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Home > Publications > Quill > SDX Awards: TV feature reporting, network/ Top 25 markets


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Friday, June 30, 2006
SDX Awards: TV feature reporting, network/ Top 25 markets

Winner: Steve Robinson, Mark Nelson, Elizabeth Cohen and Jennifer Pifer — CNN

By Chris Speckman

Ed Davis had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and decided not to prolong his life through unnatural measures. He was another person destined to pass quietly, even when a similar situation involving Terry Schiavo was still making noise.

By documenting his last days, CNN’s “A Lesson Before Dying” undoubtedly left viewers with a heavy heart.

“The writing was done with a 100-pound pencil,” said the judges. “Each word was chosen carefully. The script was lean and descriptive. … The script meshes perfectly with the excellent videography. The editing creates an unforgettable mood.”

The cable news giant’s team, composed of correspondent Elizabeth Cohen; producer Jen Pifer; associate producer Alicia Volpe; photographers Leon Jobe, Stuart Clark and Jack Austin; techs Kevin Kvicala and Doug Thomas; and editor Kent Healey worked together to tell the story of the 84-year-old native of Tucker, Ga.

“A man of great faith, he was ready to die,” said CNN in its letter to the judges. “While Mr. Davis’ family and friends were grief-stricken, they supported his decision and were willing to share their story with us.”

The family agreed to let CNN document Davis’ last days. Cohen, who was inspired to pursue the story after covering Schiavo’s death, and crew met Davis, a kind-hearted man who reminded them of a warm, old relative or neighbor.

“Ed Davis was just plain decent,” CNN said. “While in great discomfort, Mr. Davis was in good spirits. He dispensed wisdom to his grandchildren; he teased his wife of over 60 years and talked about dying with such honesty and beauty that you couldn’t help but tear up.”

CNN’s cameras captured Davis and his final wish: to attend Mass one last time. After meeting the man on Good Friday, the team feared every phone call they received, concerned that each would be the one in which Davis’ death was reported.

But Davis made it to the Easter Sunday service, fulfilling his final yearning. Perhaps satisfied with his fate, he died only hours after leaving Mass. His passing marked a moment of sadness and celebration.

“Good television feature stories can make us laugh or cry,” said the judges. “They can teach, be thought-provoking, and on rare occasions, make us evaluate how we live our lives. ‘A Lesson Before Dying’ does all of these. It uses the power of television to its maximum. … This was a feature story with value.”

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