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At Peabodys, remembering Tim Russert

The ceremony includes impromptu tributes to the late 'Meet the Press' host.

June 17, 2008|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The vast ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria was packed Monday with television and radio luminaries for the annual Peabody Awards luncheon, but one person's absence was keenly felt.

The death of NBC's Tim Russert Friday cast a somber tone over this year's celebration of excellence in electronic media. NBC anchor Brian Williams, who was to host the event, backed out, citing the need to be with his colleagues after returning this weekend from Afghanistan.

"I hope you can all understand the degree to which our NBC News family is hurting now," Williams said, in a note read to the gathering by awards director Horace Newcomb. "What makes this so sad has to a lot to do with what the Peabodys represent. We've lost a great practitioner of our craft. We've lost a great friend, a great man, and some of us have lost a partner."

Lesley Stahl of CBS' "60 Minutes" filled in for Williams as emcee, noting that "it's fitting that we're all in one big room together today."

"I think we're meant to grieve as a group and a community," Stahl said.

Throughout the afternoon, several award recipients shared memories of Russert, including "Comedy Central's" Stephen Colbert, who noted that the "Meet the Press" moderator had him on the program after Colbert announced his tongue-in-cheek presidential bid last fall. Afterward, Russert told him he had gotten a lot of flak for giving the satirist a platform, to which the NBC journalist responded, according to Colbert: "Guys, it's comedy, lighten up!"

"I'm very grateful he got our joke," Colbert added.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour, who won for the documentary series "God's Warriors," said the best way to honor Russert's memory was "to do something every day in our life and in our work that we're proud of."

In all, the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication handed out 35 awards, culled from 1,000 submissions.

The recipients included ABC's Bob Woodruff, for his report about wounded veterans; CBS' "60 Minutes," for its investigation into the killing of Iraqi civilians in Haditha; and Univision, for its campaign that explained to viewers how to become U.S. citizens.

Local television stations and public media picked up a large share of the awards for investigative reports and documentaries, while the entertainment television series "30 Rock," "Mad Men" and "Dexter" all received recognition.

"Oh my God, I have one of those, and Edward R. Murrow has one of those -- it's insane," said Matthew Weiner, creator of "Mad Men," as he accepted his award.

For the first time, a Peabody went to a reality show: Bravo's "Project Runway," which is moving to Lifetime in the fall. The show's move triggered litigation between Bravo parent company NBC Universal and the show's producer, The Weinstein Co.

As he accepted the award, producer Harvey Weinstein joked that "no matter what happens in that case, we're making a reality series out of it."


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