Waiting for the Flood

The floodgates are about to open. The deadline for entering calendar-year 2013 programs in the Peabody Awards competition is Wednesday, January 15, and if history is any indicator, 80 percent of the 1,000 or so entries will arrive that day.

Processing the entries – number-coding them, filing and uploading them – is lot of work. It’s also like opening birthday or Christmas presents. What surprises will the Peabody staff be unpacking? What unexpected wonders will the board members be viewing?

Yes, wonders.

Plenty of the entries every year are, in truth, no big shock. It was hardly a surprise last January, for instance, to find widely and glowingly reviewed eventual winners such as Doctor Who, the 60 Minutes report Joy in the Congo and HBO’s movie Game Change submitted for judging. These were highly promoted, big ticket items readily accessible during the previous year in the United States, where most of the Peabody board members reside.

Likewise, it’s easy to anticipate entries that are inevitable responses to the previous year’s biggest news stories. Last year, it was “superstorm” Sandy, Syria and Sandy Hook. The year before, it was the Presidential election, the Japanese tsunami and the Arab Spring.

But there are also plenty of entries every year that arrive as great unknowns: They were presented on relatively obscure cable channels, on the internet, in foreign countries, or only on a single TV or radio station in Phoenix or New Orleans.

What will be this year’s Summer Pasture; a documentary about Tibetan yak herders that at times approached Honeymooners humor?

Who will have come up with a documentary as quirky, distinctive and powerful as 2006’s Braindamadj’sd?

What local news operation will have produced a series that will make national waves like WTHR-TV’s Investigating the IRS?

What journalist will have risked his or her life to get the interviews and video for a stunning report like 2011’s Somalia: Land of Anarchy?

What website or podcast known only to a loyal, lucky few will rise to the level of excellence that defines the Peabody Awards and end up getting international recognition?

We’sre about to find out. Bear with us. It takes time to winnow the best of the best from this deluge of quality work from around the world. As always, however, the wait will be worth it.

About the author: Noel Holston, the Peabody Awards’s public relations coordinator, spent three decades writing about television and popular culture for The Orlando Sentinel, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and New York’s Newsday. His critiques, profiles and feature articles have appeared in more than 100 newspapers and magazines.