On February 22, 2007, PBS and WETA Washington, DC, announced one of the most comprehensive community engagement initiatives ever created by public television to accompany the national airing of Ken Burns's film The War, an exploration of World War II told through the experiences of a handful of men and women from four American towns. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is funding the community engagement effort, including the local programming and other initiatives. The project will include grants to public television stations in all 50 states to produce local programming as well as community engagement and educational outreach initiatives.
The War, a co-production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, DC, is a seven-part, 14-hour film directed and produced by Burns and his longtime co-producer, Lynn Novick. The film will premiere on Sunday, September 23, 2007, on PBS.
“We could not be more pleased with the level of outreach PBS, WETA and CPB have committed to our project,” Ken Burns said. “World War II consumed the entire country, but in very different ways. We're hopeful that through local programming many of the stories of the war that go above and beyond what could be included in any one film are documented and that people throughout the country have an opportunity to share their experiences.”
John Boland, PBS Chief Content Officer, said, “Community engagement is a major part of what public television stations do everyday. PBS is unique among broadcasters because our local stations can tap into their deep community roots to give even greater meaning to national programming, and this is happening on an unprecedented scale with The War. Our goal is to create a national discussion about the experience of World War II ― really about the human experience of war ― by allowing people throughout the country to speak directly to their family members and neighbors and share their stories through the work of their local public television stations.”
WETA, the Washington, DC, PBS station, awarded the CPB-funded grants to public television stations in all 50 states in March 2007. In collaboration with a variety of local community groups, public television stations will reach out to a broad range of veterans and their families to capture the stories that make up the rich mosaic of America. In total, public television stations will target thousands of individual stories to be shared locally on-air, online and through community events and activities.
Beyond specific programming, both short- and long-form, stations will organize production workshops, screenings and panel discussions, museum exhibits, library partnerships, digital story-telling and some radio programming. Partnerships are being created as well with World War II museums and memorials, libraries, state and local archives, historical societies and retirement communities.
In addition, WETA and PBS announced that The War will be accompanied by an extensive educational initiative, reaching every public high school in the nation. The initiative, which will assist teachers with World War II curriculum for the spring of 2008, includes visual and written materials. “Much has been written about World War II,” said Sharon Rockefeller, President and CEO, WETA. “Our focus with the materials to accompany The War is on story-telling, in the hope of encouraging people young and old to discuss their community's and family's involvement in this critical historic event.”
The multimedia education package will contain sections by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick discussing their process for collecting information in the four communities featured in The War. Additional segments will focus on planning a documentary, working with primary source documents, conducting interviews and producing a completed work. Working with national teaching standards, the goal is to provide students with the tools to go beyond the film to learn more about World War II and that period in American history through an exploration of the experiences of their family and community.
Beyond the local programming and education initiative, PBS and Burns also have reached out extensively to the military community to share the film. Burns has already visited the United States Military Academy, the United States Naval Academy and the United States Air Force Academy to show highlights of the film and engage in discussions with the students, along with numerous screenings for World War II veterans, including the World War II conference sponsored by the World War II Museum in New Orleans last fall. The USO will also send a special one-hour screening reel introduced by Burns to bases around the country. The entire film will air on the Armed Forces Network timed to the national broadcast.
“For the last six months we have shown short pieces of the film around the country,” Burns said. “Already we have been approached by people within our four towns, and many beyond them, about their experiences during the war. Our goal through all of these programs is to ensure that our film, which is the story of only a small group of individuals, resonates beyond those communities by providing many more people an opportunity to share their stories.”
PBS is a private, non-profit media enterprise that serves the nation's 355 public non-commercial television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week through on-air and online content. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is the leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of other educational services. PBS' premier kids' TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (pbskids.org), continue to be parents' and teachers' most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.
WETA Washington, DC, is the third-largest producing station for public television. WETA's other productions and co-productions include The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal, In Performance at the White House and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including The Civil War and coming in September 2007, The War. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available on the Web site at weta.org.
CPB, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government's investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,000 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related on-line services.