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Drug Wars
October 9, 2000

Veteran TV journalist and FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman had reported on aspects of the international drug business before -- most notably in FRONTLINE's award-winning "Murder, Money, and Mexico." Yet even he was surprised at the scope of the international drug trade uncovered during the production of FRONTLINE's four-hour documentary "Drug Wars."

"When you travel to a place like Culiacan, Mexico, it's a shock to find the drug industry so ingrained in the popular culture that there's a patron saint of drug smuggling -- Saint Jesus Malverde," Bergman says.

The first television history of America's thirty-year war on drugs, "Drug Wars" traced the evolution of U.S. drug policy through the stories of those who lived it: the DEA agents and law enforcement officials who fought the battle at home and abroad; and the drug lords, smugglers, and users who fuel the $400 billion international drug business.

The stories and comments elicited from these "drug warriors" were often unexpected: from the international drug lords who claimed to be baffled by Americans' fondness for cocaine, to the smugglers who matter-of-factly outlined the production, shipment, and distribution methods of their underground industry.

Perhaps most surprising were the comments made by longtime DEA agents and officials, who said that the politically-popular method of fighting drugs through drug seizures and stiff jail sentences simply hasn't worked.

"They all say that the real solution here is drug treatment, prevention, and education -- that you can't arrest your way out of the problem," Bergman says. "FRONTLINE's investigation revealed that almost everyone agrees how to solve this problem, but in the end we don't have the political courage to do it."

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The Farmer's Wife
September 21, 1998

In the fall of 1998, American embraced the Buschkoetters, the young Nebraska couple whose struggle to save their family farm -- and their marriage -- was chronicled in "The Farmer's Wife," a six-and-a-half-hour documentary from FRONTLINE and the Independent Television Service.

"An estimated 15 million Americans tuned in over three nights to witness Darrel and Juanita Buschkoetter's daily battle to keep their dream of family farming alive. Along the way, people from all walks of life found themselves identifying with the couple's fight to keep their financial problems and grueling schedules from destroying their marriage.

The response to "The Farmer's Wife" was immediate. In the days following the series' premiere, FRONTLINE received more than ten thousand letters and emails, and the Buschkoetters were inundated with cards, letters and phone calls -- many from viewers offering the family food, money ... even a new pickup truck for their farm.

Producer David Sutherland -- who filmed more than two hundred hours of footage of the Buschkoetters over three years -- says his goal was "to make you feel that you're living in their skin. I wasn't interested in making a valentine or exposé," he recalls. "I wasn't looking for a hero -- but I ended up with two."

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From Jesus to Christ
April 6, 1998

FRONTLINE ventured into new territory with its four-hour long documentary "From Jesus to Christ." Long recognized as PBS's premier investigative journalism series, FRONTLINE had been searching for a project that would explore the increasing power and significance of spirituality and religion in American life. It found that project not in today's headlines, but in new discoveries about the birth of Christianity and its development as a force that would dominate Western culture for 2,000 years.

"From Jesus to Christ" would become the highest-rated FRONTLINE program of the 1997-1998 season.

"This film struck a chord with people from a wide variety of faiths and beliefs," Executive Producer David Fanning says. "It is not a story of a golden age of consensus, but a story of people in conflict -- it is the real story of the rise of Christianity, challenging and upsetting conventional ideas."

The tremendous public response to the film didn't surprise religious studies professor L. Michael White, the project's principal historical advisor. White recalls believing from the outset that the truly intriguing story lay not in the quest for the historical figure of Jesus, but in the story of how the figure of Jesus came to be fashioned and refashioned throughout the development of Christianity.

"It was the greatest story never told," he says. "Never, at least, in the popular media."

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Innocence Lost Trilogy
May 7, 1991; July 20-21, 1993; May 27, 1997

"When I first went to the small town of Edenton [North Carolina] in 1990, I could never have believed that I would still be involved with the story seven years later," FRONTLINE producer Ofra Bikel says. "A story which, in a way, is the most extraordinary of all the stories I've ever come across."

Over the course of those seven years, Bikel would return again and again to Edenton to chronicle the saga of the Little Rascals Day Care sexual abuse scandal -- a case that many would later compare to the Salem Witch Trials. In a documentary trilogy that won three duPont-Columbia awards, FRONTLINE followed the Little Rascals case from the first claim of abuse in 1989 through numerous trials, convictions, and plea bargains, raising questions about the methods employed by investigators and the fairness of the trials.

Just days before the broadcast of the trilogy's final chapter, "Innocence Lost: The Plea," prosecutors dropped all charges against the remaining defendants. The sudden reversal caused the Washington Post to speculate that "one reason for the plea bargain may have been that increasing publicity, particularly in the TV series, had created some doubts ... as to the fairness of the trials."

One Little Rascals defense attorney went even further: "Our Rascals defendants are free," he wrote FRONTLINE, "because of you."

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The Lost Children of Rockdale County
October 19, 1999

Husband and wife producers Rachel Dretzin and Barak Goodman first traveled to affluent Conyers, Georgia, to chronicle an all-too-typical American town where teen loneliness and alienation were escaped through drinking, drugs, and promiscuous sex.

The couple ended up staying in Conyers for more than five months, getting to know the teens and parents whose stories would be told in the Peabody Award-winning "The Lost Children of Rockdale County."

"Wherever we went, we met kids who were drifting -- hungry for something to fill the void left by too much time on their own and too little structure in their lives," says Dretzin. "The result was these spasms of violence and sexual precocity with little concern for the consequences."

That violence manifested itself on May 20, 1999 -- one month to the day after the Columbine massacre -- when a sophomore at Conyers' Heritage High opened fire, injuring six people. "We went running over there -- we were right there just after it happened," says Goodman, who recalls being struck by how unfazed his teen subjects were by the occurrence. "The fact of the shooting was just another thing -- they weren't particularly shaken by it," he says. "Which was very shaking to me."

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Waco -- The Inside Story
October 17, 1995

When FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk and correspondent Peter Boyer first began to plumb the depths of the FBI's disastrous assault on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, they never expected to uncover the vast archive of untapped government files that would form the basis for "Waco -- The Inside Story." In addition to thousands of pages of documents, Kirk and Boyer uncovered stacks of FBI videotapes, dozens of autopsy photographs, and hundreds of hours of previously undisclosed audiotapes of FBI negotiations with cult leader David Koresh. This vast wealth of documentary evidence -- combined with exclusive FRONTLINE interviews with key figures involved in the standoff -- would paint the most comprehensive portrait to date of what really happened behind the scenes in the days and weeks leading up to the fateful siege.

Many of the files used in researching the documentary -- including excerpts from the FBI's audiotaped negotiations with Koresh -- can be found on the film's companion Web site at In fact, "Waco -- The Inside Story" bears the distinction of being not only the first FRONTLINE documentary to feature an accompanying Web site but also the first content-rich editorial Web site in history. "We entered this new world of online publishing because our documentaries, often a year in the making, generated huge amounts of corollary research that simply couldn't all be put into an hour-long film," executive producer David Fanning recalls. "By collecting all these interviews and tapes and materials and posting them on the Web site for the world to study and understand, we make our journalism transparent. It's a way for us to say, 'We feel comfortable enough with what we've said in this documentary that you can review the underlying materials and come to understand them in the way we have.'"

visit "waco -- the inside story" site

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