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A New Lease on Life

Wisconsin Life prepares for its television debut

Photo Credit: Ron Porter

Did you know that Kewaunee is home to the world’s largest grandfather clock? Or that Elvis Presley (a black belt in Karate) broke up a fist fight in 1977 at the intersection of East Washington Avenue and Highway 51 in Madison? How about that there are almost thirty supper clubs within a thirty-mile radius of Minocqua? 

If you listen to Wisconsin Life, those wonderful yet brief audio essays aired on Wisconsin Public Radio, you probably know about these and other hidden cultural gems unique to our state. Editor and program producer Erika Janik says that the Wisconsin Life series began in 2010 as “an effort to bring more Wisconsin people and stories to the airwaves—to make Wisconsin Public Radio sound more like Wisconsin by sharing the voices and stories of its people.”

It’s this same philosophy that drives a new partnership between WPR and Wisconsin Public Television to bring these voices and stories to television. Janik explains that in looking to do a new Wisconsin-based program, WPT producers realized that “many of the values they hoped to bring to a TV show were already part of the Wisconsin Life project.”

In early 2014, Wisconsin Life will make the leap to TV, with thirty-minute segments—each featuring four or five stories—airing weekly. Janik notes that video will enhance the series, as “a lot of things that we can’t do on the radio will make a fantastic visual story.” Plus, the partnership with WPT will extend the series’ reach, placing the stories “upfront and center” for a larger audience, Janik says.

WPR and WPT are also working together to revamp the Wisconsin Life website, which will showcase the project’s multimedia content and feature an interactive component that encourages people to share their own stories and photos on the site.

Janik reports that the nascent partnership benefits from WPR’s and WPT’s shared goals by providing a new space for community engagement and acting as a cultural and civic resource. “Wisconsin Life producers from radio and TV are actively working together to generate ideas and produce stories from start to finish,” she says. “It’s a true collaboration.”

Until the televised version is ready, you can catch WPR’s Wisconsin Life on Wednesday and Friday mornings during Morning Edition and Monday and Wednesday afternoons during Central Time.

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Augusta Scescke is a former editorial assistant for Wisconsin People & Ideas. She is a 2013 graduate of Northeastern Illinois University with a degree in Sociology. Her research history includes an interview and photography project about the meanings of quilting to Appalachian women.

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