long list of government services that were once free, including ones that are constitutionally required, such as a public defender. The fees and costs charged to each defendant typically add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars. The result is often a modern day debtors' prison, despite Supreme Court rulings that deemed such a practice illegal. To tell this important story, Shapiro found rare sources of data, courtroom tape and conducted original research that made the reporting come alive. 

Joseph Shapiro, correspondent; Robert Little, editor; Nicole Beemsterboer, producer; Robert Benincasa, computer-assisted reporting producer; Barbara Van Woerkom, research librarian; Alicia Cypress, digital producer; Emma Anderson, reporter.

Behind the story. Visit the website. Follow on Twitter @nprnews.


Particle Fever

A lyrically-realized documentary that explores the laws of physics and the joyous nature of scientific discovery

In 2007 physicist David Kaplan met physicist turned filmmaker Mark Levinson and the two took a gamble that led to this six-year long project. They ultimately recorded a major scientific discovery in real time, in the search for the mysterious, long sought after Higgs-Boson, dubbed the "God Particle" particle. The challenge in making the deepest, most important questions of physics exciting to a general audience is met with brilliant success. With stunning cinematography and clever, creative graphics, the human, scientific and scholarly arcs are crafted and interwoven beautifully. These treatments of the essential scientific ideas illustrate real and important information that threads throughout the story, while adding an aesthetic layer to capture the exhilaration of scientific discovery. 

Mark A. Levinson, director; David E. Kaplan, Mark A. Levinson, Andrea Miller, and Carla Solomon, producers; Walter Murch, editor;  Claudia Raschke-Robinson and Wolfgang Held, cinematographers; Robert Miller, music; MK12, design/animation; Thomas Campbell Jackson and Gerry Ohrstrom, executive producers. Check out behind the scenes with Director Mark Levinson. 

Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter @ParticleFever. Check out behind the scenes with Director Mark Levinson. 



The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr

Five hundred years of American history told from an African American perspective in a beautifully crafted,  precedent-setting six part series. 

Noted Harvard scholar Gates recounted the full trajectory of African American history in a sweeping six-part series. Viewers saw the evolution of the African American people, and explored how they forged their own history, culture, and society against often unimaginable odds. By telling this horrifying yet uplifting history from the perspective of the African Americans who lived through it, "Many Rivers to Cross" offered viewers of all backgrounds an alternative interpretation of our country’s history, encouraging them to reflect on how we became who we are today. Superb animation, top-notch camera and editing, brilliant, if often disturbing illustrations, and Professor Gates’ smooth informality all flesh  out the individual stories that, woven together tell a history of a dazzling culture forged through hardship, grit and resolve. 

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., executive producer, writer, presenter; Peter W. Kunhardt, executive producer; Dyllan McGee, executive producer; Julie Anderson, executive producer; Stephen Segaller, executive in charge, WNET; Rachel Dretzin, senior producer; Leslie Asako Gladsjo, senior story producer, director/producer; Phil Bertelsen, director/producer; Sabin Streeter, director/producer; Jamila Wignot, director/producer.

Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter @PBS.


Planet Money & NPR Visuals

Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt

An ambitious online project that followed the creation of a simple t-shirt across four continents.


To explore and explain the global economics behind a simple t-shirt, Planet Money and NPR Visuals first designed and sold t-shirts to their listeners, and then followed the shirts around the world to report on how they were made. Crowdsourced, the producers created an interactive documentary, a radio series and podcasts that use the making of a t-shirt as an accessible lesson on the workings of the global economy. Different media told different parts of the story: video showed the lives of real people, low-wage earners in Bangladesh and Columbia, the workings of impressive machines; text unpacked economic concepts; and graphics showed quantitative information. With compelling and versatile writing, the jury called the project a tour de force.

Alex Blumberg, executive producer; Zoe Chace, Jacob Goldstein, Jess Jiang, Caitlin Kenney, David Kestenbaum, Marianne McCune, Robert Smith, Brian Boyer, Kainaz Amaria, Joshua Davis, David Gilkey, Alyson Hurt, Claire O'Neill, Wes Lindamood.

Behind the story. Visit the website. Follow on Twitter @planetmoney @nprviz.


The Seattle Times

Sea Change: The Pacific’s Perilous Turn

An immersive multimedia project that illuminates one of the planet’s greatest environmental threats - ocean acidification.


This far-reaching and illuminating report skillfully integrates video, slide shows, graphics and text to explore a rarely discussed consequence of global warming – the acidification of the ocean. With strong visuals and clear writing, the intrepid series of reports travels from Oregon and the state of Washington all the way to Hawaii and Papua New Guinea. This little known issue was effectively explained in a compelling and comprehensive introductory video that demonstrated the potential impact on marine life. Text and video enhanced each other providing personal testimony, hard science and a real sense of the scale of the problem. This exhaustive work was beautifully presented and showcased the power of storytelling on the web.

Craig Welch, reporter; Steve Ringman, photography and video; Katrina Barlow, digital designer; Genevieve Alvarez and Danny Gawlowski, video production.

Behind the story. Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter @seattletimes.


