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Grassroots Idealism

Press reviews of last week's episode of FRONTLINE/World, featuring our stories about Lebanon and Liberia, picked up on a theme. "Both reports are refreshingly hopeful," noted TV critic Roger Catlin of Connecticut's Hartford Courant.

"Trouble Spots Where Hope May Have A Foothold," was the headline of a long and favorable review in The New York Times by Ned Martel. You'll get the idea from these opening paragraphs:

"Two 30-minue back-to-back dispatches from Lebanon and Liberia tonight on PBS document some actual optimism, a strain of good vibes rarely recorded in urgent public broadcasting reports from these places, which usually command attention for intractable violence, not high hopes.

"The segments on "Frontline/World" show that there can be grass-roots idealism among a new generation of nation-building survivors. Given the destruction they have endured, these idealists in Beirut and Monrovia seem like seedlings sprouting from a forest fire's charred floor."

Even the sometimes curmudgeonly Wall Street Journal was kind enough to say, "The FRONTLINE/World series on PBS is nearly always worth watching." Nearly always? Never mind. Critic Nancy deWolf Smith went on to provide a good, accurate capsule description of the series: "It specializes in video documentaries by journalists who are either natives or residents of the countries they cover. The series lets the reporters narrate their own excursions behind the headlines, offering intimate slices of life in order to illustrate the bigger picture."

Like other foreign correspondents, we sometimes have a tendency to concentrate our reporting on war, terror and mayhem. We see it as our journalistic and moral obligation to tell the grim story of "ethnic cleansing" in Sudan's Darfur region and to show the extreme hazards reporters face in covering the war in Iraq -- both stories we told in our January episode. But at FRONTLINE/World, we also want to tell stories about change and hope and redemption. Browse our backlog of more than 40 video reports online and you will find inspiring, entertaining, even dryly humorous stories -- from the Indian computer scientist trying to help poor children gain access to cyberspace ("A Hole in the Wall") to American coffee roasters making "fair trade" deals with Guatemalan and Mexican farmers ("Coffee Country"); to Marco Werman's quirky and insightful world music stories in Iceland, France and Belize.

This week's May 24 episode is a classic FRONTLINE/World mix: a lead investigative piece about Iran's secretive nuclear program, followed by a repeat of our extraordinary inside look at the custom of "bride kidnapping" in Kyrgyzstan, and an almost fable-like story of how a poor Mexican woodcutter saved his dying village.