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Featured Participants from Across the U.S. Include a First Responder, an Essential Worker, and a Recovering COVID-19 Patient

ARLINGTON, VA; Updated May 1, 2020 – PBS and its recently launched crowdsourced storytelling project, PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT, the signature content initiative of PBS’s 50th anniversary, will present a new coronavirus special to broadcast Friday, May 8 at 9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings). Since early January, the PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT website has captured thousands of stories by Americans that, together, hope to answer the question: What does it really mean to be an American today? With the unprecedented global and national impact of COVID-19, the answer to that central question and related prompts has shifted in recent weeks, which is reflected in the submissions still pouring into the site. The half-hour special will spotlight some of the many personal stories, photographs and videos shared by thousands of people in response to the prompt “I never expected…,” and viewers will hear first-hand accounts of how this global pandemic has affected our nation.

Throughout the special, produced by PBS and RadicalMedia, participants from across the country use self-shot video, photos and text to share how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting their lives, their communities and their understanding of what it means to live in our country at this unique moment in time. IN THIS TOGETHER: A PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT STORY will blend collages of various stories from across the country with a focus on three main stories.

First Responder
Allison A. is a first responder from Raleigh, North Carolina. As a critical care transport nurse, Allison finds herself at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has always loved her job but is candid about how scared and nervous she is now. Since her husband is also a first responder, they have sent their six-year-old son to live with his grandparents out of fear for his health. She and her husband have also been forced to prepare for the worst, signing over power of attorney to her parents and updating their will due to the severe risk associated with their jobs. In the meantime, Allison waits for the crisis to peak in her North Carolina district.

Essential Worker
Second is Mario C. an essential worker from Romulus, Michigan. Mario works as a warehouse associate at a facility on the outskirts of Detroit where confirmed cases of COVID-19 are multiplying among employees. Designated an “essential worker” in the pandemic crisis, Mario is concerned for himself and his family. He ultimately has to make life choices that define his future for years to come.

Recovering COVID Patient
Finally Cat G. is a recovering COVID patient from Aurora, Colorado. Cat tested positive for COVID-19 when she was 33 weeks pregnant with twins. When she gave birth, Cat had to be immediately intubated and separated from her babies. As she recovers at home, Cat documents her difficult emotional experience as her and her husband’s only contact with their newborn sons is through a monitor in the NICU unit. The family prepares for the twins’ homecoming as they wait for the hospital to approve the babies’ discharge.

The special, IN THIS TOGETHER: A PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT STORY featuring these three stories among many others, will begin streaming May 8 on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV and Chromecast.

PBS LearningMedia will also provide teachers and students with educational materials around the special focused on media and storytelling, drawing on PBS Newshour Student Reporting Labs’ curriculum.

Please visit the PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT website at www.pbs.org/americanportrait and follow the conversation at #AmericanPortraitPBS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to view the thousands of stories already being submitted.

Target is a major funder and national promotional partner for PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT, expanding the reach of this initiative. Additional funding is provided by Anne Ray Foundation.

PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT was developed and created with RadicalMedia. For RadicalMedia, Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick serve as Executive Producers, and Naomi Gilbert is the Senior Interactive Producer for the web platform. Craig D’Entrone is Executive Producing for RadicalMedia and is showrunner on the project. Bill Margol is the Executive in Charge for PBS. For IN THIS TOGETHER: A PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT STORY, RadicalMedia’s Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick serve as Executive Producers alongside Director and Executive Producer Craig D’Entrone. Michéle Stephenson is Series Producer.

Launched on January 10, 2020, AMERICAN PORTRAIT, a national storytelling project aligned with PBS’s 50th anniversary celebration, is the organization’s most ambitious multiplatform project in its history. A digital-first initiative produced by RadicalMedia, AMERICAN PORTRAIT begins as a platform for user-generated content participation, and is envisioned to encompass publishing, short form content, classroom engagement, a web miniseries, public art installations, live events and, in January 2021, a nationally televised documentary series. Leveraging the local reach of PBS through its member stations, AMERICAN PORTRAIT presents a mosaic of our country’s diversity by connecting tens of thousands of people across the country, creating a communal voice through individual stories of joy, hardship, triumphs and sorrow. Participants will be able to tell and share their own stories, and see the stories shared by a wide panorama of Americans, united by a series of prompts that will serve as conversation starters, including: “I was raised to believe…,” “The tradition I carry on is…,” “What keeps me up at night is…,” “When I step outside my door…” and “Most days I feel…,” among others like, “I never expected…,” recently added in response to COVID-19.


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