WFTS-TV, Tampa Bay

Incapacitated: Florida's Guardianship Program

An investigative team uncovers rampant abuse by court appointed guardians 

WFTS-TV’s ABC Action News I-Team zealously followed up on a tip by launching an in-depth investigation into Florida’s court-appointed guardianship program, which affects tens of thousands of people. The resulting series of reports exposed astonishing stories of elderly people stripped of their rights and property by self-serving “guardians.” Their homes, personal property and vehicles were often sold for a small percentage of their actual worth and then resold by guardians’ friends for huge profits. The team first followed 99-year-old Willi Berchau, who had been locked into a dementia ward after being determined “incapacitated’ three times by panels hired by the court. It was immediately clear that Berchau was not incapacitated, but was an intelligent, alert remarkable man. The reporters searched through records, spoke with family members and confronted some of the guardians with clear evidence of their misdeeds. As a result, this summer a new guardianship reform bill led to legislative changes to help protect others. 


Adam Walser, investigative reporter; Fran Gilpin, investigative producer; Randy Wright, I-Team photographer; Doug Iten, executive producer of Special Reports. 

Behind the story.  Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter @abcactionnews.


WGBH, Boston

FRONTLINE: Syria’s Second Front

Extraordinary access to an inaccessible and dangerous story affords critical understanding. 

FRONTLINE and their correspondent, Syrian native Muhammad Ali, ventured into the northern war zone last winter to expose a pivotal moment in the raging civil war. This gripping inside look at the various forces fighting against Syrian President Bassar al-Assad included one of the first up-close views of what would later become a household word - ISIS. Ali gains the trust of, then travels with moderate rebel groups  over the course of several months, with seemingly unfettered access. The report captures a secret meeting of the factions coming together to elect a new leader in their fight against ISIS, and it follows the rebels into an ISIS-held town where the extremists are recruiting citizens for global jihad. It also follows the rebels as they drive ISIS out of a crucial northern city, and meets citizens there who tell of the jihadist group’s oppressive reign. This is groundbreaking reporting at its most courageous.

David Fanning, executive producer; Raney Aronson-Rath, deputy executive producer; Jamie Doran and James Jones, producers; Muhammad Ali, filmmaker; Clover Films: Jamie Doran, executive producer.

Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter @frontlinepbs.


WGBH, Boston

FRONTLINE: United States of Secrets

The sweeping, inside story behind US governmental secret monitoring of its citizens. 

With remarkable scope and depth, this multi-part program unfolds the dramatic inside account of how the U.S. government came to monitor and collect the communications of millions of people around the world—including ordinary Americans—and the lengths they went to hide the massive surveillance from the public. A formidable, unprecedented array of interviews with the highest ranking players on both sides of the story lends historic context to events around Edward Snowden's actions. In the first part of this meticulously detailed report, viewers learn about the impetus for the extraordinary data collection, including the inner thoughts of those taking part in it. In the second episode, FRONTLINE dives deep to explore the secret relationship between Silicon Valley and the National Security Agency, allowing the government to co-opt this data with and without the cooperation of the corporations who first mined it. FRONTLINE's work was hailed as a captivating and chilling investigation into what Snowden's revelations mean for everyone who uses a computer or picks up a telephone.

Part One: Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore, Mike Wiser, producers; Jim Gilmore, reporter; Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser, writers; Michael Kirk, director; Barton Gellman, editorial consultant.  Part Two: Martin Smith, writer/producer; Linda Hirsch, Ben Gold, co-producers.

Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter @frontlinepbs.


WLTX-TV, Columbia

DDS: When the System Fails

An impactful investigative series about harrowing failures in South Carolina’s Department of Social Services


The tragic death of a four-year-old, returned home from foster care despite multiple reports of abuse, led to this dogged series of investigative reports that upended a dysfunctional child welfare department.  Reporter Clark Fouraker exposed myriad problems in the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) with this thorough and sober investigation over several months, which included the death of another child under the agency's care and the trials and convictions of those responsible. Fouraker’s reporting forced the resignation of the agency’s state director, brought about policy changes in the Child Protective Services division, and increased funding to an understaffed group that advocates for kids in state care. The reporting was even handed and stayed focused on how the agency failed the most vulnerable members of society, children.

Clark Fouraker, investigative reporter; Jennifer Bellamy, reporter; Darci Strickland, anchor/reporter; Marybeth Jacoby, news director.

Behind the story.  Visit the website. Follow on Twitter @ClarkWLTX.


WTSP 10 News, Tampa Bay

Short Yellows and the Red Light Fight

Groundbreaking reporting that exposed how local governments abused technology to cheat drivers

This yearlong investigation uncovered a problem that impacts millions of Americans; local municipalities manipulating technology to make yellow lights shorter thereby driving up the number of traffic tickets given to safe drivers. In over 50 stories, reporter Noah Pransky revealed how governments systematically abused red light camera technology to generate millions of dollars of revenue, while politicians took contributions from the camera’s manufacturer. The station dedicated time and resources to dig through thousands of public records, pushing back as agencies tried to withhold them. Interactive features on the station’s website allowed viewers to find unfair lights in their communities. The series had real impact, compelling the state to backtrack and mandate longer lights at every intersection in Florida

Noah Pransky, investigative reporter; Paul Thorson, investigative photographer; Amy Marinec, investigative producer; Melissa Rancourt, executive producer; Peter Roghaar, news director.

Behind the story.  Visit the website.  Follow on Twitter @WTSP10News.







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