AMCS to PBS: Research and Storytelling in Action

My name is Abby Gordon and I graduated from the AMCS department in the spring of 2017. Since graduating, I worked first as a researcher and now as an associate producer on the genealogical documentary series, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., on PBS. If you are not a PBS regular, you might know us as that show that revealed to the world that Larry David and Bernie Sanders are actually biological cousins and not just SNL look-alikes!

As an associate producer, my job is to research the historical context surrounding our celebrity guests’ genealogy and to turn that research into interesting stories and scripts. Through my concentration in Visual, Material and Digital Cultures at WashU, I not only learned how media and history affect one another, but also how to identify and tell a true story in a compelling way - a skill that I use everyday on my show.

Before working on Finding Your Roots, I was able to sharpen my historical storytelling during my senior year when I was tasked with writing my honors thesis. I chose to explore the factors that allowed previously incarcerated women to successfully transition out of prison. I knew from the beginning that I did not want to write a traditional paper and so instead I worked with the department to create a new thesis concept. Together, we built an interactive website (shoutout to the amazing Dave Walsh) where readers could read a fact-filled creative nonfiction piece that was interspersed with videos of real women who had transitioned out of prison.

The writing, research, and storytelling skills that I learned through my classes and thesis writing process have proved to be invaluable. Now I use those skills everyday in order to tell interesting, powerful and relatable stories that reach and (hopefully) resonate with people across the nation.