Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Outsiders Often Confused about Peabody Award

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Outsiders Often Confused about Peabody Award

Article excerpt

MAYBE you don't know what the Peabody is.

But rest assured that Walter Cronkite knows. So does Jerry Seinfeld. Bill Cosby. David Letterman. Mary Tyler Moore. Johnny Carson. Shari Lewis. Bob Hope. Even Lassie and Miss Piggy.

Roll back the clock. Edward R. Murrow knew, along with Jackie Gleason, Rod Serling, Ed Sullivan and humorist Fred Allen, who famously observed that television was called a medium because it was so rarely well-done.

All were touched by the Peabody, which honored each of them for making TV more than just a medium.

But exactly what IS the Peabody, other than a coveted bronze medallion bearing the profile of a bearded man?

"The Peabody Awards honor work and individuals in radio, television, cable and alternative distribution of electronic moving images and sounds," says Dr. Barry L. Sherman, director of the Peabody program.

He said a mouthful.

In one year (1949) the Peabody saluted, among others, Eric Sevareid, Jack Benny and "Kukla, Fran and Ollie." In 1965, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" "Frank Sinatra - A Man and His Music" and "CBS Reports: KKK - the Invisible Empire" were among the honorees.

This year, 29 Peabodys paid tribute to work as diverse as "Silverlake Life: The View From Here," a video diary of partners dying of AIDS, and Steven Spielberg's cartoon series "Animaniacs."

Sherman's bottom line on the Peabodys: "It's what 15 people think is excellent."

Those 15 people occupy the Peabody board, a body of judges who (unlike the self-congratulating Emmy Awards) have no ties to broadcasting. Instead, they come from industry, the arts, education, government. And each spring, they come to Athens to watch and listen very carefully, and make their final choices from what started as some 1,000 entries.

Peabody has no quota or fixed categories, giving it another distinction from the over-engineered Emmy, which too often serves as a sort of awards Wonderbra, making more of television than is really there.

"In a given year," notes Sherman, "we might have a half-dozen documentaries win Peabodys, but no children's shows, if none is deemed meritorious." Or vice versa.

Named for George Foster Peabody, who among other things was an industrialist, financier, philanthropist, native Georgian and beard fancier, the Peabodys were conceived more than a half-century ago by the National Association of Broadcasters and quickly found a home at the University of Georgia, whose Henry W. …

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