A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

SDX Awards: TV breaking news, CBS Evening News

By Quill

The Beslan hostage crisis shocked and frightened the world – especially since the terrorists kidnapped children, who were the least able to defend themselves or understand why they were targeted.

CBS Evening News, Weekend Edition correspondent Elizabeth Palmer was in Beslan as the crisis broke. Her reporting produced “Elizabeth Palmer: Beslan School Hostages.”

“People asked me time and again, ‘What drives anyone to take little children hostage, to deprive them of food and water, and to keep them in a school gym filled with bombs? How could those terrorists believe they would further their cause,’” said Palmer. “I still have no answer.”

When the siege ended, she showed the desperate search for Beslan’s missing children; the dazed families scanning photos posted by medical staff outside the children’s hospital, praying to find a familiar face among those brought in unconscious but alive.

Palmer spoke with a woman who was in the school gym with her two sons and who was forced to throw some children out a window in order to save them. “I will never forget the eyes of those children. Never,” the woman tells Palmer.

“Elizabeth Palmer produced compelling and sensitive reports as these events unfolded,” said Weekend Edition Executive Producer Patricia Shevlin. “She provided much-needed perspective to the pictures that documented the horror of this tragic event.”

Palmer’s experience spans more than two decades, filing reports from Pakistan, Israel, South Africa and Chechnya. She covered the U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and has reported from Baghdad several times over the past two years.

“Although I am a seasoned war correspondent, I have never been as horrified or haunted by violence as I was in Beslan,” said Palmer. “It left me emotionally flayed. We all struggled to remain objective and to report on the events in their complex political context while we were surrounded by dead and dying children.”

Judges praised the depth of reporting.

“The thoroughness of the coverage on a story with so many elements – politics, terrorism, medical treatment and distraught children, families and townspeople – was obvious through each report,” said judges. “Numerous interviews were expertly translated under crushing deadline pressure.”