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Outreach topic: addiction
With Moyers series, outreach aid tops $2 million

Originally published in Current, July 21, 1997
By Karen Everhart-Bedford

Addiction and recovery will be the focus of the Public Television Outreach Alliance's 1998 campaign, which will be a major collaboration between Bill Moyers' Public Affairs Television, coproducing station WNET and the alliance.

The project centers on Close to Home: A Moyers Report on Addiction, a five-hour television series scheduled to air March 29-31 [1998]. Funders already had backed a major educational and outreach effort for the series. With PTOA signing onto the campaign, the project's budget will top $2 million, according to Judy Doctoroff, co-executive producer.

Components of the project include six viewer guides, two web sites, separate teleconferences for community leaders and educators, and video modules for stations to use in their own local programs. Take A Step Day, a national community-based event designed to provide information to people affected by addiction and recovery, is planned for April 1.

WNET and PTOA will offer both major and mini grants to stations participating in the campaign. In addition, professional development grants will go to station outreach directors to attend a two-day training conference on this project. The conference, to convene Oct. 19-20 in Kansas City, Mo., will give attendees "all the tools they need to go home and kick off the project in their community," according to Lee Allen, PTOA's southeast regional director.

As with Moyers' last major series, Genesis, WNET is building national partnerships with major organizations that will help generate activities around and interest in the program. Among those signed on so far: Join Together, a national coalition of agencies working on substance abuse issues; U.S. Conference of Mayors; the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

One of the producers' goals is to convey that it's "okay" to talk about addiction, said Judith Moyers, co-executive producer and editor.

The series, now being edited, provides a portrait of addiction and a scientific look at its causes in the first two programs. Later episodes look at treatment, prevention and public policy.

Several people in recovery appear in the series to tell their own stories, said Moyers, although no one appearing on the show has been sober for less than two or three years. In addition, Bill Moyers will talk about his son's recovery and family treatment. In addition, a producer at Public Affairs Television who is in recovery has taped an interview in which she speaks "forthrightly" about her experience.

Moyers said Public Affairs Television has "sold the idea" of outreach and education to its program funders for years. Television has the power to "get the subject out there and give it that lift that only television can give it," but an off-air campaign is needed to sustain interest over the long term. "Our point of view is that television is just never enough."


. To Current's home page
. Later news: Outreach had become so important to Moyers' way of working that by 2000 his project on death and dying spent as much on outreach as on series production.

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