MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra received the 2023 Hillman Prize Award for Broadcast Journalism, marking the first time a podcast has won in the category for Hillman Prize.
Actor and political activist Danny Glover presented Maddow and her team with the award.
Joined by producers Kelsey Desiderio and Mike Yarvitz on stage at The Times Center Tuesday evening, Maddow noted: “I think all of us are deeply cognizant of the fact that it takes trust and a certain tolerance for risk on the part of our employers to let us chase these things and that’s hard, no matter what part of the business, so I feel thankful for the freedom to do this.”
She told TVNewser, “[Ultra] is the story of Americans who went before us who were smarter than us and funnier than us and more ironic than us and more strategic than us and braver than us, who showed incredible resilience in the face of serious threat – resilience and resourcefulness. And they did it because the country needed them to be resilient and resourceful.”
Maddow wrote, produced and hosted Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra, an eight-episode historical nonfiction series set in World War II-era America that profiles lawmakers who aided insurrectionists by participating in a plot to spread misinformation throughout the country, and spotlights journalists and activists who fought to stop the seditionists when the American judicial system failed to do so (sound familiar?). The podcast launched October 2022, and two months later it was announced that Steven Spielberg’s Amblin optioned the film rights to the podcast from MSNBC and Maddow’s production company, Surprise Inside.
This isn’t the first time Maddow has won a major award for her podcasting. Maddow also launched the Rachel Maddow Presents: Bag Man, in 2018, which went on to win a DuPont Columbia Award in 2020 and was nominated for a Peabody for Best Radio/Podcast in 2018. Bag Man, which Maddow also wrote, produced and hosted, details one of the most brazen political bribery scandals in American history, taking listeners back 45 years to dig into a story that got overshadowed in its day.
What exactly is the Hillman Prize, you ask? Since 1950, the Sidney Hillman Foundation has honored journalists who pursue investigative reporting and deep storytelling in service of the common good. The Hillman Prizes recognize a significant news story, resourcefulness and courage in reporting, skill in relating the story and the impact of the coverage.