Martin Smith

Martin Smith

Writer, Producer, Correspondent

In his 40 years producing and reporting, Martin Smith has covered the world: from revolution in Central America and the fall of communism in Russia, to the rise of Al Qaeda and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the inside story of the global financial meltdown. Smith has often been ahead of the news curve. He was among the first journalists to investigate Col. Oliver North’s clandestine Contra arms network and one of the first western reporters to investigate the emergence of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network.  Smith is the 2014 recipient of the John Chancellor Award, presented by Columbia University to a reporter with courage and integrity for cumulative professional accomplishments.

Smith began his career in 1976 as a film editor at CBS News and worked his way up through the ranks. His first documentary, Guatemala, (1982) won both a George Polk Award for Investigative Journalism and an Emmy from the Academy of Television Art & Sciences.  In 1983, Smith moved to PBS where he produced for the PBS science series NOVA and for FRONTLINE. In 1986, he produced Who’s Running This War? for FRONTLINE and won his second George Polk award. In 1989, he served as executive producer of Inside Gorbachev’s USSR with Hedrick Smith, winning a third Polk award and DuPont Columbia Gold Baton. In 1990, he was joined FRONTLINE as a senior producer at FRONTLINE responsible for editorial supervision of scores of documentaries.

Between 1994 and 1998, Smith worked with ABC News anchor Peter Jennings as a senior producer and oversaw a series of documentary specials for ABC’s Peter Jennings Reporting unit, including Hiroshima: Why the Bomb was Dropped recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award in 1995 and the George Foster Peabody award.

In 1998, Smith left ABC News and founded RAIN Media, an independent production company, which has produced over 50 hours of award winning programming for ABC News and for FRONTLINE, including The Terrorist and the Superpower (aka Hunting bin Laden), which was produced three years before 9/11. A copy of the film was requested by Vice President Dick Cheney’s office immediately after the attacks.

In the three months following 9/11, Smith produced two seminal films on the genesis of the attacks—Looking for Answers (2001) and Saudi Time Bomb? (2001). Along with other FRONTLINE films produced in the wake of 9/11, the Alfred I. DuPont jurors awarded Smith and his colleagues another Gold Baton and said of the work: “The series never flinches from showing why terrorist groups harbor such hate for America and includes people whose attitudes toward the Untied States are undoubtedly offensive to many viewers. Yet all of the programs are balanced and never sensationalized.”

Smith continued reporting on Al Qaeda in subsequent years. In the trilogy, In Search of Al Qaeda (2002), Return of the Taliban (2006) and Obama’s War (2008), Smith investigated Pakistan’s duplicitous policy toward Afghanistan and confronted top Pakistani officials—including, on two occasions, President Pervez Musharraf. This work had a major impact on the direction of U.S. policy towards Pakistan. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry showed excerpts from Return of the Taliban in high-level briefings with Bush administration officials.  His most recent film, The Rise of ISIS (2014), investigates the circumstances and context leading to ISIS’s emergence.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Smith has covered the conflict for FRONTLINE with a series of films, including Truth, War and Consequences (2003), which established Smith’s presence as an on-camera correspondent, Beyond Baghdad (2004), Private Warriors (2005), and Gangs of Iraq (2007).

Smith has also done extensive reporting on business and financial issues. He collaborated on a landmark series on the global economic crisis, Money, Power and Wall Street (2012), which was awarded a 2013 George Polk Award, Smith’s fourth. The jury cited the series for the way it “dissected and distilled down the complicated subject of the modern credit derivative market and provided a sober look inside the struggle to rescue and repair this country’s battered economy.”

His business reporting also includes Dot Con, about the internet bubble; Heat about how business leaders have reacted to calls for carbon reduction in the face of climate change; The Madoff Affair (2009), an investigation into the world’s largest Ponzi scheme; College Inc. (2010) and Educating Sergeant Pantzke (2011), two examinations of for-profit education that significantly influenced debate on Capitol Hill and at the Department of Veteran Affairs; The Retirement Gamble (2013), about the 401(k) industry and America’s impending retirement crisis; and To Catch a Trader (2014), a film about Steven A. Cohen and insider trading.

Smith’s The Untouchables (2013) examined the Justice Department’s failure to hold Wall Street bankers accountable for mortgage fraud in the run up to the 2008 collapse. The report sparked an enormous reaction after its initial airing. Two U.S. Senators, citing Smith’s interview with a senior Justice Department official, demanded that Attorney General Eric Holder explain whether his department’s failure to investigate big banks stems from fear of collateral consequences. Several US attorneys’ offices have screened the film and re-committed publicly to bringing cases related to Wall Street fraud.

