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Idaho State University

Student-written book gains attention of PBS for a World War II documentary

By Charlotte McBride, Business Marketing Intern | March 2, 2020

POCATELLO – Over the last several years, the Idaho State University College of Business has offered a “Collaborative Creativity” class, led by Associate Professor Alex Bolinger, in which students research a historic topic and write a book together on that topic. Now one of the classes will be the subject of a PBS documentary.

Student-written book gains attention of PBS for a World War II documentary
From left: Dalene Hunter, Kathryn Rose, Sophia Perry and Ashley French

Each of these books have all been published by Arcadia Publishing in South Carolina.  Last semester, four students – Ashley French, Dalene Hunter, Sophia Perry and Kathryn Rose – wrote a book that covered Idaho’s impact, influence and efforts during World War II . This book has caught the attention of many people and, most notably, the attention of the public television broadcaster, PBS. So much so, that PBS is now in the process of creating a short documentary about young peoples’ views on World War II.

Jeff Papworth first wrote an article about the class for a special edition of the Idaho State Journal released for Veteran’s Day last September. The story caught the attention of Forrest Burger, a well-decorated journalist and documentary producer.

Burger has worked in Asia as a photojournalist for CNN as well as a video editor for CBS’s 60 Minutes in New York. He also owned his own company doing documentary and corporate videos before joining the staff at Idaho Public Television PBS in 2018 where he now works on its Outdoor Idaho show.

Burger was already working on a short documentary series and, with the 75th anniversary of World War II coming up this year, he wanted to include an episode about World War II. This was when the article by Papworth came to his attention. Upon interviewing Bolinger and his students, the topic changed from World War II itself to how young people in Idaho view the whole war effort.

“I initially thought [Bolinger] and his students could contribute to the show’s overall story arc.  But, one thing became clear- they are very bright people!  So, I made the decision to shift the show’s primary focus toward them and the book,” Burger said.  “I believe telling World War II stories through the perspective of today’s young people is unique, and I hope this show will resonate with our audience,” Burger said.

Burger hopes that the documentary will be ready in time for the 75th anniversary of WWII but says that it may air in early 2021 on Idaho Public Television’s “Idaho Experience” series.

Burger and the students are excited about the opportunity to share their insights as well.

“I was thrilled to be interviewed for the documentary about World War II in Idaho,” said Kathryn Rose, one of the book’s four authors. “The documentary is something that will be, much like the stories we shared in the book, a part of history, and that is really significant to me.”

Sophia Perry, another one of the writers, noted her surprise as well. “I'm honestly shocked that someone wanted to make a documentary about the book we had written,” she said. “Not because I don't think it deserves it – the book is amazing – but just because I never thought all of this would come from simply signing up for a class.”

This documentary comes as a pleasant surprise, not only to the students, but to Bolinger as well.

“The fact that a documentary filmmaker would come to Pocatello and be blown away by our students is incredible,” said Bolinger. “This is also about community connection. Business is often thought about in terms of profit, but so much of what we teach is about organization and teamwork. Something like this is really a community effort so it’s great to see the impact go beyond these four walls.”

The class’s first book was written and published in 2015 and since then, students have written a total of four books covering topics ranging from Pocatello history to the history of Garrett Freightlines, a trucking company that once employed 1,000 people in Pocatello.