Planet Forward

Wed, 04/15/2009 - 8:00pm

Planet Forward host Frank Sesno

Planet Forward is an innovative, viewer-driven program that debuts on the Web ( and culminates in a national primetime PBS special a week before Earth Day. Hosted by Emmy Award-winning CNN veteran Frank Sesno, Planet Forward airing Wednesday, April 15 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1) – is fueled by the power of ideas — from students to scientists, entrepreneurs to activists — as they make their case for what they think about the nation’s energy future. Included in the national broadcast is a story submitted by two local girls scouts who took a day to teach kids in Churchville-Chili about alternative energy during summer camp last year. The campers made solar ovens and cooked smores.

Launching during the critical first one hundred days of the Obama presidency, Planet Forwardwill engage and connect citizens through the most persuasive and creative online submissions: Op/Ed pieces, photo essays, songs, film, and animation. With citizen engagement in last year’s election approaching unprecedented levels, Planet Forwardoffers a place for that energy to be harnessed: the people’s voice on the most challenging issues of our times.

The most provocative and interesting submissions to the Web site will be featured in the broadcast, taped before a live audience at Washington D.C.'s George Washington University and featuring A-list experts, scientists, policy makers, and business leaders as well as citizen journalists selected from the Planet ForwardWeb site.

The first Planet Forward program will explore the feasibility of moving rapidly away from fossil fuels. The best submissions will be judged in three categories: most informative; most persuasive; and most creative.

Dispensing with the old top-down model of public affairs programming, in which experts expound to voiceless viewers, Planet Forward’s emphasis is bottom-up, with citizens leading and driving the conversation. Seeking to engage a young and diverse audience, Planet Forward is working with several universities and local public television stations to create a groundswell of engagement and local activity. Planet Forwardis public affairs for the next generation – think innovation, not pontification.

Locally, WXXI's Center for Public Affairs helped to produce online submissions for the pilot project. Rochester area submissions include short videos about the following:
  • The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Environmental Computing and Decision Making has designed a computer-based model for companies to move freight with the least amount of harm to the environment.
  • The Rochester Museum and Science Center is installing solar panels on its roof to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and they are creating a new exhibit on energy.
  • Two Churchville-Chili Girl Scouts took a day to teach kids about alternative energy during summer camp last year. The group made solar ovens and cooked smores. This entry made it into the national broadcast!
Prior to the national broadcast, WXXI will create its own version of Planet Forward. Need to Know: Planet Forward, airs Friday, April 10 on WXXI-TV, and will feature local efforts to move away from fossil fuels. In addition, WXXI-AM's 1370 Connection will feature an interview with Planet Forward managing editor and host Frank Sesno on Wednesday, April 15 at noon.