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FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus

A WTTW Documentary Series To Launch March 24


For immediate release
Chicago, IL - March 23, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic is a public health crisis unlike any that Chicago has faced in living memory. How are our citizens reacting to its challenges, and who is stepping forward to help keep the city safe and functioning as COVID-19 sweeps through Chicago, America, and the rest of the world?

In a multi-part digital series produced and released in real time, and following up WTTW’s 2019 initiative FIRSTHAND: Gun Violence, we explore the personal, firsthand perspectives of a diverse group of people whose lives are being impacted by the crisis.

The first three subjects featured in FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus are:

· Jahmal Cole, founder/CEO of social impact organization My Block, My Hood, My City, who has been mobilizing an army of volunteers to hand out wellness kits to seniors

· Tina Renaldi, a homeless woman living on Lower Wacker Drive – many of her resources have disappeared in the wake of the virus, and she wants the world to know that people like her are human, too

· Father Stephen Kanonik of Chicago’s St. Benedict Parish, who has found a way to live-stream Mass to thousands of his parishioners who are self-isolating at home.

The series follows these people and others as they share their experiences confronting an unseen adversary while adapting to a world that has changed seemingly overnight.

“As most Chicagoans are taking shelter in their homes, they are more reliant than ever on media outlets to keep them connected to everything that is happening in the outside world,” said executive producer Dan Protess. “That’s why we think it is so important to share these human, firsthand accounts of everyday people who are finding ways to cope through this scary time, and who are even reaching out to help others.”

“As a public media organization, it is our role to respond to the issues that matter most to the people in our city and region with trusted, essential content,” said Sandra Cordova Micek, President and CEO of WTTW. “At WTTW, our purpose is to enrich lives, engage communities and inspire exploration. In FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus, we hope to show the challenge our community is facing with integrity and humanity and through the people who are doing what they can each day to stay safe and help.”

FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus will launch on March 24 on WTTW’s Facebook channel and online at, and will stream on-demand on and on the WTTW/PBS video app.

FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus is a WTTW Digital production, produced and directed by Pat Odom. Director of Photography: Kimmer Olesak; Editor: Ken Hall; Associate Producer: Jessica Martinaitis; Original Score: Allie n Steve Mullen; Art Director: Linda Fox; Executive Producers: Dan Protess; Anne Gleason.

FIRSTHAND: Coronavirus is funded, in part, by David Snyder and Dr. Margaret Salamon.

About WTTW WTTW is the PBS member station in Chicago, committed to creating and presenting unique media content across distinct television and digital channels – WTTW11, WTTW Prime, WTTW Create/WTTW World, WTTW

PBS Kids 24/7, and the PBS/WTTW video app. Recognized for award-winning journalism and local productions such as Chicago Tonight, Chicago by ‘L’, Check, Please!, digital-first series Chefs Off the Clock, the original Urban Nature, and Foodphiles, and national productions 10 That Changed America and Nature Cat, WTTW presents the very best in public affairs, arts and culture, nature and science, history and documentary, and children’s public media content. Connect with WTTW on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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