‘Characters Unite’ On Tour

USA Network will team
with cable operators to launch a
five-city “Characters Unite” tour
showcasing real-life personal
stories of bigotry and discrimination.

The “Characters Welcome”
network — in conjunction with
not-for-profit storytelling organization
The Moth — created
the tour, which features five
to six everyday “storytellers”
sharing a true, personal experience
of bigotry or discrimination
in front of a live audience.
The tour launches tonight
(Oct. 18) at the CTAM Summit
in New Orleans with a Characters
Unite-themed “Mainstage”
storytelling show, according to
Alexandra Shapiro, senior vice
president, brand marketing and
digital USA Network. Cox Communications
will sponsor the
New Orleans event, with Cox
Louisiana senior vice president
and general manager Jacqui
Vines participating and
actress Angela Bassett hosting.

New York, Chicago, Denver
and Seattle will also host tours
later this year and into 2011, said

“At the end of the day, through
the tour, we really want people
to question their own filters and
behaviors in an effort to create a
more tolerant society,” Shapiro
said. “We don’t in any way think
we’re going to eradicate hatred
and prejudice, but if we can play
a small role in encouraging people
to dialogue about these issues
and question right and wrong,
we’ll make a small contribution
to, we hope, the betterment of

In addition to the Mainstage
shows, USA Network, The Moth
and local cable operators will
choose a local school in each
city to host four after-school
workshops, in which 10 selected
students will receive in-depth
training from Moth professionals
on the art of storytelling, according
to Shapiro.

Each student will then develop
his or her own five-minute
story about prejudice and power
and present it during an inschool
assembly with the hopes
of beginning a dialog about respect
and understanding.

Grace King High School, in Metairie,
La., was chosen from the
New Orleans area, with schools
from the other stops to be announced
in the future. Shapiro
said eventually the tour’s schoolbased
curriculum will be rolled
out nationally with all of USA’s
affiliate partners.

“Both USA and our cable affiliates
share a belief in the importance
of diversity, and I think
to the extent that we can practice
that both internally and externally,
we’ll all be better for it,”
she said. “By giving people the license
to share their stories openly
and dialogue openly we hope
to be able to bridge the divides
— it can’t happen if we sit in silence.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.