WXXI’S ASSIGNMENT: THE WORLD SAYS A FINAL GOODBYE TO CLASSROOMS AFTER 54 YEARS
WXXI Public Broadcasting
280 State Street. PO Box 30021
Rochester, New York 14603-3021
Kristin Tutino, Publicist: 585/258-0253
For Immediate Release
Rochester, New York (May 20, 2013) – WXXI’s Assignment: The World, a weekly news and current events show for young students, aired its final episode on Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 6 a.m. on WXXI-TV and on PBS stations across the country. Assignment: The World was the longest running instructional program in the country, used by Social Studies teachers to help hundreds of thousands of students understand news and current events in a safe environment. Each season, 32 weekly episodes were produced and watched in classrooms via broadcast, or on-demand over the Internet.
“Assignment: The World has experienced an increase in news acquisition costs, which were unfortunately not offset by program funding,” said WXXI VP for Television Elissa Orlando.
In the series, current host Teej Jenkins leads classrooms through a wrap-up of important news events from the past week to help young viewers understand the world around them, and shows how events in other countries can and do impact their lives. Writing prompts, current events vocabulary, issues questions, and polls invite classroom teachers and their students to interact with show. Classes regularly write into the show and vote in online polls on issues of importance. In fact, since 1976 Assignment: The World asked young viewers to cast their votes for the Presidential elections, and they have predicted the outcomes of nine elections.
Assignment: The World was the brain child of Lloyd Kaiser, an employee from Rochester Area Educational Television Association. (RAETA would later become WXXI.) Kaiser believed that television could aid teachers in their instruction of current affairs. After Kaiser consulted with local teachers and secured the support of the Rochester City School District, the first 15-minute episode was produced in the fall of 1959. It premiered on two Rochester commercial stations, WROC and WHEC, and continued to air on those stations through 1966, at which time WXXI signed on air and became Assignment: The World’s sole broadcaster in Rochester. In 1975 it began airing on public broadcasting stations throughout the state, as well as in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine. In 1982 The Agency for Instructional Technology (AIT) signed on as the show’s distributor and the program was carried on public televisions throughout the country.
Throughout its 54-year history, Assignment: The World has had several different hosts. But, it was Virginia Bacheler, who held the position the longest, serving as host 26 years. She was WXXI’s Director of Instructional Services and an executive producer when she began hosting in 1979. In 1983 she took a position at The College at Brockport, State University of New York, as an associate professor of communications, but continued to host the show until 2002.
Throughout her tenure, Bacheler brought many important news stories into classrooms, including the demolishing of the Berlin Wall, the Exxon Valdez oil-spill, the Persian Gulf War, and the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01. She also hosted two special editions of Assignment: The World with Governor Mario Cuomo in 1983 and 1984 that were broadcast exclusively in New York State. The Governor took questions from a live studio audience made up of students from the Rochester area. Students from downstate sent their questions via videotape.
Over its 54 years, Assignment: The World evolved into a full-blown tool to interactively teach social studies and ELA. The program developed issue questions, which hundreds of students answered, sharing their opinions on current events. As technology improved, Assignment: The World created email feedback opportunities to help students use technology for learning, and the program became available via streaming and downloading to increase its usefulness.Assignment: The World students received press passes, which were sent to viewers who wrote into the program to commemorate their classroom experiences with the show. In recent years, a Facebook page offered instant interaction with the program.
The series has received numerous awards including two New York State Broadcasters Awards of Excellence, a Telly, Gold Aurora, two Certificates of Excellence from the Central Education Network, and a Wilbur Schramm Award of Excellence.