WSIU-TV planning new fall line-up

By Gus Bode

Television station also hoping to start an education program for children

Factoid:”Liberty’s Kids” airs weekdays at 3 p.m. beginning Monday. For more information, log onto www.wsiu.org.

The voice of Walter Cronkite will boom from television sets tuned into WSIU-TV this fall, but he won’t be sitting behind the anchor desk of CBS.

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He’ll be the voice of Benjamin Franklin on an animated series that the Public Broadcasting Service is launching this fall that also features Billy Crystal as John Adams, Ben Stiller as Thomas Jefferson and Liam Neeson as John Paul Jones.

Along with historical figures, fictional characters are also included in the series. Two teenage apprentices, Sarah Phillips and James Hiller, work with Benjamin Franklin in his print shop and experience the adventures of the United States’ founding fathers.

By adding the program to its fall line-up, PBS hopes to educate children ages 7 to 11 with historical lessons, said Beth Isaacs, a member of the Education and Outreach Department of WSIU-TV.

“‘Liberty Kids is going to focus on powerful stories that include the characters who built our nation,” she said.

And that’s not the only way the television station’s staff is hoping to educate area children.

If WSIU-TV obtains enough funding, Isaacs hopes to begin an after-school program for Southern Illinois children. She would like to see youngsters begin writing and performing skits based on national and local historical themes.

If the outreach becomes possible, Isaacs plans to have the children working on skits this fall and tape the students’ performance in December and January. Additionally, the skit themes will be posted online, she said.

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History is not a new topic for television airways, said Marji Morgan, chair of the University’s History Department. Viewers can tune into the History Channel, but few subjects have their own network, she said.

“It’s interesting that history has its own television channel,” Morgan said.

“Liberty’s Kids” airs weekdays at 3 p.m. on WSIU-TV beginning Monday.

Reporter Ben Botkin can be reached at [email protected]

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