Smith was born January 28th, 1949, and raised on a citrus farm in Riverside, CA, and later in Los Angeles. He studied Comparative Literature at Brown University and has a BFA from the Institute of Film and Television at New York University. He is on the board of the Overseas Press Club and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He lives in New York City with his wife and producing partner Marcela Gaviria. He is the father of five children.

Awards

Emmy Awards

2013 News and Documentary Emmy Award: Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting – Long Form

Money, Power and Wall Street (PBS FRONTLINE)

2008-2009 Emmy Award for Business and Financial Reporting: Outstanding Documentary on a Business Topic

The Madoff Affair (PBS FRONTLINE)

2005 News and Documentary Emmy Award: Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Storm

The Storm (PBS FRONTLINE)

2000 News and Documentary Emmy Award: Outstanding Background/Analysis of a Single Current Story (Program)

Drug Wars (PBS FRONTLINE)

1981-1982 News and Documentary Emmy Award: Outstanding Background/Analysis of a Single Current Story (Program)

Guatemala (CBS Reports)

Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards

2015 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award (Silver Baton)

United States of Secrets (PBS FRONTLINE)

2003-2004 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award (Silver Baton)

Truth, War and Consequences (PBS FRONTLINE)

2001-2002 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award (Gold Baton)

Hunting Bin Laden, Looking for Answers, and Saudi Time Bomb (PBS FRONTLINE)

1989-1990 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award (Gold Baton)

Inside Gorbachev’s USSR (WGBH)

Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels

2014 Festival Selection

Egypt in Crisis (PBS FRONTLINE)

George Foster Peabody Awards

2014 George Foster Peabody Award

United States of Secrets (PBS FRONTLINE)

2009 George Foster Peabody Award

The Madoff Affair (PBS FRONTLINE)

2000 George Foster Peabody Award

Drug Wars (PBS FRONTLINE)

1995 George Foster Peabody Award

Hiroshima – Why the Bomb Was Dropped (ABC News)

1985 George Foster Peabody Award

Crisis in Central America (PBS FRONTLINE)

George Polk Awards

2012 George Polk Award for Documentary Television Reporting

Money, Power and Wall Street (PBS FRONTLINE)

1990 George Polk Award for Documentary Television Reporting

Inside Gorbachev’s USSR (WGBH)

1986 George Polk Award for International Television Reporting

Who’s Running This War (PBS FRONTLINE)

1982 George Polk Award for Network Television Reporting

Guatemala (CBS Reports)

John Chancellor Award

2014 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism

Awarded to Martin Smith

Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Awards

2001 Nancy Dickerson White Award

Drug Wars (PBS FRONTLINE)

Overseas Press Club Awards

2010 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Television Interpretation or Documentary on International Affairs

Obama’s War (PBS FRONTLINE)

2008 Whitman Bassow Award for Best Reporting in Any Medium on International Environmental Issues

Heat (PBS FRONTLINE)

2000 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Television Interpretation or Documentary on International Affairs

Return of the Czar (PBS FRONTLINE)

1995 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Television Interpretation or Documentary on International Affairs

Hiroshima – Why the Bomb Was Dropped (ABC News)

Society of Environmental Journalists Awards for Reporting on the Environment

2011 Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding In-depth Reporting, Large Market

The Spill (PBS FRONTLINE)

Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting

2007 Special Citation in recognition of a career of distinguished reporting on foreign policy and diplomacy

Writers Guild of America Awards

2014 Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script: Television Documentary – Current Events

Egypt in Crisis (PBS FRONTLINE)

2013 Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script: Television Documentary – Current Events

Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode 1 (PBS FRONTLINE)

2012 Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script: Television Documentary – Other Than Current Events

WikiSecrets (PBS FRONTLINE)

2012 Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script: Television News – Regularly Scheduled, Bulletin or Breaking News

Educating Sergeant Pantzke (PBS FRONTLINE)

2010 Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script: Television Documentary – Current Events

The Madoff Affair (PBS FRONTLINE)

2008 Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script: Television Documentary – Current Events

Return of the Taliban (PBS FRONTLINE)

2003 Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Script: Television Documentary – Current Events

Truth, War and Consequences (PBS FRONTLINE)