WUSF producer remembers the Maine

Search for the USS Maine, a documentary described by its producer as one-half history lesson, one-half science has already won a Telly, a national television award.

WUSF producer Martha Bone, who spent a year working on the project, received notification of the award last week.

“I knew it was only a matter of time,” she said.

Maine tells the story of the Spanish-American War battleship that mysteriously sank off the coast of Cuba. It also follows the team of scientists working to recover the wreckage.

The hour-long program aired on Channel 16 in January and received high ratings from its local audience. The successful debut caught the attention of PBS, which will release the documentary nationally later this year. Maine will then be available for broadcast at 350 stations.

Bone said prior to working on the project she lacked a full understanding of the Spanish-American War and the USS Maine incident, something she thinks is common in today’s society.

“Many people have heard the phrase ‘Remember the Maine’ but they’re not sure what to remember,” she said. “The Spanish-American War took up one page in my high school history book, so I had some studying to do before I could tell the story.”In researching Maine, Bone interviewed descendants of several victims and survivors.

“Telling the story through their eyes makes the account much more compelling,” she said. “I try to bring the past to life for viewers.”

Aside from learning about the Spanish-American War and the USS Maine, Bone said, working in Cuba was an enlightening experience.

“It’s a whole different world for us, yet so close,” she said. “They’re our neighbors, but they haven’t been as affected by Westernism as we have.”

Enlightening as the experience may have been, it was not without its obstacles.

“Working in Cuba was challenging. In the States, we’re used to making things happen and receiving instant gratification,” Bone said. “In Cuba, you fight hard to keep whatever tiny bit of momentum you have.”

Winning awards is nothing new for Martha Bone. Earlier this month, she was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Division of Infectious Diseases for a documentary called Superbugs: The Killer Viruses.

Eighty-two public stations around the country are currently broadcasting Superbugs, which is distributed by American Public Television. The documentary won Platinum Best of Show during the 2001 Aurora Awards and a Telly award last year.

Comments and questions about the USS Maine documentary can be sent to Rachel Pleasant at oraclepleasant@yahoo.com