FRONTLINE Wins 5 Walter Cronkite Awards


April 19, 2023

The PBS documentary series has now won the most Cronkite Awards in one year since the awards began in 2001.

The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has announced that FRONTLINE, the PBS investigative documentary series housed at GBH in Boston, has been honored with five 2023 Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in TV Political Journalism. 

FRONTLINE won every award in the Cronkite Awards’ “Documentary (Network)” category, including a series award saluting the newsroom’s journalism and broader body of investigative work, as well as four awards for its documentaries A Thousand Cuts, Lies, Politics and Democracy, Plot to Overturn the Election and Putin’s War at Home

The Cronkite Awards lauded this year’s winners for “digging for truth, combating deception and defending democracy.” The award’s official announcement noted that with these five wins, FRONTLINE has now won the most Cronkite Awards in one year since the awards began in 2001.

In the judges’ citation for the award honoring the series, they acknowledged FRONTLINE’s “consistent commitment to trustworthy journalism that sets the standard we wish all news organizations would follow.”

Produced by Ramona S. Diaz, A Thousand Cuts followed renowned journalist Maria Ressa — CEO of the independent news site Rappler and a top target of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on press freedom. The award-winning 2021 FRONTLINE documentary was commended by the Cronkite judges for doing “an unbelievable job illustrating the nuances, vulnerabilities and disinformation campaigns all at play” in Duterte’s crackdown on the free press. The judges added that the film “masterfully depicts … a recipe for national disaster that applies to us all globally.” 

Veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk’s Lies, Politics and Democracy examined American political leaders and the choices they’ve made that have undermined and threatened our nation’s democracy. The two-hour FRONTLINE special — which premiered on PBS and became available to stream in the weeks ahead of the November 2022 midterms — examined how officials fed the public lies about the 2020 presidential election and embraced rhetoric that led to political violence. Cronkite Award judges cited the film, produced by Kirk, Mike Wiser and Vanessa Fica, with journalists Jelani Cobb and Tim Alberta, for being a “remarkably clear and definitive … behind-the-scenes account of Trump and his allies” that depicts “how disinformation can destroy effective communication and turn lies into reality.” The judges added that the film was “a powerful advocate for democratic norms.”

From director and producer Samuel Black and correspondent A.C. Thompson, FRONTLINE and ProPublica’s documentary Plot to Overturn the Election traced the hidden sources of misinformation about the 2020 election, demonstrating how a handful of people have had an outsized impact on the current U.S. crisis of democratic legitimacy. The 2022 documentary, which was reported by ProPublica’s Doug Bock Clark, Alexandra Berzon and Kirsten Berg, was cited for its “relentless digging.”

And in Putin’s War at Home, FRONTLINE shines a light on some of the defiant Russian activists, journalists and citizens risking arrest and imprisonment to protest and speak out against President Vladimir Putin’s in Ukraine. The Cronkite judges noted that the documentary, produced by Gesbeen Mohammed and Vasiliy Kolotilov, was “made at incredible risk to the journalists and their subjects.” The judges added: “Journalism is no more powerful than what is exhibited here.”

“We are deeply grateful to USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center and the Walter Cronkite Award judges for honoring FRONTLINE’s journalism with these awards,” says Raney Aronson-Rath, editor-in-chief and executive producer of FRONTLINE. “As we see freedom of speech, expression, and the press under attack around the world, we are committed to producing journalism that lays bare what the implications of a threatened democracy really are. We share these awards with our intrepid journalists, whose reporting boldly holds truth to power, with our editorial partners, and with GBH, PBS and CPB, who fiercely champion our investigative storytelling.”

“At a time when journalists are fighting a tidal wave of disinformation and misinformation, it’s incredibly heartening to honor these examples of superlative work by indefatigable TV reporters and producers, from the national to the local level,” said Martin Kaplan, Annenberg professor and director of the school’s Norman Lear Center, which administers the Walter Cronkite Award. 

Awarded biennially, the Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in TV Political Journalism are noted to honor outstanding local and national journalism that informs and empowers citizens and serves as a watchdog and advocate for democratic norms and institutions.

According to the USC Annenberg’s official announcement, this year’s awards will be presented on Friday, June 9, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

You can read a full list of this year’s Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in TV Political Journalism here, and explore FRONTLINE’s award-winning documentaries below:

A Thousand Cuts (Credits)

Lies, Politics and Democracy (Credits)

Plot to Overturn the Election (Credits)

Putin’s War at Home (Credits)

Anne Husted | Manager, PR & Communications, FRONTLINE (PBS)
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