Berkeley Journalism Collaboration, Students and Alumni Honored with Peabody Nominations

April 22, 2022

Clockwise from left to right: Ellie Lightfoot (’21) Gisela Pérez de Acha (’20) Kathryn Hurd (’21) Traci Curry (‘05) Jonathan Jones (’05) Megan Mylan (’97) Julie Caine (‘07) Steven Rascón (‘22) Amy Mostafa (‘20) and Kathryn Styer Martínez (‘23).

The Peabody Awards Board of Jurors has announced 60 nominees representing “the most compelling and empowering stories” in broadcasting and streaming media in 2021.

One of the nominees is a collaboration between Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program, FRONTLINE and ProPublica. The other four standouts were produced by students and alumni of the school.

Following its recent Polk Award win, “American Insurrection,” which examines the rise of far-right extremist groups in the United States, was nominated in the News category. The documentary, filmed in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, traced how these groups evolved after the deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally. And, a corresponding print story profiled Steven Carrillo, a militia member accused of killing a sheriff’s deputy and a federal court security official in California in 2020. “How an Active Duty Airman Tried to Start a Civil War,” was written by Gisela Pérez de Acha (’20), Kathryn Hurd (’21) and Ellie Lightfoot (’21) and published on the FRONTLINE and ProPublica websites. They and their reporting also were featured in the documentary.

Professor David Barstow supervised and edited the project. The article arose from a story idea by Lecturer David Thigpen.

“As a professional newsroom training the next generation of journalists, watching Gisela, Kathryn and Ellie — who were truly dogged in their reporting efforts — is deeply rewarding,” Bernice Yeung, managing editor of the IRP, said.

“Seeing our co-production with FRONTLINE and ProPublica recognized by the Peabody board is really meaningful,” Geeta Anand, dean of Berkeley Journalism said. “It reminds us just how remarkable the publishing opportunities we provide our students are.”

A number of alumni also were honored.

Julie Caine’s (‘07) “Throughline” — an NPR series plumbing the history behind current headlines to provide necessary historical context — is nominated in the Podcast category.

“How did we get here? Who gets to frame the past? Whose stories matter?,” Caine asks. “On Throughline, we ask these questions every week, and we’re beyond thrilled to have our work recognized by a Peabody Award nomination! It’s because of the J-School and my education there that I’m able to play such a rewarding and challenging role editing this amazing NPR show.”

Traci Curry’s (‘05) Showtime documentary “Attica,” is nominated in the Documentary category, following its recent Academy Award nomination. Through interviews with survivors of the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York, as well as with observers, experts, and government officials, this documentary sheds new light on the violent standoff between Black and Latino inmates and law enforcement officers while highlighting the ongoing need for prison reform.

Jonathan Jones (’05), along with Amy Mostafa (‘20), Steven Rascón (‘22) and Kathryn Styer Martínez (‘23) are nominated in the Podcast/Radio category for Reveal’s “Mississippi Goddam: The Ballad of Billey Joe.” In it, Reveal host Al Letson makes good on a promise to find out what really happened to a Black high schooler whose dreams of going to college and playing pro football ended when he died during a 2008 traffic stop. Authorities said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during the confrontation with a white sheriff’s deputy, but the boy’s family always had doubts.

The nomination follows their recent IRE Award win.

“It’s a real honor to be nominated for a Peabody and stand alongside some of the great works of journalism produced in 2021,” Jones said. “Looking into the suspicious officer-involved death of a Black man in Mississippi would be important to do in any era, but it feels especially important in today’s current climate.”

It would not have been possible, Jones added, without Mostafa, who oversaw the editorial and production teams to ensure everything came together, and Rascón, who tirelessly edited together scripts and segments.

“So much of what I do today in my work traces its roots to what I learned at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley,” Jones continued. “Going there, quite frankly, may be one of the most consequential decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”

“As soon as I heard Al Letson’s opening essay about his personal experience with racism leading into Billey Joe’s story, I knew this was going to be an important story with a different sound from most investigative podcasts,” Rascón said. “I learned how to be a better audio producer by helping mix some of the first versions of episodes and thankful to Al and Jonathan for being great mentors throughout the process.”

Megan Mylan’s (’97) HBO documentary “Simple As Water,” filmed for five years in five countries and focused on four Syrian families processing the aftermath of war, is nominated in the Documentary category.

“I’m honored by the nomination,” Mylan said. “It feels like recognition for the families we collaborated with who endured so much and shared with us so openly, and of the talent, humanity and journalistic rigor that our team put into crafting the film.”

Mylan said what she and her team experienced resonates at this moment when, in Ukraine, we are once again witnessing the wrenching devastation that war inflicts on families. “I hope we can see that the welcoming embrace given to Ukrainian refugees, which enables them to find comfort and ultimately thrive again, is something we can do for all people fleeing violence and disaster,” she said.

The 30 winners of the 82nd annual Peabody Awards — based at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia — will be named during a multi-day virtual celebration from June 6 to June 9. Celebrity presenters will announce each winner via a short video, which will include remarks from the winners.

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