Hard Earned wins 2016 duPont-Columbia Award

Hard Earned has won a 2016 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, one of the highest honors in broadcast journalism.

The filmmaking team will collect their 2016 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award at the ceremony on January 17 in New York City.

The film is one of 16 documentaries and news reports across several platforms honored with Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award Silver Batons this year. The awards are seen as the broadcast journalism equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards praised Hard Earned by stating:
"The immersive verité filmmaking of this six-part series invested viewers in the lives of the struggling working class by creating compelling human portraits.

This riveting six-part program, produced by Kartemquin Films for the network’s documentary series, Al Jazeera America Presents, follows five families who live - across the United States - at or near minimum wage. The series uses innovative graphics and character driven storytelling to allow individual stories to speak for a larger group. Viewers follow the families both at work and at home, as they juggle the rising costs of housing, education, food, medical bills and more – all while working low-wage jobs. As widening economic inequality and the wealth gap continue to increase in the U.S., these lower-income families struggle to get ahead, and they illustrate in human terms how wage stagnation, student loan debt and demographic shifts in the workforce contribute to financial instability for many Americans. The production’s gritty approach is coupled with its subjects steely determination to portray their lives honestly. They spring to full, three dimensional life, instead of cookie-cutter stereotypes. In the strong tradition of duPont Award winning work, this series gives voice to the voiceless."

The great news comes as Kartemquin's six-hour series about five American families living on low wage incomes will rebroadcast on Al Jazeera America starting this Sunday, December 20th at 10p ET/7p PT. The six episodes are also available on-demand now through January 8th.

"It was an honor for our whole team to tell the stories of these hardworking Americans. We share this award with them, and are grateful to them for opening up their lives to us for this series." said Series Producer Maggie Bowman. "To have their stories recognized with this Dupont award is really incredible and quite moving."

“This piece would not have come together without our amazing and dedicated documentary team, and without the focus and determination of our partners at Kartemquin,” said Cynthia Kane, Senior Commissioning Producer, Documentaries for AJAM. “I’m so proud to share this honor with them, as they continue to produce some of the most remarkable stories to share with American audiences.”

In six one-hour episodes, Kartemquin and Al Jazeera America's Hard Earned follows the families both at work and at home, as they juggle the rising costs of housing, education, food, medical bills and more – all while working low-wage jobs. As widening economic inequality and the wealth gap continue to increase in the U.S., can these lower-income families get ahead? How are wage stagnation, student loan debt and demographic shifts in the workforce contributing to financial instability for many Americans?

The Hard Earned series producer is Maggie Bowman, directors are Katy Chevigny, Maria Finitzo, Ruth Leitman, Brad Lichtenstein, and Joanna Rudnick, with series editors & co-directors Liz Kaar and David E. Simpson, and executive producers Steve James, Justine Nagan, and Gordon Quinn. Congratulations to them all - and to our colleagues at Al Jazeera America!

This is the second time in Kartemquin history that one of our films has won the award; The Interrupters received a duPont Award in 2013.

Originally broadcast in May 2015, Hard Earned was also nominated this year for the Best Limited Series Award at the 2015 International Documentary Association (IDA) Awards.

About Kartemquin Films
Kartemquin is a collaborative center for documentary media makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society. In 2016, Kartemquin will celebrate 50 years of sparking democracy through documentary. For the anniversary, several organizations in Chicago and around the country will host a series of screenings and events to celebrate the impact of their work, and the power of documentary to inspire storytelling for years to come. Follow at #KTQ50.

A revered resource within the film community on issues of fair use, ethics, story and civic discourse, Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by audience and community engagement strategies, and for its innovative media arts community programs. The organization has won every major critical and journalistic prize, including multiple Emmy, Peabody, duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and an Oscar nomination. Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago. www.kartemquin.com

About Al Jazeera America
Al Jazeera America is the U.S. news channel that provides both domestic and international news for American audiences. Headquartered in New York City with bureaus in 12 cities across the United States, AJAM carries an award-winning mix of live news, special programming, documentaries and more. To find AJAM in your area, visit www.aljazeera.com/getajam.Visit AJAM online at http://www.aljazeera.com/america. Like us on Facebook and follow @AJAM, @AJAMCorp on Twitter for the latest news and updates. Join the conversation using #AJAM.

Hard Earned
In Evergreen Park, Illinois – a suburb of Chicago – we meet 50-year-old Emilia Stancati, who works full-time as a waitress at a downtown restaurant chain after losing her higher-paying union construction job. “When you ask for what would be my dream, I don’t have one,” she says. “My dream would be to have weekends off.” She lives off credit cards when she doesn’t make enough money to support herself and works to re-invent herself professionally one more time.

In Chicago, 24-year-old Takita Akins and her boyfriend, 23-year-old De’Jaun “DJ” Jackson, are raising two children and working hourly jobs at Walgreens. “I love my job but the pay is not good,” Akins says. “Right now, we’re living paycheck to paycheck.” Jackson says, “I can’t get down [about money] because my family is looking at me.” DJ joins the national “Fight for 15” movement in the hopes that organizing with his co-workers can lead to changes for all low-wage workers.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C., 32-year-old Jose Merino works as a clerical worker after serving two tours in Iraq. “When I [first] came back, I couldn’t find a job anywhere,” Merino says. He lives with his young son and his girlfriend, 27-year-old high school counselor Elizabeth Bonta. “You always hear about the rich and famous, and then you hear about the complete and utter opposite,” she says. “But you never hear about people that have credit card debt, three kids they’re putting through college or living with a stepson and modifying their life. That, I think, is the American story.” In spite of the struggle, Merino and Bonta take a shot at the American dream of home ownership in an effort to give their son his own bedroom.

In Silicon Valley, CA, 20-year-old Mexican-American Hilton Kennedy III juggles multiple jobs, including his work in the corporate cafeteria at Google’s Mountain View campus, yet he and his pregnant girlfriend, 18-year-old Diana Gonzalez, can only afford to live in a garage in a Silicon Valley trailer park that they share with Diana’s cousin. “The situation in Tijuana is very difficult, and in the U.S. I have the opportunity to be more,” he says. Kennedy and Gonzalez work to move out of the garage and move up at work, all while navigating a personal tragedy.

In Milwaukee, WI, 66-year-old Percy Evans and his wife Beverly Evans (65) contend with filing for bankruptcy and avoiding foreclosure on their home, after having lost the middle-class salary jobs they had worked for many years. Now they work multiple low-paying jobs, contend with health issues, plan for a retirement that looks very different from what they had anticipated, and try to hold onto their position as the cornerstone of their large family.

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