Realscreen January/February 2019

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016 JANUARY / FEBRUARY '19 FIRST LOOK context is genuinely applicable, and not included to "spice up" a story. One of Oxygen's highest-rated shows to date was Academy Award- nominated director Joe Berlinger's The Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers, which examined the murder of 19-year old Chambers and the trial of Quinton Tellis, the African American man accused of the crime. Aissa says that within that series, producers had to tackle the issue of race. Although it wasn't the driving focus of the narrative, it was certainly part of the discussion that surrounded the attention the case has received, with racial tension arising in the town where the crime took place in its aftermath. "If it's something someone is just trying to put in to create the narrative then that is something we don't want to do," he says. Similarly, race and attitudes towards it played roles within New York-headquartered Lucky 8's The Disappearance of Phoenix Coldon for Oxygen. Coldon, a young African American woman, went missing in December 2011 in her hometown of East St. Louis. Coldon's parents and assorted commentators maintain that what appeared to be a relative lack of media coverage of the case could be pinned to what PBS journalist Gwen Ifill termed as "Missing White Woman Syndrome" — what is considered to be disproportionate coverage of crime cases involving white, middle-class women. "Race, sexual identity, all these things can be included in a true crime story, but [they] can't be forced in," Aissa says. Stories that naturally reflect such context and interweave larger social issues can, and do, connect with audiences. The Unspeakable Crime is Oxygen's highest-rated weekly premiering series since the July 2017 true crime rebrand among the 18-49 demo, and women in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos. The Disappearance of Phoenix Coldon had 426,000 total viewers in the second and final episode, up 23% from the premiere. Recently, Investigation Discovery teamed up with civil rights advocacy organization The American Southern Poverty Law Centre for Hate in America which explores the organization's work in fighting hatred and hate crimes across the United States. "Civil rights is a big part of justice in this country and is why we tackled these issues in the past," says Bennett. Beyond concerns over access and approach, the execs realscreen talked to say that producers embarking on true crime projects should always utilize the key tool for any documentarian: an open mind. When covering crime, it's a must, for the sake of the victims, the families and others involved, and for justice itself. "We don't want to lock ourselves into just one way of thinking [about a case] because it may unfold in a different way," says Aissa. We don't want to lock ourselves into one way of thinking [about a case] because it may unfold in a different way." Oxygen's The Disappearance of Phoebe Coldon explored wider issues of race in the context of criminal cases. Aissa

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