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Iraq war stories win top news Emmys

Investigations and documentaries focus on intelligence, body armor and troops.

September 23, 2008|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Television news reports about the war in Iraq and its repercussions took top honors Monday night at the 29th annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards.

Among the pieces recognized was a "60 Minutes'" investigation into the claims by Curveball, an Iraqi defector who provided the bulk of the intelligence the U.S. used in alleging that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and a story on "NBC Nightly News" that exposed flaws in the body armor used by U.S. troops.

The accolades for reports about the war came as daily coverage of Iraq has greatly diminished on the broadcast networks, overtaken by stories about the 2008 presidential race and the economy.

Other top Emmys went to ABC News for its breaking coverage of the California wildfires, to CBS News for the two years it spent following an Iowa National Guard unit deployed to Iraq and to PBS for "Operation Homecoming," which told the story of military personnel through their own writings.

PBS' "Independent Lens" won best documentary for its piece on composer Billy Strayhorn.

As in past years, PBS won the most Emmys, scoring 10 awards. CBS followed with five, ABC had four, National Geographic won three and both NBC and the History Channel took home two.

The News and Documentary Emmys, presented by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at the Jazz at Lincoln Center, were handed out a day after the prime-time Emmys aired live on ABC.

The mood was decidedly more serious at Monday's ceremony, which will air next week on C-SPAN. Television journalists exhorted each other not to bow in the face of fierce partisan criticism.

"The press gets a lot of knocks, but we are a crucial and vital part of democracy," said CBS' Bob Schieffer as he accepted a lifetime achievement award.

"I'm proud to be a reporter," he added. "I'm proud of you. . . . Be proud of what you're doing today."

Lifetime achievement awards also went to documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and the late Tim Russert.

"Try getting through an election season without Tim," said NBC anchor Brian Williams. "He is what's missing from our current campaign debate, our current national conversation."

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matea.gold@latimes.com

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