From the desk of Jon Abbott SPRING 2011
The power and impact of your support in challenging times…
These are challenging times not only for WGBH and public media, but also for individuals, families, and communities across the nation. Yet it is during complex, uncertain times like these that public media’s role is more crucial than ever: providing trusted, in-depth information and thoughtful perspective that empower citizens and families. As a WGBH Sustainer, you are the energy behind WGBH’s public service mission. Thanks to you, we’re able to create and deliver thought-provoking, original content across a variety of media platforms—free and accessible to all. Here’s a quick look at some of the work you’ve made possible. This month and next, American Experience, the longest-running and most-watched history series on American television, explores two pivotal moments in our nation’s civil rights history…moments that have remained largely unexamined by commercial media. Stonewall Uprising (Monday, April 25 at 9pm on WGBH 2) tells the story of how a 1969 New York Police Department raid on the Stonewall Inn, a bar and haven for gays, ignited the gay civil rights movement. “This is really an unexplored part of American history,” says WGBH’s Mark Samels, executive producer of American Experience. “For a long time, it’s been a taboo subject. This documentary stands out not only as an exploration of this catalytic, transformative event, but as an examination of the last half of the 20th century that set the stage for it.” In May, we’ll bring you Freedom Riders, an extraordinary film chronicling the groundbreaking bus trips, known as Freedom Rides, in which blacks and whites traveled together from Washington, DC, into the Deep South in 1961, in defiance of the Jim Crow Laws. We’re also exploring the film’s lessons in communities across the country with a traveling exhibit and an ambitious 10-day retracing of a Freedom Bus Ride that pairs some of the original Freedom Riders with 40 college students from across the country. Scrupulously researched, original documentaries and innovative outreach efforts that expand our understanding of our shared history…thanks to you. This year we’re also celebrating another kind of original programming as Masterpiece marks its 40th anniversary. “We opened in January with Downton Abbey, a beautiful and riveting miniseries set in Edwardian England that explores the intertwined lives of servants and aristocrats on the eve of World War I,” says Rebecca Eaton, Masterpiece executive producer. “Audiences loved it…so much so that we’ve commissioned new episodes for 2012.” This month, we’re following up with a story of another upper-class family and its servants: a sequel to the beloved Upstairs, Downstairs that helped put Masterpiece on the continued WGBH • ONE GUEST STREET, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS 02135 • 617.300.2000 • WGBH.ORG
map. Thanks to your support, WGBH has been able to bring you Masterpiece uninterrupted on Sunday nights, even during our fundraising drives. “It takes wonderful scripts, timeless books, and top talent to make great drama,” Rebecca says. It also takes you. “We count WGBH Sustainers among Masterpiece’s closest friends…and the feelings are mutual.” We’ve also been busy on the radio side. In late February, we welcomed Grammy Awardwinning public radio producer Benjamin Roe to our classical team as managing director of WGBH’s classical services. Ben will be guiding the overall strategy for 99.5 All Classical, including programming, live performances, and classical events. We’re already looking to the summer, preparing for another Tanglewood season and for our community’s biannual celebration of early music with the Boston Early Music Festival. Meanwhile, our 89.7 WGBH news team is in full gear, working on a variety of important stories, including the financial challenges faced by many Massachusetts cities and towns (a cross-media effort with WGBH TV and wgbh.org); the development and impact of both land- and ocean-based wind farms; and venture capitalists’ efforts to cure Alzheimer’s. Response to our expanded radio services, made possible by your generous support, has been tremendous: together, 99.5 All Classical and 89.7 WGBH Radio now have the largest public radio audience in New England. Finally, I hope you’ve had a chance to catch the second season of High School Quiz Show hosted by Billy Costa, as public high school teams from eastern Massachusetts go head to head in competitive rounds culminating this June in an East-West championship with the winners of As Schools Match Wits (a co-production of WGBH sister station WGBY and Westfield State University). We’re grateful to the Bank of America Charitable Foundation for its major sponsorship of the series, and to Safety Insurance, Comcast, The Massachusetts Teachers Association, and Newbury Comics for additional funding. And now you can test your smarts with our new interactive High School Quiz Show online game at wgbh.org/quizshow. Compelling educational content that engages students. Arts experiences that spur a lifelong appetite for all things cultural. Independent, in-depth journalism and history documentaries that empower citizens. All made possible by your generous support. With many thanks!
Jon Abbott PS: To learn more about the impact of your support, explore WGBH’s 2010-2011 Annual Report: Times Like These at wgbh.org/annualreport.