April 1, 2009
Anna Christopher, NPR




Washington, D.C.; April 1, 2009 – The first sounds from the scene of a catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, and the riveting personal stories in the weeks to follow. A compelling – even humorous – hour, making sense of the mortgage crisis, creating one of the finest pieces of explanatory journalism on the economy – months ahead of its collapse. A series investigating questionable convictions at Angola Prison, where two men have spent 36 years in solitary confinement.

NPR is being honored for these three distinct works of journalism by the 68th Annual George Foster Peabody Awards, it was announced today. Receiving Peabody Awards are NPR’s coverage of the May 2008 earthquake in Chengdu, China, where a team from the afternoon newsmagazine All Things Considered, on-location for a weeklong broadcast, instantly changed into breaking news mode; the three-part report “36 Years in Solitary: Murder, Death and Justice on Angola”; and “The Giant Pool of Money,” a much-lauded collaboration between NPR and This American Life from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International, explaining the intricacies of the mortgage meltdown.

“I’m incredibly proud that the Peabody committee recognized these deserving works – which truly demonstrate the range and breadth of what we do here at NPR,” says Vivian Schiller, NPR’s President & CEO. “It’s validation of NPR’s continuing commitment to investigative and explanatory journalism, as well as foreign coverage”

NPR and its afternoon newsmagazine All Things Considered are awarded a Peabody for memorable coverage of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that devastated Sichuan Province in May 2008. Hosts Robert Siegel and Melissa Block were in the provincial capitol of Chengdu with their production team, preparing for a special weeklong broadcast, when the massive earthquake struck. From the moments immediately following the quake, Block, Siegel and the entire team traveled throughout Sichuan; their extensive reporting on the immense devastation and relief efforts aired across all of NPR’s programs. NPR’s coverage of the quake and its aftermath earned instant recognition from other media organizations and listeners around the world. Sharing the award with Block and Siegel are executive producer Christopher Turpin; producers Brendan Banaszak, Andrea Hsu and Art Silverman; foreign correspondents Louisa Lim and Anthony Kuhn; engineer Stacey Abbott; and Ellen Weiss, NPR’s senior vice president for news.

In October, NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan first told the story of two inmates at Angola Prison in Louisiana, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, convicted of the 1972 murder of a young prison guard, and the questions that remain about whether the right men were imprisoned. At that point, the two men had spent 36 years in solitary confinement – the longest period of isolation for any American inmates in modern history. Sullivan’s three-part report, which aired on All Things Considered, was the result of several months spent on the story, visiting with the inmates and current and former wardens; speaking with the guard’s widow; and talking to people in the small, insular town who remember the events of 1972. Sharing the Peabody with Sullivan are National Editor Steve Drummond and Amy Walters, producer.

NPR and This American Life from Chicago Public Radio and PRI share an award for “The Giant Pool of Money,” an hour-long documentary that explained the subprime mortgage crisis and Wall Street turmoil. Reported by NPR economics correspondent Adam Davidson, This American Life host Ira Glass and reporter Alex Blumberg, the Peabody committee lauds the report as “impressive for the arresting clarity of its explanation of the financial crisis we’re in, and even more so for its having aired so early – in May 2008.” The tremendous success of “The Giant Pool of Money” led to the creation of “Planet Money,” a multimedia project from NPR in collaboration with This American Life, covering the global economy. Davidson, Blumberg and Glass share this award with NPR editor Les Cook and Weiss.

The Peabodys, the oldest awards in broadcasting, are considered among the most prestigious and selective prizes in electronic media. Awards will be presented on May 18 during a ceremony in New York City.