Ira Glass and the staff of WBEZ's This American Life were disappointed when they received the list of this year's Peabody Awards winners and found they weren't on it.
But when veteran journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault read the winners Wednesday on live TV with Glass sitting next to her and the list included This American's Life's "Harper High School," Glass was shocked. At first, Glass thought Hunter-Gault made a mistake when she announced the series that everyone at This American Life hoped would win, but that was not the case.
The two-part show about Harper High School in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood details the lives of students and teachers at the school who are affected by violence on a daily basis. Last year, 29 current or former students were shot. Eight of them died. Glass and the staff of This American Life spent five months at the school talking to students, teachers and staff.
"I was stunned. Really stunned," Glass said in a blog post. "In fact, right before she said it, I glanced down at her note cards and saw 'Harper High School' and almost pointed to it and said 'No no, that's a mistake. We didn't win.'"
Glass and the This American Life cohort were told they didn't win and were intentionally left off the list of winners they received. The judges wanted to surprise Glass on live TV, and they effectively punked him for April Fools.
Harper High School has received national attention for its high rate of violence in the past. Last summer, Michelle Obama met with students from the school in Washington D.C. to talk about the violence in their community. The school has also been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
The Peabody Awards are prestigious awards that honor broadcast networks and reporters for quality stories. This American Life has won three Peabody Awards for episodes in the past and one for the entire radio show during its first year on air.