Winner 1999

American Presidents:  Life Portraits


American Presidents: Life Portraits represented an extraordinary commitment to explore the life stories of every American president, and in the view of the Peabody Board, exemplified the very best elements of our democratic system and free media. Throughout 1999, C-SPAN explored the life stories of each of the 41 American presidents. The series focused on one president per week, beginning in March with George Washington and ending in December with Bill Clinton. Each week the series featured a live program from a presidential site, from Mount Vernon to Monticello, from the Hermitage in Tennessee (Andrew Jackson) to Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, N.Y. (Teddy Roosevelt). From the sites, noted biographers, presidential scholars, descendants and other guests presented revealing information and assessments of the life, times and legacies of the presidents. The tone set by chairman and CEO (and reluctant air personality) Brian P. Lamb remains on point: good television often takes time, requires few special effects and demands (and rewards) good listening. While, like Mr. Lamb, they rarely seek the spotlight, especially deserving of mention are executive producer Mark Farkas, producers Maura Pierce, Paul Brown, Peter Slen and the more than 200 other unseen individuals who make the C-SPAN service increasingly indispensable. Another strength of the series was its superior educational and outreach effort. Through its C-SPAN in the Classroom effort, teachers were provided with superior instructional materials. A superb web site was created that included interactive quizzes, online chats with presidential experts and key artifacts and historical documents. For creating a series that perfectly embodies the essence of public service in electronic communications, a Peabody Award is presented to C-SPAN for American Presidents: Life Portraits.