September 14, 2021
BLACK PUBLIC MEDIA
By Leslie Fields-Cruz
A New Era's Dawn?
New Peabody Awards Recognize Digital Storytellers
When BPM launched its New Media Institute more than a decade ago, we knew we were on the front edge of what would become a storytelling game changer. At the time, our program was one of very few dedicated to ensuring nonfiction Black makers weren’t entirely left out of the opportunities the emerging media scene offered. In the years since, our digital stories have come a long way and our BPMplus program is becoming a vital artery along the talent development/career advancement pipeline. So, you can imagine the joy I felt this summer when I learned that the Peabody Awards has expanded its award categories to include interactive and digital storytelling.
Listed among the new award categories are: gaming, interactive journalism, virtual reality, augmented reality, social video interactive documentary, transmedia storytelling, and more. I’m told the inaugural awards will go to “legacy media projects” that demonstrate a “depth of these new formats, emphasizing the foundational standards for future award winners” and “highlighting stories that have helped define the digital and interactive genres.” The Peabody press release notes that the inaugural awards will be announced later this year along with details about how to submit for future installments of the program.
I’m especially excited to see that the new Peabody Interactive Board includes healthy BIPOC representation (3 of the 10 are Black) and a respected BPM ally. These include Dianna Williams (Kinetic Energy Entertainment), Aymar Jean Christian, Ph.D. (Northwestern University), Kamal Sinclair (Sinclair Futures), and ally Katerina Cizek (MIT Open Doc Lab).
I admit, it’s hard to believe a national media awards program, that is not BIPOC-centric, is starting out with representational leadership already in place. I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed this before. It is FANTASTIC!
Hopefully, this will become so standard that eventually it won’t even be worth noting. But for today, I wanna say, “Well played, Peabody!” I look forward to BPM makers and other BIPOC storytellers becoming regular recipients of these awards. I also look forward to not having to call out organizations that consistently overlook the rich pool of talented BIPOC makers and executives. That day isn’t here yet, but the Peabody announcement dares me to think it might come before I retire. I certainly hope so.
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