Subject of ITVS’s Invisible War thanks pubTV programmers

By Dru Sefton

SAN FRANCISCO — Attendees at the Public Television Programmers Association annual meeting Monday heard an intensely emotional firsthand account of how public television helped bring one woman back from the brink.

Kori Cioca

Rape survivor Kori Cioca, featured in the Independent Lens documentary The Invisible War, thanks distributor ITVS and programmers during an emotional appearance at a Public Television Programmers Association luncheon Monday. (Photo: Alain McLaughlin)

Kori Cioca was one of 14 special guests honored at a luncheon sponsored by Independent Television Service (ITVS) who were either subjects of PBS documentaries or the filmmakers who told their stories. Cioca, who was raped eight years ago while on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard, told her story in The Invisible War, which exposed widespread sexual abuse and subsequent cover-ups in the military. It ran on Independent Lens in May 2013.

Cioca was brutally assaulted in her barracks at the Coast Guard base in Saginaw, Mich. Her attacker even dislocated her jaw.

She struggled with telling her story to the programmers, often speaking through tears. After the rape, her own sister, also in the military, turned away from Cioca, unable to process what had happened. Still traumatized several years later, Cioca contemplated suicide. The only thing that stopped her from killing herself, she said, was discovering that she was pregnant.

Cioca said she traveled to the luncheon to thank ITVS for distributing the documentary, and programmers for running it. “ITVS believed in the film,” Cioca said. ITVS staffers were among the first to emotionally support her, she added. Several family members who had turned away from her, unable to help her cope with the attack’s aftermath, reconciled with her only after viewing the film, she added.

Programmers responded to her tearful thank-you with a standing ovation.

Other guests included weightlifter Cheryl Haworth, subject of the doc Strong!; Robin Poorbear of Kind Hearted Woman; indie drummer Pat Spurgeon, who battled kidney disease in D Tour; and Byron Hurt, director of Soul Food Junkies.

In other PTPA meeting news:

  • Kevin Dando, who directs digital marketing and communications for PBS, told attendees that PBS is aiming to help at least 50 stations bolster impact by geotargeting posts on PBS’s Facebook page. PBS social media staffers are also sifting through national content to alert local viewers when experts from their cities appear in programs. Check out these guidelines for geotargeting and other tips.
  • In a session about the ongoing Editorial Integrity in Public Media project, one topic of discussion was the underwriting complications posed by Kickstarter-funded projects for public television. Gayle Loeber, program director for the National Educational Telecommunications Association said that the distributor is now asking producers who use the crowdfunding website to provide NETA with a list of donors. That helps to ensure that no contributors have a direct interest in influencing the content.
  • Mary Gardner of Oregon Public Television was selected to receive the 2014 Programmer of the Year honors at a dinner Sunday evening.

The yearly PTPA meeting takes place the day before the PBS Annual Meeting kicks off. That gathering, attended by about 1,100 pubcasters this year, runs Tuesday through Thursday at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.

Questions, comments, tips? sefton@current.org

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