Three FRONTLINE Reports Honored as 2022 duPont-Columbia Award Finalists


From left to right: 'American Insurrection,''COVID's Hidden Toll,' 'Plastic Wars.'

November 4, 2021
Anne Husted Series Publicity Manager, FRONTLINE

Two FRONTLINE documentaries, American Insurrection and COVID’s Hidden Toll, as well as one podcast episode drawing on reporting from FRONTLINE and NPR’s film Plastic Wars, were named 2022 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards finalists on Thurs., Nov. 4.

The prestigious awards, established in 1942, “uphold the highest standards in journalism by honoring winners annually, informing the public about those journalists’ contributions and supporting journalism education and innovation,” the announcement said.

Of the 30 finalists announced, PBS led with eight nominations total. FRONTLINE airs nationwide on PBS and is produced at GBH in Boston. The three FRONTLINE programs recognized reflect the breadth of the series’ investigative journalism, offering in-depth reporting on issues impacting the daily lives of the American public:

  • American Insurrection (April 2021)— This documentary, a collaboration with ProPublica and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program, investigated the rise of extremism in America in the shadow of the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. From director Rick Rowley, correspondent A.C. Thompson and producers Karim Hajj and Jacqueline Soohen, the 90-minute documentary probed the far-right groups and leaders responsible for recent threats and violence, examining how far-right extremist groups evolved in the wake of the deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally and the threat they pose today. The documentary “uncovered the shifts in ideology, tactics and communications that led to the January 6th attack on Capitol Hill,” the duPont listing of nominees said.
  • COVID’s Hidden Toll (July 2020) — From writers, producers and directors Daffodil Altan (who also served as correspondent) and Andrés Cediel, as well as co-producer María José Calderón, this award-winning documentary examined the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on vulnerable workers, many of them undocumented immigrants, who pick and process the country’s food supply. The documentary “examined how the absence of workplace protections for essential agricultural workers fueled COVID infections among a vulnerable workforce as cases among Latinos and African Americans were surging across the U.S.,” the duPont nominee listing said. The film was supported by the WNET Group’s Chasing the Dream initiative on poverty and economic opportunity in America.
  • Waste Land”(Sept. 2020) — An NPR Planet Money podcast episode drawing on FRONTLINE and NPR’s March 2020 documentary Plastic Wars, this story offered reporting from journalist and correspondent Laura Sullivan as she “tracked down retired industry lobbyists to expose a decades-long marketing effort to convince consumers that plastic products are more recyclable than they actually are,” the duPont listing of nominations said. With American University School of Communication’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, the film — directed by Rick Young and co-produced by Fritz Kramer and Emma Schwartz —revealed how for decades, plastic makers  publicly promoted recycling, despite from almost the beginning privately expressing doubts that widespread plastic recycling would ever be economically viable.

“It’s an honor to have FRONTLINE’s collaborative reporting recognized by the duPont-Columbia Awards in this way,” says FRONTLINE’s executive producer, Raney Aronson-Rath. “We share this wonderful news with our editorial partners and supporters who are committed to delivering trustworthy accountability journalism to the American public.”

The winners of the 2022 duPont-Columbia Awards will be announced in February 2022. You can read the full list of this year’s finalists here and explore the three FRONTLINE projects recognized below:

American Insurrection 



COVID’s Hidden Toll



“Waste Land”

Plastic piles up at Garten Services in Salem, Oregon.

Drawing on reporting from FRONTLINE and NPR’s 2020 documentary, Plastic Wars.


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