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This Project Will Support People Nationally to Participate. WPBS Encourages Individuals to Become Involved Throughout the North Country.

american portrait
Watertown, NY: JANUARY 13, 2020 – PBS today announced the launch of a new multiplatform experience that will allow people throughout the country to participate in a national conversation about what it really means to be an American today. Through social media and other digital campaigns, WPBS will encourage folks in the North Country to submit stories for consideration.
Aligned with PBS’s 50th anniversary celebration this year, it 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 on PBS stations. 

AMERICAN PORTRAIT has immersive interactivity built into its DNA, featuring user-generated content captured through video, photo, and text submissions shared directly from everyday people across the United States.

“PBS and our member stations have a rich history of engaging people in their communities, classrooms and homes, so we are uniquely suited to offer this unprecedented opportunity for Americans to share with each other what we have in common and what differentiates us,” said Perry Simon, PBS Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming. “Utilizing all our diverse resources, PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT will create a fully integrated portrait of American life and a window into who we are as a nation as we enter a new decade.”

PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT will create a communal voice through individual stories of joy, hardship, triumphs and sorrow. Participants will 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.

While people can directly upload their content to,  community and local leaders will also be recruited to help their family, friends and neighbors—from all walks of life and backgrounds—share their stories.

Beyond the online submissions and digital portals and documentary series, AMERICAN PORTRAIT will commission artists in several markets to further explore what it means to be an American through special collaborations, including installations, artist-curated story features, and more.

PBS member stations, including WPBS in Watertown, will also collect stories in their communities and tap into schools, libraries and other community organizations to create opportunities for people to share their stories locally and through the AMERICAN PORTRAIT platform.

Dr. Danielle Bainbridge, host of “Origin of Everything,” will travel across the country to understand the people, landmarks, and stories that capture the modern American experience. The series will launch in the Spring of 2020 and publish across PBS Digital Studios’ 22 million YouTube subscribers, Facebook Watch, and IGTV platforms.

PBS LearningMedia will provide resources designed to help educators and students participate in AMERICAN PORTRAIT, engage with digital storytelling, and build media literacy skills. The initiative will include professional learning activities for teachers to help them build their own media creation skills, as well as opportunities for middle and high school classrooms to engage with AMERICAN PORTRAIT by submitting their own stories and using the stories of others to examine topics in civics, history, English language arts, and the arts. In addition, the PBS KIDS for Parents website will feature AMERICAN PORTRAIT content curated for family audiences.
Visit the PBS AMERICAN PORTRAIT website at and follow the conversation at #AmericanPortraitPBS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


About WPBS
WPBS is a PBS station serving approximately 650,000 households throughout Northern New York and Eastern Ontario via cable, satellite, Internet and over-the-air distribution. WPBS is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate, entertain and inform its audience through superior local and national content and media engagement, in order to enhance the lives of those it serves. More information about WPBS, including a full channel listing, is available at, or by following WPBS on Twitter and Facebook. 

Joleene DesRosiers
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