In Depth

Oregon Public Broadcasting: ‘The Silent Invasion’

Oregon Public Broadcasting’s documentary, “The Silent Invasion,” tells of invasive plants, animals and insects and the threats they pose to the environment and agriculture. However, the story doesn’t just affect the Pacific Northwest region where it was broadcast.

“This is an environmental problem that’s out in the wide open, in everyone’s view, that nobody knows is a problem,” said Ed Jahn, the film’s producer and writer. “Invasive species are transforming entire economic and environmental landscapes in ways that are happening right now.

“We may not recognize that invasive species are the trigger for some of these environmental problems that we’re having or even some of these economic problems that we’re having. It’s an environmental and economic problem,” he added.

Being recognized by the duPonts is extremely important to Mr. Jahn.

“I consider this the most prestigious award you can get for something like this. The duPont recognizes good journalism—not just good storytelling and not just good film,” said Mr. Jahn. “It celebrates the journalism that’s involved. I think what we did, what we tried to do, is a little bit different. It means something to get recognized by them.”

The problem of invasive species had been discussed in episodes of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s award-winning “Oregon Field Guide. “We’ve covered invasive species in individual stories. Collectively, the people who work on the show got together and realized that this is a big problem. Let’s take a bigger picture to look at this. That was the origin of this,” Mr. Jahn said.

As a member of the “Oregon Field Guide” team, Mr. Jahn had the material to get started on what he initially thought would be just one special episode.

“Then as I got into it, I said we should do something bigger,” he said. “Once we did that, it became a documentary.”

Mr. Jahn said the documentary required finding uncommon characters. The creators went to the heart of Oregon ranch country, where cowboys talked about the problems they’re facing because they see the effects of invasive species first-hand.

In much the same way that “An Inconvenient Truth” was a wake-up call to people about global climate change, Mr. Jahn feels “The Silent Invasion” can do the same for invasive species. “It took something like Al Gore’s film to bring it to everyone’s attention. This was the missing component in people’s education about their own environment. They needed to know about invasive species. It was time for a big, environmental story that nobody was talking about,” he said.

Giving viewers tools to do something about the issue required Mr. Jahn to do more than just getting PBS to broadcast the film.

“We put a lot of focus and a lot of teamwork into these other campaigns. We organized a huge campaign that included putting out a garden-wise guide for people in conjunction with the city and distributed it statewide,” said Mr. Jahn. “There was also a statewide volunteer action campaign and an online hotline created that we’re handing off to the state so people can report what they’re finding.”

The ultimate reward is winning the duPont.

“I know the kind of people who have won the duPont. These are people I admire and respect and would love to work with, so to be standing among them is an honor,” said Mr. Jahn.