The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award was created in 1942 by the widow of Alfred I. duPont, an heir to the E.L. DuPont de Nemours & Company of Delaware chemical fortune. Widely regarded as the most prestigious honor in broadcast journalism, the duPont Award is to radio and television news and public-affairs reporters, what the Pulitzer Prize is to authors and print journalists. Like the Pulitzers, the duPont Awards are given by the Columbia University School of Journalism—in their case, by the school’s Alfred I. duPont Center for Broadcast Journalism. Also like the Pulitzers, the duPont Awards each year go almost exclusively to those who broadcast left-leaning stories. Reports that attack capitalism, demonize corporations, call for expanded government welfare programs, portray conservatives as corrupt, depict America as a nation rife with injustice and bigotry, or portray Western culture as a breeding ground for emotional and psychological pathology, are particularly likely to win these career-enhancing prizes.
In 2008, CBS News won a duPont Award for The Mother of All Heists, an investigative report on how high-level corruption in U.S.-occupied Iraq had allowed a least $500 million to be wasted, lost, or diverted into private pockets. That same year, Chicago Public Radio won a duPont for a program focusing on the ostracism and discrimination suffered by a Muslim family in New Jersey after 9/11. WETA-TV in Washington, DC won a duPont for a program probing public attitudes about, and prejudices against, deaf people. HBO won a duPont for a story about an African American man who had been wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering a white North Carolina woman. Houston’s KHOU-TV won a duPont for a report on how laws in some Texas counties allowed prosecutors to withhold pre-trial evidence from the defense, a practice that sometimes led to wrongful convictions. And KNOE-TV in Monroe, Louisiana won a duPont for a series of reports about American soldiers and police officers who had stolen guns, tools and other items from evacuated stores in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2009, Tampa’s WTVT-TV won a duPont for a series of investigative reports about the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of a man charged with vehicular homicide—a series that, according to one reviewer, “raises serious questions about the criminal-justice system in a small town.” WJLA-TV in Washington, DC won a duPont for its reports on a chain of dental clinics that had subjected small children to unnecessary and painful treatments in a scheme to profit from Medicaid. WFAA-TV in Dallas won a duPont for an investigation into corruption and waste at the Export-Import bank of the United States. NPR won a duPont for a story about the allegedly large number of rapes suffered by Native American women at the hands of white men, and the criminal-justice system’s indifference to reports of such crimes. NPR also won for a six-part series—whose subtext was a strong antiwar message—about U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq with serious psychiatric disabilities related to post-traumatic stress. CNN won a duPont for a six-hour documentary series examining the rise of religious fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam—and presenting each of the three faiths as being equally affected by strands of dangerous extremism. And PBS won a duPont for a seven-part investigation which concluded that health disparities in the United States were correlated with income and race.
In 2010, CBS News’ Katie Couric won a duPont for her 2008 interviews with then-Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin—interviews that had gained much publicity for portraying Palin in a negative light. CBS News also won a second duPont for a multi-platform series about the economic recession’s impact on American children. NPR reporters Michele Norris and Steve Inskeep won a duPont for their series about race and its role in the 2008 presidential election. Other winners included an American RadioWorks documentary about the abuse that some U.S. soldiers had inflicted on detainees in Iraq; an HBO documentary about the push to recruit new soldiers into the U.S. Army; and KHOU-TV Houston’s reporting on widespread discrimination against women in the Texas National Guard.
In 2011, ABC News won a duPont for a story about female swimmers who had been sexually abused by their coaches. CBS News won a duPont for an investigation of the factors that had led to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. An NPR production titled Bonding for Profit won a duPont for its “stunning” revelation of a criminal-justice system “where non-violent offenders are held because they are poor or lacking resources.” And the Las Vegas Sun won a duPont for a multimedia series about “the human toll of compulsive gambling,” focusing particularly on “what happens inside the brain of an addict.”
DuPont winners receive no money but are awarded a silver baton inscribed with a famous quote about television by the late CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow: “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.”
For additional information on the duPont Award, click here.