University of Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. — Coverage of the Arab Spring dominated the Peabody Awards when the oldest honors in broadcasting were handed out Wednesday at the University of Georgia.


CNN, Al Jazeera English and National Public Radio received the prestigious award for their coverage of the pro-Democracy movements that led to leaders being unseated in the Middle East, including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Two Japanese news outlets won for their coverage of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 19,000 people and unleashed the world’s worst nuclear crisis in a quarter century.


CBS News won for reporting on Syria, where President Bashar Assad’s forces have violently cracked down on a yearlong uprising.


The awards recognize achievement and public service by TV and radio stations, individuals and the Internet. An awards ceremony for winners will be held in New York City on May 21.


The list of winners went far beyond news coverage, ranging from popular television shows to radio series to websites.


Peabodys were handed out to Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” IFC’s “Portlandia,” Showtime’s “Homeland” and the long-running quiz show “Jeopardy!” NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” was also honored.


Website received an award, as did Oral history project StoryCorps won for its 9/11 series on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. PBS’ “Austin City Limits” won an institutional Peabody Award for its 37 seasons on air. “The range of the Peabody Awards’ search for excellence has never been wider or deeper than this year,” said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards. “Local news organizations covered stories with international import as well as those significant within their communities. Documentaries and news reports on issues missed or overlooked by big organizations were available on websites. Comedians engaged in political actions. Radio proved again the power of the individual human voice.”


In all, 38 awards were handed out this year.


Local news stations receiving awards include Phoenix’s KPHO-TV for a series about American soldiers and South Korea children exposed to Agent Orange three decades ago and KLAS-TV in Las Vegas for coverage of how the housing market collapse affected the city. A documentary about the 2004 assassination of Cambodian trade union leader Chea Vinchea won a Peabody.


The University of Georgia’s journalism school has administered the awards since 1940. All entries become a part of the Peabody Archive in the University of Georgia Libraries, one of the nation’s oldest archives. 

Harriet Murphy applied to the University of Georgia’s law school 45 years ago, but was rejected because she is black. After being accepted into UT’s law program in 1966, she faced discrimination from fellow students and faculty.

“There were some professors who couldn’t even think about teaching black students,” Murphy, a retired Austin municipal judge, said Wednesday at an on-campus talk hosted by student organization Minority Women Pursuing Law.

Murphy graduated in 1969 and in 1973 became the first black female appointed to a regular judgeship in Texas. She later became a judge for the Austin Municipal Court, a position she held for 20 years. For her services to uphold justice and her community involvement, she was inducted into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame in 2010.

“All my life, I have been involved in improving whatever it is in my community that I can improve,” Murphy said.

Since her childhood, Murphy said she was known for her friendliness. She talked to everyone she met, something she continued to do when she began attending UT, where many people did not return her amity.

“I was speaking to everyone; people were not speaking back to me,” Murphy said.

Friends said she wouldn’t be able to graduate because she was never invited to study groups, something she said is very important to succeed in law school. Fortunately, she was able to find a partner for a moot court competition ­— a mock activity of court proceedings ­— where she said she did well. But she was criticized because she never made eye contact with the white judges, a habit she acquired from her stepfather.

“I was not accustomed to looking white people in the eye,” Murphy said.

Murphy grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and attended Booker T. High School with Martin Luther King Jr. At the talk she read an excerpt from an article she wrote for the school’s yearbook when she was 15. She said the article, which is about the continued mental enslavement of African-Americans in a segregated society, reveals the spirit of civil rights present in King even at such a young age.

Anne-Marie Huff, vice president of Minority Women Pursuing Law, said it is vital to bring people like Murphy on campuses so they can share their wealth of experience and knowledge with the student body.

“Being the only female black law student at UT is an important thing to convey to minority female students,” Huff said.

Government sophomore Monica Castellanos attended the event and said she is considering pursuing a law degree after she graduates. She said she could relate to Murphy’s experience because she is also a minority female in a society where the field of law is dominated by white men.

“It’s always going to be a bit different being a Hispanic woman,” Castellanos said. “You never know what kind of preconceived notions people are going to have about you [because] even in this day and age, not everyone is tolerant.”