Magazine article Variety

For Jurors, the Message Is the Medium

Magazine article Variety

For Jurors, the Message Is the Medium

Article excerpt

ON THE FACE OF it, it might be surprising to learn than a CW series based on a telenovela would take home a prestigious Peabody Award.

Yet Peabody's jurors look beyond the surface to honor shows that expand horizons, defend the public interest and encourage empathy with others.

The Peabody Awards began in 1941 as the radio equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes, but have expanded to include all media from television to Web-based programs. This year, winners included such wide-ranging genres as NPR's podcast "Serial," Comedy Central's sketch comedy "Inside Amy Schumer" and GW's campy telenovela spoof "Jane the Virgin."

"Jane" follows the unlikely tale of a virgin who accidentally has been artificially inseminated and lives with her single mom and widowed grandmother. She becomes involved in crime syndicates, murder and a relationship triangle - all in good soapy fun. However, "Jane" also takes on religion, feminism and illegal immigration.

"Even though what we do has wacky twists and turns, we still show compassion towards our characters," says "Jane" creator and executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman. "We wanted a show that had a really good person at the center who is faced with moral dilemmas. We show a strong matriarchy where these women are not defined by the men in their lives."

Urman's particularly proud of how "Jane" was able to put a face on the issue of immigration when Jane's grandmother Alba was faced with being deported.

"We made the political personal," Urman says. "(Alma's) not a criminal, she's part of the fabric of this country. It's a story that needed to be told."

The awards also recognized NPR's "Serial," an unlikely cultural phenomenon. Sarah Koenig co-created and hosted the podcast with Julie Snyder, both producers of "This American Life." It leisurely told one true story over the course of 10 weeks about the 1999 murder of a high school student and the former boyfriend convicted of killing her.

"We are in this media world dominated by the quick, the fast and the 140 characters," Koenig says. "We were inviting people to sit down and listen to an audiocast. "

Koenig says there is a lot of reporting where people are telling you what to think, especially on television.

"From what I heard from young people who listened to the podcast, they felt it was the first time they weren't being shouted at by the media, and they were responding to that. …

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