Wednesday, March 31, 2010

'Children of the Mountains' wins a Peabody Award; so do shows on OxyContin and W.Va. textbooks

The hour-long ABC documentary "A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains," broadcast on "20/20" in February 2009, was a winners in the 69th George Foster Peabody Awards for electronic media, announced today by the University of Georgia.

"A powerful documentary shot in the hollows and house trailers of Appalachia reminds us that not all critical problems lie in 'developing' nations," the Peabody board says on its Web site. The program, reported and narrated by Kentucky native Diane Sawyer, tracked the travails of children who were the victims of irresponsible adults in four Eastern Kentucky communities.

The documentary stirred complaints that it represented those subcultures as the dominant culture in Central Appalachia, and amplified an unfounded stereotype with a segment about a largely irrelevant case of incest. But it also made residents and journalists in the region think about their own responsibilities to address its problems, and the show's revelation of "Mountain Dew Mouth" prompted action from drink manufacturer PepsiCo and the state of Kentucky to protect children's oral health. For our commentary on the show, click here.

Two other Appalachian documentaries won Peabodys: "The OxyContin Express" by Current on Vanguard TV, and "The Great Textbook War" by Terry Kay Productions on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. The board said of the former, "With tales of drug-dealing MDs in Florida and Appalachian 'pill-billies,' the documentary makes clear the enormity of the prescription-drug epidemic." Of the latter, "This thoughtful, balanced and gripping radio documentary shows how a 1974 battle over textbook content in rural West Virginia foreshadows the 'culture wars' still raging," the board said.

1 comment:

Mark Lynn Ferguson said...

It did indeed present a sub-culture as the dominant culture, but I just did a post on The Revivalist: Word from the Appalachian South, defending the story's angle.

Diane Sawyer was graced with an hour block of primetime television. (Such a gift!) If she had tried to fold all of Appalachia into it, the show would have looked like a disjointed infomercial…

“Hear a banjo! Eat some cornbread! See the view! Aww, sad, some poor people. Don’t forget your camera!”

Instead she leveraged TV’s greatest asset –the ability to create an emotional connection. She let millions of Americans feel the desperation of living without food, the instability of having a drug addicted mother, and the struggle to achieve security when economic distress is all that you’ve known.