WSIU Public Broadcasting, the public media arm of Southern Illinois University Carbondale in partnership with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, will present a new 90-minute documentary chronicling the life of the late corruption fighting newspaper publisher and former Lieutenant Governor, U.S Congressman, and U.S. Senator Paul Simon (1928-2003).
P.S. Illinois: The Paul Simon Story, A Life of Uncommon Courage will premiere on WSIU Public Television's primary channels -- WSIU-TV 8.1 and WUSI-TV 16.1 -- on Thursday, October 24 at 9pm, with repeats on Sunday, October 27 at 1:30pm and Thursday, November 28 at 9pm.
The program is also scheduled to air on WSIU's WORLD channels, WSIU-TV 8.2 and WUSI-TV 16.2, on Saturday, October 26 at 4pm; Sunday, October 27 at 9pm; Monday, October 28 at 6pm; Friday, November 29 at 8pm; and Saturday, November 30 at 4pm.
P.S. Illinois: The Paul Simon Story covers Simon's life and distinguished career from his early days as a crusading journalist in Troy, Illinois to his service in the Illinois General Assembly as a Representative and Senator, to his statewide service as Lt. Governor, and then through his five terms in the U. S. House and two terms in the U. S. Senate.
It also provides personal interviews with friends and family, and those who worked with him closely in government.
“Paul Simon was one of the most outstanding political leaders the State of Illinois has ever produced,” says John S. Jackson, visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. “This documentary provides personal interviews with friends, family, and those who worked with him closely in government and who knew him well. It will become a classic treatment of an Illinois political giant.”
The documentary project began in 2001 when SIU Cinema and Photography undergraduate student Erik Mauck began interviewing many of Simon's colleagues, family, and friends.
“Erik was absolutely tireless in seeking out everyone from Paul's mother, Ruth, to former legislative colleagues Anthony “Tony” Scariano, Alan Dixon, Abner Mikva, and others,” says WSIU producer Jak Tichenor.
Among the dozens of people interviewed by Mauck for the documentary are former Simon campaign advisor David Axelrod, former Saturday Night Live comedian and current U.S. Senator Al Franken, Troy Tribune staffer Ray Johnson, SIU history professor John Y. Simon, daughter and son Sheila and Martin Simon, and former St. Louis Post-Dispatch Statehouse correspondent Taylor Pensoneau.
Tichenor, who had covered Simon's career since 1981, began collecting interviews for the program following Simon's passing. He talked with author Studs Terkel, Washington Post political reporter David Broder, America's Most Wanted host John Walsh, and former Simon press secretary Terry Michael, among others.
Chicago television reporters Carol Marin and Andy Shaw also share their insights into Simon's career, along with former Des Moines Register political reporter and current Simon Institute executive director David Yepsen.
The film offers many personal insights into Simon's character and values.
“My religious beliefs tell me you ought to help poor people,” Simon recalls in the documentary. “My father lived that, he preached that. He grew up on a dairy farm. I remember him saying: 'Even your cows ought to know that you're a Christian.' Meaning, you have to treat animals with respect, as well as people. And I believe that's what we have to do. Kind of a basic philosophy of government.”
In addition to its local broadcast debut, the Simon documentary will be offered to other Illinois Public Television stations and will also be used in journalism and political science classes.
“Students sometimes ask me who Paul Simon was,” says David Yepsen. “This film is a wonderful way to introduce him to them. Told by the people who knew him best, it speaks to a younger generation. It offers hope that politics as we know it could be better -- a lot better.”