Staffers at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, producers of a new Showtime documentary series about climate change, are hitting the road this week as filming gets under way.
Workshop Senior Editor Margaret Ebrahim and Executive Editor Chuck Lewis were approached by former CBS News producers David Gelber and Joel Bach more than a year ago about the series, Years of Living Dangerously. The Workshop was brought on as one of the first producers for the project. Ebrahim is now traveling in Utah and Colorado for one story about hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, which involves extracting natural gas from shale.
“When we were shooting in Utah under incredibly difficult circumstances with cold and snow and high levels of air pollution in the middle of nowhere, I realized what a unique series this will be,” said Ebrahim. “ The content will be top-notch, but also the high-quality production value will make the series visually stunning.”
The series is tentatively set to air on Showtime in early 2014.
The series of one-hour programs will cover the story of climate change on three major fronts: the impact on people, here and now; the dramatic politics surrounding the issue; and the solutions being created to mitigate the problem.
Gelber and Bach, who have won a combined 11 Emmy awards, are spearheading the project as creators and as executive producers. The series also will be executive-produced by Hollywood producers Jerry Weintraub and James Cameron and has attracted other A-listers as correspondents and producers.
Several actors, including Matt Damon and Don Cheadle, along with NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, have signed on as correspondents. Former California Governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger also will be a correspondent, as well as an executive producer. New York Times journalists Tom Friedman and Mark Bittman also will be correspondents for the series.
The Workshop, a professional, nonprofit news site in the School of Communication at American University, is excited about the series, and devoting significant resources to the development of in-depth stories. Ebrahim, an award-winning investigative producer and journalist is focusing full-time on the venture, assembling a team and managing the research and program development.
She feels right at home. She is a former producer for the CBS News program 60 Minutes II and the ABC News Brian Ross investigative unit, and has also produced documentaries for PBS FRONTLINE and the documentary program Dan Rather Reports.
She was a co-producer on the Workshop’s and PBS FRONTLINE’s documentary, Lost in Detention, which aired in the fall of 2011 and chronicled the plight of immigrants in detention centers around the country as the Obama administration has continued to step up immigration enforcement.
Lewis, a national investigative journalist for more than 30 years, will be working closely with Ebrahim. Lewis frequently writes for the Workshop’s site and speaks in the U.S. and around the world. He is finishing his sixth book, The Future of Truth: Power, the News Media and the Public’s Right to Know, which will be published in 2014 by Public Affairs. Both journalists will lend their expertise, knowledge and creativity to the new Showtime series.
As the Workshop began to build out its team for the project, it looked for the best. Loren Stein, a veteran reporter who worked at the Center for Investigative Reporting, has joined the team as a researcher/reporter. And Jolie Lee, a recent graduate of the SOC Interactive Journalism program, was hired as an associate producer. Lee worked for Federal News Radio and co-produced a podcast on the evolving business of journalism.
Ebrahim first met Lee when she was a student in Ebrahim’s Seminar in Public Affairs. “Jolie stood out because she had a critical mind and asked the right questions. She took different perspectives on an issue and probed deeply,” said Ebrahim.
Although Lee’s work as associate producer will present new challenges for the former editor and multimedia producer, Ebrahim is confident that Lee is completely prepared: “She has a broadcast background and all the multimedia skills, and a good visual sense.”