WBAL-TV wins Peabody Award for reports on the bay

Honor ends 50-year dry spell for local broadcasters

April 08, 2005|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

WBAL-TV yesterday was named as one of four stations in the country to win a prestigious national Peabody Award. It is the first time in more than 50 years that any Baltimore station or broadcaster has won the coveted award.

WBAL was honored for a series of reports on the Chesapeake Bay that led to improved state environmental policies.

"People want to paint TV news with a broad brush, saying that we are all only looking for the salacious or making a grab for ratings," said news director Michelle Butts. "But that's not true. ... And with this award, we distinguished ourselves."

In all, 32 Peabodys were awarded yesterday for work done in the electronic media during 2004. Indicative of the vast change and shifting standards in television news and commentary, the winners ranged from the CBS 60 Minutes II newsmagazine to cable channel Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The former won for its report on prisoner abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq - reported by Dan Rather and produced by Mary Mapes, the same team that later in the year embarrassed the network when it based a report about the military career of George W. Bush on unverified documents. Rather was forced to step down as anchor of the evening news, while Mapes was fired.

Stewart and his Daily Show won their award for mocking TV news in their coverage of the 2004 presidential campaign.

Another winner with a local tie was the HBO movie Something the Lord Made, about the friendship between a white doctor at Johns Hopkins and his African-American assistant in the days of segregation.

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