Columbia Journalism School

2015 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award Winners Announced

Public Broadcasting & Investigative Journalism Dominate
Non-traditional Outlets Continue to Emerge
FRONTLINE Wins Two Awards; Netflix Wins for the First Time

New York, NY, December 17, 2014 Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism today announced 14 winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards. Investigative journalism will win seven awards spread across network television, radio, online and at the local level, most often in overlapping platforms. Four awards will go to local television news investigations, including reporting by KPNX 12 News, Phoenix; WFTS-TV, Tampa; WLTX-TV, Columbia; and WTSP 10 News, Tampa Bay.

Public broadcasting is also well represented, including FRONTLINE from WGBH for two awards; an award for WNET’s six-part historical series, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates”; two duPonts for NPR; and locally, a silver baton for Minnesota Public Radio’s reporting on sexual abuse in the Twin Cities’ Catholic Church.

Innovative interactive digital entries from NPR and The Seattle Times will each receive an award. CNN’s “WEED: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports,” will also be awarded a duPont. Two feature-length documentaries will be honored with a duPont Award, including the first win for the Internet streaming service Netflix.

“The categories change. The technologies change. Ten years ago, who even knew what streaming was? Today a streaming service has won a duPont,” said Richard Wald, duPont Jury Chair and the Fred W. Friendly Professor of Media and Society at Columbia Journalism School. “But the jury was impressed that the essentials remain: tell a good story in the service of truth; tell something interesting and important; tell something that makes us wiser and better informed. Valuable journalism is alive and well.”

Previous winner FRONTLINE will be honored again this year with two duPonts: one for “United States of Secrets,” the multi-part, comprehensive inside story of how the U.S. government collected vast quantities of Americans’ private information and then hid its actions; the other for “Syria’s Second Front,” which offers one of the first inside glimpses into ISIS through a groundbreaking, harrowing account of the factions fighting there.

“The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates,” in partnership with THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Inkwell Films and Ark Media, is a six-part series that eloquently and artfully tellsthe epic story of African Americans, from the slave trade in Africa to the 16th presidency of the United States five centuries later. The jury awarded a duPont for work that is “visually and narratively innovative and breaks the mold of the historical PBS documentary.”

Two duPont awards will honor public radio reports: NPR’s “Guilty and Charged” tells the little-known story of the emergence of a two-tiered justice system that more harshly punishes the poor, crippling them with ethically questionable fees and fines. Minnesota Public Radio’s “Betrayed by Silence” was a year-long investigation that exposes 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.

NPR’s “Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt” transcends the radio category to be honored as one of two creative, globally reported interactive digital projects, which engage the audience while informing them about important issues that impact us all. In the other, reporters at The Seattle Times traversed an ocean to connect a local story worldwide, for “Sea Change: the Pacific’s Perilous Turn,” illuminating one of the planet's greatest environmental threats.

Netflix, an emerging Internet force, will win its first duPont award for the feature documentary, “Virunga,” a powerful immersive film that explores the conflict between global politics and environmentalism. The film has also been nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

Science was the centerpiece of another film chosen to win a duPont, the independent documentary “Particle Fever,” about the search to verify the existence of the elusive Higgs-Boson. The film, shot over five years, is a meticulous and passionate tribute to the significance and joy of scientific research.

CNN will receive a duPont for “WEED: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports,” two one-hour explorations of the complex debate over medical marijuana - yet another winner that stood out for parsing the science and politics of a divisive issue.

Outstanding local television investigative reporting will be honored with four duPont awards, including two for West Florida stations: WFTS-TV, Tampa uncovered greed and corruption in their searing report, “Incapacitated: Florida's Guardianship Program,” which revealed lack of oversight in taking care of vulnerable senior citizens; WTSP 10 News, Tampa Bay’s investigation, “Short Yellows and the Red Light Fight,” exposed ways governments abused technology to cheat drivers. KPNX 12 News, Phoenix, took on the Phoenix Fire Department’s renowned arson squad, prompting changes in their staff and practices. WLTX-TV, Columbia’s investigation “DSS: When The System Fails,” examined the tragic death of a four year-old and serious flaws at the South Carolina Department of Social Services. 

Cynthia McFadden, senior legal and investigative correspondent for NBC News, and NPR’s Michel Martin, will co-host the duPont Awards ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library. McFadden’s video announcement, more information about the winners and links to behind the scenes interviews can be seen here.

The 14 winning programs appeared on air, online or in theaters between June 30, 2013 and July 1, 2014. The duPont Jury looks for accurate and fair reporting about important issues that are powerfully told. Breaking news coverage, innovative storytelling and content, and stories that have an impact in the public interest are paramount. 
The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards honor excellence in broadcast, digital and documentary journalism. The awards, established in 1942 by Jessie Ball duPont in memory of her husband Alfred I. duPont, are generously supported by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

Find out more about the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for excellence in broadcast, digital and documentary journalism at www.dupont.org.

Program Contact: Abi Wright, awright@columbia.edu, (212) 854-5047
Media Contact: Sabina Lee, sabina.lee@columbia.edu, (212) 854-5579

About the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
For over a century, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has been preparing journalists with instruction and training that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry, and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the School opened its doors in 1912 and offers master of science, master of arts, and doctor of philosophy degrees. Learn more at: www.journalism.columbia.edu

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