Originally published on http://www.grady.uga.edu on May 20, 2013.
NEW YORK — Achieving excellence and overcoming mediocrity was the theme of the 2013 Peabody Awards, held May 20 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
“Your work is the measure and the model of what should be achieved,” said Dr. Horace Newcomb, Lambdin Kay Chair of the Peabody Awards, addressing the 39 award recipients. “Your work rises as islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity.”
Newcomb, overseeing his final Peabody Awards before he retires, used his speech to urge the electronic media industry to use the medium to produce quality work. Expressing concern over the quality of news and entertainment – attributed in part to the growing number of entertainment and news outlets – Newcomb offered particularly harsh words in his farewell speech.
“You now work in a spreading sea of mediocrity,” he said. “All this has made so much of entertainment soft.”
In particular, Newcomb noted the wide array of reality shows on TV. “Find me some weird people, make something happen and call it reality,” he said. “Four or five days of people screaming at each other and we’ll call them celebrities.”
Newcomb also criticized news organizations that focus on soft news. “We have a 40-second hole at the end, let’s do a puppy story,” he said to laughs among the more than 850 journalists, entertainers and media enthusiasts in attendance. “I can tell you, we know the puppy story — every version of the puppy story.”
“We don’t need the puppy story,” Newcomb said. “We need information and analysis. We need comedy that moves us deeply and opens us to new possibilities, delights us with our own humanity in all its glory and amuses us with our failures. We need documentaries that push the scene with new eyes, not fakery that pretends to be reality.”
Newcomb’s words set the tone for the ceremony, where recipients addressed the importance of sound journalism and quality entertainment.
To view photos of the 2013 Peabody Awards Ceremony, click here.