Peabody Awards Honor Heroes

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New York -- Cable networks ranging from mun2 to HBO helped to share the glory Monday when George Foster Peabody Awards were handed out for mass-media public service.

HBO collected four of the statuettes, including one for hard-edged documentary Baghdad ER. “I’m a humble soldier in Sheila Nevins’ army,” the documentary’s co-director and producer, Jon Alpert said, referring to HBO’s documentary and family president. Alpert also said, “There was an attempt made to censor this film” that HBO wouldn’t allow to happen.

On stage with him was Paula Zwillinger, whose son, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Robert Mininger of Sellersville, Pa., died at the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Iraq and whose final hours were recorded in the film. “I’ve come to realize that heroes come in many forms,” she said. “My son. My friends. And HBO.”

Flavio Morales, VP of programming at mun2, said his cable channel, known mostly for programming to young Latinos, started producing news and documentaries about one year ago, following ideas generated by staff members, including For My Country? Latinos in the Military. “This was very important to us,” he said.

There were some lighter moments at the lunchtime ceremony, held at the Waldorf-Astoria here.

Four NBC broadcast-network programs won awards, and NBC’s Bob Costas, host of the event, said NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker told him that was in keeping with his new operating philosophy: “He doesn’t give a damn about ratings and profits. He only cares about critical acclaim and prestigious awards. A philosophy he will no doubt take with him when he moves to C-SPAN in just a few months.” Zucker, sitting at a table upfront, winced at the joke.

Creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence accepted the Peabody for NBC sitcom Scrubs, left the stageand actually came back on several seconds later to say he somehow forgot to thank his wife, Scrubs actress Christa Miller.

Costas then joked that earlier nominees now had equal time to mention anyone they might have overlooked, including: “spouses, significant others, people they’d like to schmooze from a business standpoint.”

Two legendary broadcast journalists -- ABC News anchor Peter Jennings and CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley -- were movingly acknowledged by producers of documentaries they were involved with that won Peabodys. Jennings died in 2005 and Bradley died last year.

The Peabody Awards were established in 1940 and are administered by the University of Georgia’s Grady College, honoring distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals.

Producer Spike Lee (When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, on HBO) put in a plea to continue to help the people of New Orleans who were abandoned by local, state and federal governments. “We can’t forget about them,” he said.

Other cable-network awardees include Brotherhood on Showtime; Boondocks: Return of the King on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim; Food Network’s Good Eats; The Independent Film Channel’s Beyond Borders: Personal Stories from a Small Planet; and BBC America’s Gideon’s Daughter, a drama that won two Golden Globe awards.

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