The Peabody Media Center and the University of Georgia honored six winners of the Peabody-Facebook Futures of Media Awards at a luncheon at Hotel Eventi in New York last month. Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook, served as host for the event.
“This is a group of pioneers,” she told the audience in her opening remarks. “They are using 3-D modeling, virtual reality, even video games to cover serious and very important issues, ranging from torture in prison to childhood cancer to transgender dating and identity, and they are breaking the mold.”
The awards, issued to outstanding digital storytelling released in 2016, are made possible through a partnership between Peabody and Facebook. The awards are judged by a group of 16 Peabody honor student fellows, under the guidance of the Peabody Awards program, based at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
“The Futures of Media Award represents our recognition that the digital era has unleashed an array of opportunities for storytelling in newly complex ways,” said Jeffrey Jones, director of the Peabody Awards and Peabody Media Center. “Digital media doesn’st just hail a viewer or reader; it welcomes users into an engagement with and experience of the story. It offers powerful affordances for seeing, hearing, and feeling in bold new ways.”
The 2016 Peabody-Facebook Futures of Media Awards are (in alpha order by category):
“Doctors & Sex Abuse” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Doctors & Sex Abuse merges old-line sleuthing with data journalism and multimedia storytelling for a damning report on how doctors who have sexually violated patients are often given a pass by the very boards and agencies charged with regulating them. The series, prompted by an investigation of orders of the Georgia Composite Medical Board by reporter Danny Robbins, found that a surprising number of doctors in the state who had sexually violated patients were allowed to continue practicing. The newspaper widened the scope of its investigation—hiring a legal researcher and developing a computer program to explore the issue nationwide—in the end discovering that offenses are often kept off the record and disciplinary actions hidden from the public. Through multimedia storytelling, vivid illustrations, and an intuitive interface, this extensive report offers a new standard for investigative journalism as the field increasingly shifts to digital spaces.
“Saydnaya” (Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture)
Through architectural and acoustic modeling, co-creators Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture provide an unprecedented look deep within an infamous torture prison in northern Syria. Saydnaya: Inside a Syrian Torture Prison recreates the interior of the prison from memories of past detainees, despite the sensory deprivation experienced within, using 3-D modeling and 360-viewing combined with personal interviews and audio recordings. With background information on the prison and more broadly, detention in Syria, this interactive documentary serves as a call to action and engages the public to work toward ending such brutal human rights abuses.
“Phallaina” (Small Bang Studio, France Télévisions Nouvelles Ecritures, and Oikos Agency with the participation of the CNC: Centre National du Cinéma et de l’simage animée)
Phallaina is a graphic novel designed to be a mobile experience from the ground up. In an increasingly paperless world, Phallaina shows how one of print’s most cherished art forms can transfer seamlessly into the digital space. Through use of parallax scrolling, mind-bending panel transitions, and innovative sound design, Phallaina concocts one of the most unique and cerebral digital stories of the year, tying in themes such as mythology, friendship, and mental health.
“That Dragon, Cancer” (Numinous Games)
A video game that challenges our expectations of the medium, That Dragon, Cancer documents the true story of 4-year-old Joel Green’s lifelong battle with cancer in a beautifully poetic gameplay environment. Players take on the roles of parents Amy and Ryan Green as they face increasingly emotional challenges throughout Joel’s short life, utilizing archival voice recordings and interactive exploration to guide players through artful reinterpretations of real events. A beautiful lesson in empathy and strength, That Dragon, Cancer creates a stylized and abstract world, yet ultimately remains grounded in the powers of faith and love.
“Pearl” (Google Spotlight Stories with Evil Eye Pictures)
Set entirely inside their car, Pearl is the heartwarming story of a father-daughter duo chasing their dreams as both grow older. Its innovative 360-degree format fully immerses viewers in this animated story while allowing for extraordinary detail that warrants multiple views. Pearl‘s overarching messages on the beauty of what we pass down to others and life’s little moments are almost as sweet as the film’s earworm of a song.
“Her Story” (Speed of Joy)
With a narrative weight expected from a much lengthier format, the web series Her Story is an illuminating exploration of transgender identity with a total run time under 60 minutes. The show’s six episodes follow two trans women as they navigate relationships in Los Angeles, revealing complex characters defined by much more than their trans status. The characters seemingly achieve their authentic selves—as bartenders, lawyers, friends, partners—and as humans struggling, growing and searching for love. With the power to shift perspectives and reframe the conversation about transgenderism, Her Story is in the vanguard for trans representation through a media platform that easily allows for the continued creation of such original stories.
About Peabody-Facebook Futures of Media Awards
The Peabody-Facebook Futures of Media Awards honor groundbreaking digital narratives and the technologies used to tell these stories. With a spirit of innovation at the core of both Peabody and Facebook, the organizations came together in 2015 to celebrate the most powerful narratives in an ever-changing digital landscape. Honorees are selected by the Peabody Student Honor Board and are deemed to have told a story that matters: a story that inspires empathy around the human condition, shapes our understanding of the world, transforms how we address important societal issues, and takes a chance with what it’s saying and how it’s told.