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Cathay Dupont Awards: Prestige Has Its Prize

Prestige Has Its Prizes: The George Foster Peabody and Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards


Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award


In 1942 Jessie B. duPont created this award "as a tribute to the journalistic integrity and public-mindedness of her late husband, Alfred I. duPont." Since 1968 the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University Cathay Dupont Award has administered the awards, which the school considers "the most prestigious award in television and radio news, the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes [which are also administered at the Graduate School of Journalism]."


The stated purpose of the award is "to bring the best in television and radio journalism to professional and public attention and to honor those who produce it." The award recognizes the contributions made to local communities and the nation as a whole by news organizations.


The late Louis I. Kahn designed the silver batons that are awarded to annual winners. Each baton is inscribed with Edward R. Murrow's famous 1958 comment to the Radio & Television News Directors Association: "This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box."


"The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards have always welcomed long-form nonfiction reporting," says Jonnet Abeles, director of the awards competition. While there is a focus on news programs that have aired in the US, Abeles points out that "the award program also tries to recognize independent work each year."


The duPont Award process of review is two-tiered. There is a Board of Screeners, comprised of 80 members who screen approximately 10 entries or 10 hours of programming. The board generates reports on the work and rates each entry on an excellent/good/fair/poor rating scale. The best entries go to one of the nine jurors on the final panel. The jurors serve for three years and the terms are renewable up to nine years, thus providing continuity to the process. Each juror might look at 20 to 30 entries, and can recommend longer works such as Eyes on the Prize or The Civil War that would require special arrangements for screening and review. The final panel then meets for three full days together to watch the "best of the best," talk together and arrive at consensus decisions as to the winners.


From 1978-2004 the organization offered a taped program of the duPont Awards Ceremony at Columbia to PBS and its member stations. In 2004 Columbia developed a new way of presenting the winners and their work: an hour-long documentary format presenting six of the 12 winners in programmatic form using excerpts of the work and excerpts of the awards ceremony. Martin Smith, a producer from the award-winning PBS series FRONTLINE, produced the 2006 program. Titled Telling the Truth: The Best in Broadcast Journalism, it aired on PBS stations in January.


George Foster Peabody Award


In 1938 the National Association of Broadcasters formed a committee to establish a "Pulitzer Prize for radio." Lambdin Kay, manager of WSB Radio in Atlanta, was a member of the committee. Nicknamed "The Little Colonel," Kay became a champion of the award project. He asked John E. Drewery, dean of the Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, to sponsor the program. An agreement was reached between the university and NAB, and the awards were first presented in 1941 for radio broadcasts in 1940. Television awards followed in 1948, with honors for cable introduced in 1981. read cathay dupont award articles here ...