Podcasts focused on criminal justice, environmental activism and racial justice were selected for Peabody Awards, in addition to — on a much lighter note — an in-depth series about music legend Dolly Parton. The journalism awards again show the diversity the medium has to offer.
The winners include WNYC Studios’ Dolly Parton’s America, a series in which host Jad Abumrad and producer Shima Oliaee explore Parton’s relationship to feminism, her faith and her country roots, as well as the perpetuation of certain myths about Southern identity. In a Twitter post, Abumrad thanked Parton “for being so generous and gracious in answering every annoying question with such thought. And for living such an epic life.”
Montana Public Radio’s Threshold: The Refuge was also selected as a winner. In the five-episode series, host Amy Martin explores the battle over the future of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, tackling issues including environmental activism, Alaska Native rights, and the politics of oil and gas exploration.
“I’m so grateful to everyone who shared their stories with us, especially people in Kaktovik and Arctic Village,” Martin said. “The fight over the refuge isn’t only about wilderness vs. development — there are long-standing social justice issues at play here, too. I hope this honor from Peabody helps to highlight how environmental stories are inseparable from issues of racism, colonialism and human rights.”
APM Reports’ In The Dark also won its second Peabody. In its latest season, hosts Madeleine Baran and Samara Freemark focused on the case of Curtis Flowers. The death row inmate had been tried for the crime six times before his conviction, and the podcast raised questions about attorney misconduct and a constitutional rights violation in the investigation and prosecution of a 1996 quadruple homicide in Winona, MS. In June 2019, the Supreme Court overturned Flowers’ conviction, and in December he was released on bail.
In the Dark’s first season won a Peabody Award in 2016 for an investigation into the kidnapping and murder of Jacob Wetterling, a Minnesota boy whose disappearance in 1989 went unsolved 27 years.
The Peabody Awards also recognized BBC Sounds’ Have You Heard George’s Podcast?, the show featuring George Mpanga, known as “George the Poet.” The podcast uses poetry, spoken word, music and speculative fiction to explore issues of race, trauma, intimacy, work, art and creativity. It’s the first time a U.K. podcast has won a Peabody award.
“This recognition from the Peabody jury holds a special significance, not only given the award’s history, and the illustrious alumni of past winners that it has recognized since 1941, but because it shines an international spotlight on the importance of George’s writing,” wrote the show’s music producer, Ben Brick, in a series of a Twitter messages.
Thirty Peabody Awards were selected from nearly 1,300 entries submitted from radio/podcasts, television and the web across the genres of entertainment, news, documentary, children’s and public service programming. All winners are chosen unanimously by a board of 19 jurors.
“This year’s winners are a vibrant collective of inspiring, innovative and powerful stories,” said Jeffrey P. Jones, executive director of Peabody. “True to the spirit and legacy of Peabody, our winners are also distinguished by the presence and resilience of many emerging and diverse voices,” said Jeffrey P. Jones, executive director of Peabody.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Peabody Awards Ceremony — originally slated to take place in Los Angeles for the first time on June 18 — was canceled.