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New Documentary Series From New Orleans Public Radio Will Explore Incarceration In Louisiana

89.9 WWNO — New Orleans Public Radio is launching an experimental new community-embedded reporting series, focused on the Louisiana criminal justice system. The station was one of 15 organizations chosen from over 200 entrants in a nationwide competition to incubate storytelling experiments and expand public media to more Americans.

Independent producer and longtime WWNO collaborator Eve Abrams brings us Unprisoned: Stories From The System. From New Orleans and Louisiana, the world’s incarceration capital, we will meet those serving time inside and outside the criminal justice system. Unprisoned is designed to meld traditional broadcast and digital storytelling platforms with opportunities to include the community in the creation and dissemination of the conversation, with the overarching goal of engaging people under-served by traditional media.

Unprisoned will share stories to incite conversation about the ways mass incarceration affects families, communities and notions of justice,” says Abrams. “What has Louisiana done to become the incarceration capital of the world? Is our criminal justice system making us safer? How are we all passively or actively supporting the current system? What do we want for our future?”

Abrams will be joined in answering these questions by WWNO news staff, including Digital Director Jason Saul, a veteran multimedia journalist, and a cadre of local producers who will enhance and support Unprisoned on the radio, online, and in the community. The project intends to expand the understanding of, and audience for, public service journalism.

“We'll listen hard to the ways our criminal justice system engenders financial, legal and personal hardships for families, neighborhoods and larger communities, and how incarceration perpetuates cycles of poverty and violence,” says Abrams. “We'll focus in particular on how children — often from a very young age — are caught in the system of correctional control with little hope of ever escaping it, a cultural contradiction that at once elevates youth as exceptional and vulnerable while simultaneously criminalizing them at an alarming rate.”

Localore: Finding America was created by AIR, a Boston-based network of independent public media producers, to bring together the most gifted producers and forward-thinking stations in the industry to invent new media models and realize the founding vision of a public broadcasting service for “all of the people.” Principal funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with additional support from the Wyncote Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The winning teams were selected from more than 200 applications from independent media talent, radio and television stations, educators and coders.

“This initiative is emblematic of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s commitment to ensuring public media connects with an increasingly diverse America, in the many ways people choose to access media today,” said Pat Harrison, the president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

“Localore looks at how and where community talks about itself, where its data is gathered, and where the flow of information moves or is interrupted,” said Sue Schardt, AIR’s executive director and the executive producer of Localore. “Our independent producers are building media with and for that community, on the radio, on the Internet, and in the streets.”

Productions begin in December and will run through July 30, 2016.

Jason Saul served as WWNO's Director of Digital Services. In 2017 he took a position at BirdNote, in Seattle.

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