GroundTruth wins a National Edward R. Murrow Award

The longest war in American history was supposed to be over by now, but for the soldiers fighting it and the people trying to survive it, the war seems to go on forever.

The GroundTruth Project’s year-long reporting journey, titled “Foreverstan: Afghanistan and The Road to Ending America’s Longest War,” was our team’s effort to explain why Afghanistan remains of great importance to the United States and to the world. With generous support from the Ford Foundation, we focused on the narratives of Afghan people, how they are enduring this war and what hopes they hold for the future.

“Foreverstan” won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for Use of Video on Tuesday. It’s the first time GroundTruth, which launched in 2014, has won this prestigious national award.

The award went to the film work on “The Girls’ School,” a unique institution in Deh’Subz – a town on the edge of Kabul where GroundTruth Films director Beth Murphy produced five short videos that tell the intimate story of students, teachers, parents and school founder Razia Jan.

Razia Jan, the founder of a school for Afghan girls, shares photos and stories with the 9th Grade class. (Photo by Beth Murphy/GroundTruth)
Razia Jan, the founder of a school for Afghan girls, shares photos and stories with the 9th Grade class. (Photo by Beth Murphy/GroundTruth)

“It is such an honor to be recognized by RTNDA,” said Murphy.  “These girls and their stories mean so much to me, and this is recognition, too, for the courage the students have and the hope they represent.”

Murphy also wrote accompanying pieces to the video, as she shared more than four years of immersion reporting in the school which included a dozen reporting trips to Afghanistan.

Murphy and GroundTruth Films associate director Nathan Tisdale premiered a feature-length documentary about the school, “What Tomorrow Brings,” at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto last month. It will also air on PBS’ POV showcase on October 31.

“Beth and her team have produced an extraordinary body of work from the girls’ school and GroundTruth is honored to be recognized by the RTDNA for our commitment to excellent narrative journalism,” said GroundTruth founder and executive director Charles M. Sennott, who has reported extensively from Afghanistan since 9/11 and who produced key elements of “Foreverstan.”

The war in Afghanistan has gone largely overlooked by the American media as overstretched and underfunded newsrooms have tried their best to cover the story. The U.S. military, meanwhile, has consistently denied media embed requests and seems perhaps content to have the war fade into the back pages.

We set out to counter that narrative, to tell the story of Afghanistan by focusing on the Afghan people themselves and the struggles they face as the country braces for the long-delayed drawdown of U.S. and NATO troops. The digital build of the project was done in partnership with WGBH Digital at the PBS flagship station WGBH in Boston, where GroundTruth is based.

“Foreverstan” was carried in its entirety on the GroundTruth website and the project was distributed across broadcast and print editorial partners including PBS NewsHour, PRI The World, The Atlantic online and other outlets. This distributive model, as we call it, is a pioneering publishing strategy that allows a small news organization like GroundTruth to produce outstanding journalism and give it the wide audience reach it deserves through a network of editorial partnerships.

The body of work also featured a three-part, long-form audio documentary for The GroundTruth Podcast, which was recognized with a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award and which iTunes named “New and Notable.”