Students and faculty at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism have won an Emmy Award for an investigative news documentary that explores the health and environmental impacts of electronic waste.
The Outstanding Investigative Journalism award, one of the top news awards, was for the PBS Frontline/World documentary, Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground, produced by 10 students in an international reporting class, led by former 60 Minutes producer and UBC Associate Professor Peter Klein.
This is the first time Canadian students have won an Emmy, and the first time students at a Canadian university have been nominated for any Emmy Award in a news category. The students beat out such award contenders as 60 Minutes, 48 Hours and Nightline.
“Journalists work their entire careers for awards of this prestige,” says Mary Lynn Young, Director and Associate Professor, UBC Graduate School of Journalism, who attended the Emmy news and documentary award ceremony in New York today.
“Winning these awards early in their careers will give these students a tremendous leg up, and reflects the quality of journalism students and faculty at UBC,” says Young.
Digital Dumping Ground traced the path of electronic waste around the globe to Ghana, China and India and exposed a number of public health, human rights and national security concerns. It aired on PBS’ documentary series FRONTLINE/World last year and was the most popular video on the series’ website in 2009.
The students made headlines when they purchased discarded hard drives in Ghana for $40 (Cdn) that contained sensitive information about multimillion-dollar contracts between Northrop Grumman, one of the largest military contractors in the U.S., and the Pentagon, Air Marshall Service and Department of Homeland Security.
The students and Klein, with fellow producers of the Ghana documentary, Daniel McKinney and Sarah Carter, attended the ceremony in New York. The documentary was nominated in two categories: Outstanding Investigative Journalism and Outstanding Research.
Klein was nominated for a third Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Business or Economic Reporting (Longform) for his ABC News documentary Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil.
Klein says the awards are made possible thanks to a $1 million donation from Mindset Social Innovation Foundation, which provides opportunities for students to study international reporting techniques in the field and to produce professional journalism on under-covered global issues.
“The e-waste documentary is the kind of project that the vast majority of newsrooms couldn’t have done,” Klein says. “If an editor is going to give you tens of thousands of dollars, they want to be sure that there’s going to be a story there. Our funding from Mindset Foundation is crucial, because we’re able to give students this opportunity to really show that you can do good journalism independently.”
Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground also received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for best documentary of the year from the Society for Professional Journalists earlier this year, and it was nominated for another US prize, the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
After graduating in 2009 and 2010, many of the students receiving Emmy Awards are now employed by news organizations including Global National, CBC Radio, Postmedia News, Al Jazeera and Toronto Star. The 10 students are:
- Heba Abou Elasaad – Egypt
- Shira Bick – Vancouver, B.C.
- Ian Bickis – Ottawa, Ontario
- Krysia Collyer – Greely, Ontario
- Allison Cross – Nanaimo, B.C.
- Daniel Haves – London, Ontario
- Doerthe Keilholz – Bad Kreuznach, Germany
- Jodie Martinson – Calgary, Alberta
- Blake Sifton – St. Thomas, Ontario
- Leslie Young – Kanata, Ontario
The UBC journalism alumni who helped produce Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil:
- Blake Sifton
- Magally Zelaya
View clips from Digital Dumping Ground: www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/ghana804
Download photos related to Digital Dumping Ground: www.flickr.com/photos/ubcjournalism/sets/72157624515689608
View clips of Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=8113439&page=1%3E
Learn more about UBC’s Graduate School of Journalism at www.journalism.ubc.ca