2011 Television: In-Depth/Feature Reporting

In a gripping account of the aftermath of the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the WGBH/NOVA team looked at the impact of the disaster and the search for answers by scientists in the field. Richard Harris of NPR said that the producers “moved with astonishing speed to tell the story of a still-unfolding disaster.” Richard Hudson, director of science production for Twin Cities Public Television, said the program used “breathtaking footage not seen in other broadcasts” and offered an “excellent treatment of the drama and the underlying science.” Robert Strange, executive producer for Pioneer Productions, said the logistics for the program were challenging, given the short turnaround time, and praised “the willingness of respected members of the scientific community to investigate and publicly explain the causes and consequences of the disaster, even at the risk of placing themselves in considerable personal danger.”


Mark J. Davis of MDTV Productions, the writer, producer, and director of the "Death of a Mars Rover" program, tells the story of the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and the desperate effort to save Spirit after the craft drove into a quicksand trap five miles from its landing site. When the rovers arrived at Mars in 2004, they were expected to travel only a few hundred yards and last 90 days. More than seven years later, Opportunity is still active but a final attempt to revive Spirit on 25 May 2011 was unsuccessful. “Along with its gripping storytelling,” Sawyer said, “the production makes maximum use of real-life images from the surface of the Red Planet in seamless combination with animation and graphics to depict the lonely, cliff-hanging adventures of two robots under the skilled remote direction of an engaging team of handlers in a lab back on Earth.” David Baron, health and science editor for PRI’s “The World,” said the program had “memorable characters—human and otherwise. You can’t help but care about this plucky piece of machinery.” Davis, who won previously in the same category in 2004, said it was “flattering and reassuring to get a pat on the back” from the judges.