FRONTLINE Recognized at 2017 Writers Guild Awards

February 20, 2017
by Patrice Taddonio Assistant Director of Audience Development

Two FRONTLINE films, The Choice 2016 and Inside Assad’s Syria, tied to win the Documentary Script — Current Events category last night at the 2017 Writers Guild Awards. Additionally, the correspondent and co-writer of FRONTLINE’s documentary Policing the Police was honored with the Writers Guild of America, East’s inaugural Walter Bernstein Award.

Written by Michael Kirk and Mike Wiser, The Choice 2016, an in-depth, dual biography of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that aired in September 2016, went behind the headlines to investigate what shaped the two major-party presidential candidates — where they came from, how they lead and why they wanted to take one of the most difficult jobs imaginable.

“We think this is an important time for writers of long-form journalism to do their work with all the honesty and responsibility they can muster,” Kirk and Wiser said. “We’re extremely thankful that FRONTLINE, executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath and PBS continue to support this work.”

Inside Assad’s Syria, written by Martin Smith, followed Smith on a dangerous and revealing journey inside government-controlled areas of the war-torn country, with rare, on-the-ground reporting and firsthand accounts from Syrians caught in the crisis.

“I am honored that this film was recognized by the guild,” said Smith, who spent three weeks in Syria filming the October 2015 documentary. “I’d like to thank my colleagues for their extraordinary hard work and sacrifice and FRONTLINE executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath for her editorial support. I also want to recognize Thaer al Adjlani, a Syrian journalist, who had promised to help us but was killed in a mortar attack soon after we arrived in Damascus.”

Additionally, Jelani Cobb — the correspondent and co-writer of the July 2016 documentary Policing the Police —  was honored with the Writers Guild of America, East’s inaugural Walter Bernstein Award, which is “presented to honor writers who have demonstrated with creativity, grace and bravery a willingness to confront social injustice in the face of adversity.”

The film, written by Cobb and producer/director James Jacoby, takes viewers on a rare, up-close journey inside the Newark, New Jersey police force, which was ordered to reform by the Department of Justice, and explores the complexities of rebuilding relationships between police and communities after years of mutual mistrust.

“I’m humbled to be the recipient of an award named for Walter Bernstein,” said Cobb, who is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. “His nearly seven-decade career is a benchmark not only of creative commitment but also artistic integrity. Certainly the lessons of his life — including the years he was blacklisted in Hollywood for his political views — have never been more relevant than they are now.”

FRONTLINE earned four WGA nominations in total this year. In the Documentary Script — Current Events category, all three nominations were for FRONTLINE writers: Smith for Inside Assad’s Syria, Kirk and Wiser for The Choice 2016, and Marcela Gaviria for Chasing Heroin, a searing investigation of how America’s heroin and opioid crisis came to be, and of radical new approaches to fighting it.

Kirk and Wiser were nominated again in the Documentary Script — Other Than Current Events category, this time for Netanyahu at War, an inside look at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political rise and his relationship with the U.S.

“Congratulations to the winners and nominees on these well-deserved honors,” said Aronson-Rath, executive producer of FRONTLINE. “These talented journalists share and embody FRONTLINE’s commitment to tough, fair reporting, powerful narrative documentary storytelling and incisive writing.”

Watch the winning films below:

The Choice 2016

Inside Assad’s Syria

Policing the Police

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