2012 Television: In-Depth/Feature Reporting


Sarah Holt, who  is now a three-time winner of the award, was honored along with executive producer Laurie Donnelly for a NOVA documentary, “Cracking Your Genetic Code.” The program, which was written, produced and directed by Holt, explored what it could mean when each of us, for a reasonable cost, can have all of the information in our DNA read, stored and available for analysis. The readout on your genes will reveal the risks of developing certain diseases as well as the chances you might pass them along to your children. The program also discussed the moral dilemmas raised by the new era of genetic self-knowledge.

“Cracking Your Genetic Code” told about the emerging field of personalized medicine through the eyes of real people, including a cancer patient who appears to have cheated death and a cystic fibrosis sufferer breathing easily because scientists have been able to pinpoint and neutralize genetic abnormalities. But the program noted that in a new field, success and failure often intermix. It told of the frustrating and so-far unsuccessful hunt for genetic clues to an illness that has caused a bubbly 5-year-old to suffer multiple strokes. The program also discussed the moral dilemmas raised by the new era of genetic self-knowledge: Will it help or hurt us to know the diseases that may lie in our future, particularly if no treatments are now available? And what happens if such information falls into the hands of insurance companies, employers or prospective mates? Janet Raloff, senior editor at Science News, said the NOVA program is “an example of probing, first-rate journalism. Compelling story lines kept you engaged from beginning to end.” Steve Burns, an independent TV producer with long experience in science programming, said the broadcast is “full of great journalistic storytelling on a topic important and relevant to each of us.” Holt previously won awards for TV in 2002 and 2010. “Personalized medicine will soon be coming to a doctor’s office near you,” Donnelly said, “and we will all need to be able to critically assess the ethical issues it raises, along with its potential benefits.” The winning program was produced in association with The Hastings Center, a nonprofit bioethics research institute.


Sarah Holt

Sarah Holt is an award-winning producer, director, writer, and editor whose work for PBS and cable includes films about science, economics, and history. In pursuit of her stories, she has followed explorers into unknown caves, doctors into the midst of Third World epidemics, and scientists unraveling the secrets of our genetic code. Ms. Holt won an Emmy for “outstanding informational programming” for producing and directing for the PBS series, RX for Survival.