Louisiana Public Square is LPB’s monthly public affairs program. It provides citizens a forum to voice their opinions and concerns about issues affecting Louisiana to leading experts and key decision makers. LPB has received state and national recognition for the series and we are proud that it serves as a model for other stations around the country. One of the primary goals of Louisiana Public Square is to allow different points of view to be expressed and heard. Oftentimes we have seen attitudinal changes of discussion participants after being exposed to other opinions on the program. (You can track these changes in attitude at our surveys link.)
One of the key features of this format is the depth and insightfulness of the discussion and questions generated in the crucible of citizen deliberations on a small group level. These queries are informed by not only the background material, but by the give-and-take dynamic of an open forum, skillfully moderated so that all are encouraged to speak their mind.
Louisiana Public Square evolved from the deliberative democracy concept of the MacNeil/Lehrer Productions’ By The People initiative. The goal is to encourage civic engagement and civil discourse – the foundations of a strong democracy.
Beth Courtney is the President/CEO of Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB), which includes a statewide public television network with stations in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Baton Rouge and an affiliated station in New Orleans, WLAE-TV. LPB is also responsible for the support and development of public television throughout Louisiana and serves as the state’s educational technology resource center. She is a member of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the nine-member presidentially appointed board that oversees the federal funds for radio and television. She is Past Chairman of the Board of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) and former Vice Chairman of the Board of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). She is co-chairman of a PBS/APTS Board initiative to negotiate carriage of public broadcasting channels on digital cable and direct broadcast satellites. Ms. Courtney has chaired the PBS education, membership, and common carriage task forces. She currently serves on the Board of the Organization of State Broadcasting Executives (OSBE), and the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).
Television news has fascinated Shauna Sanford for as long as she can remember. "As a kid, I would often watch TV newsbreaks and then afterwards pretend to do my own reports," she recalls. Little did she know that one day she would have an opportunity to cover two of the nation’s biggest news stories, Hurricane Katrina and Rita. “It’s an experience I will never forget,” says Shauna. “I was working at WWL TV in New Orleans at the time and not only did I have to live through what was happening but report on it as well. It was an humbling experience.”
She grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana and graduated from Howard University, in Washington, D.C, with a B.S. in Zoology. Shauna landed her first broadcasting job back in 1993 at WIBR-AM, an all-sports radio station in Baton Rouge. “Without any experience in television it was difficult for me to get my foot in the door,” she says. So when an on-air traffic reporter position serving several local radio stations opened up, Shauna jumped at the opportunity.
The young reporter continued to hone her skills, working for several stations including KQXL-FM and WJBO-AM. "I hosted two talk shows, became an anchor, even held a news director position," Shauna recounts. Her enthusiasm for the talk radio format earned her a "Victims and Citizens Against Crime" award, which honored her contributions in addressing topics of victims and families' rights. Shauna's versatile talents would also give her an edge in her next job.
The call that would bring a new dimension to Shauna's career came directly from the News Director of Baton Rouge CBS affiliate WAFB.-TV. The television medium would prove to be a perfect fit for the eager reporter, as many of her new assignments focused on Louisiana's colorful politics.
"I followed the Jim Brown trial, and the second round in court for former Governor Edwin Edwards," she describes. But it was Shauna's contribution to the coverage of suspected serial killer Derrick Todd Lee that would be recognized with an Associated Press Best Team Coverage Award. "Our individual strengths helped us cover the unfolding events," she notes, "and it was great being a part of that team." However, field reporting wasn't Shauna's only strength, as she also produced the station's noon news edition. "It's nice being on both sides of the camera; it gives you an appreciation for what it takes to put a newscast together,” emphasizes Shauna.
An unexpected phone call from the news director at WWL-TV led Shauna to her next assignment, as a reporter and weekend anchor in New Orleans. “I learned so much from everyone at Channel 4,” says Shauna. “It was a great place to further develop my broadcasting and writing skills.”
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