WEDU PBS Recipient of Integrated Station Development Award Honoring Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign

Tampa, FL – WEDU PBS announced today that it was honored with a PBS Development Award during the annual Public Media Development and Marketing Conference held in Denver, Colorado.

The Integrated Station Development Award, presented to WEDU during the PBS Showcase Day of the conference, recognizes a station in which multiple departments work in tandem throughout the year to ensure fulfillment of mission. The award seeks to spotlight an outstanding station story and service to the community.

WEDU was recognized for outstanding collaborative efforts for production of the original documentary Too Close To Home and accompanying campaign to raise awareness around Human Trafficking in the Tampa Bay area. Florida is the third largest destination state for human trafficking and the Tampa Bay area is among the highest in occurrences around the state.  

In partnership with the Allegany Franciscan Ministries, which provided a $100,000 grant for the project, WEDU PBS produced a half-hour documentary and half-hour roundtable exposing the Human Trafficking issue in the Tampa Bay area. Members of the station’s Production, Marketing and Community Partnerships, Communications and Finance Departments worked with a variety of law enforcement, human trafficking survivors, and support organizations and created a network of resources in support of the documentary and a collection of community outreach activities.

The original documentary was premiered during a sold out event hosting more than 1300 guests at the historic Tampa Theatre. Attendees had an opportunity to speak with representatives from local organizations, participated in a virtual candle-light vigil for human trafficking victims, and heard personal stories from survivors. Guests left the emotional event armed with a better understanding of how to identify human trafficking incidents and were given wristbands with the Human Trafficking hotline phone number discretely inscribed on the inner side of the band.

The documentary has since aired over 50 times on WEDU PBS and WEDU Plus along with five public service announcements broadcast in both English and Spanish that continue to air on WEDU. In support of the on-air campaign, WEDU also produced informational cards with signs to to identify Human Trafficking incidents or victims. More than 10,000 cards have been distributed through the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative and the general public.

WEDU has also distributed more than 200 DVD copies of the documentary which has been used throughout the state at over 500 training sessions and is currently serving as presenting station to bring the program to PBS stations throughout the country.

The campaign also included an extensive webpage featuring the documentary, roundtable and an assortment of Human Trafficking resources. The webpage and digital efforts were supported by a grant from The Junior League of Tampa.

Too Close To Home was amazing! I can’t say enough good things about your team’s work,” stated Carissa Cutrell, Public Affairs Officer for the Department of Homeland Security following the premiere screening event.

Since the release of WEDU’s original documentary, Too Close To Home and associated awareness campaign supported by community partners, the National Human Trafficking hotline has reported a nearly 40% increase in calls from the Tampa Bay area. This has led to 24 new cases being reported, compared to the same time period in 2013.

To learn more about WEDU’s Human Trafficking awareness campaign and to watch the original documentary Too Close To Home, visit

If you suspect an incident of Human Trafficking or you need help, please call the Human Trafficking Hotline at: 1-888-3737-888.

Jessika Walsten

Jessika is content engagement director of Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV. She has been with the brands in various roles since 2013. In her current role, she works primarily behind the screen, keeping an eye on the website and fixing any site bugs. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects for NextTV, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.