“I’m a words guy, not a pictures guy,” Philip Bennett says halfway through our conversation about his work producing documentaries for PBS’ FRONTLINE. “I wanted to learn more.”

Bennett is the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Studies and Journalism at Sanford. He is also the director of the Rutherfurd Living History program. In his earliest reporting days, he worked as The Boston Globe’s Latin American correspondent and reported on wars in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. From 2005-2009, he served as managing editor of The Washington Post.

Referring to himself as “a words guy” is an understatement.

And after his work with FRONTLINE, saying he is “not a pictures guy” might be one, too.

Before the past year, Bennett’s work at FRONTLINE, the PBS documentary series, was as managing editor. For two years he supervised the stories and reporting that FRONTLINE produced. But 2016 saw Bennett joining a team of three to co-produce FRONTLINE’s traditional pre-election documentary profiling the Republican and Democratic candidates: The Choice 2016.

As co-producer, Bennett outlined the documentary, helped write the script, organized the recording of interviews, and helped edit the film.

“Film is an incredibly powerful medium. It has a powerful impact.” Bennett said while discussing the care that went into producing the documentary.

The Choice aired to an audience of 10 million viewers. It would seem so.

The Divided States of America was a two part, four hour documentary follow up of the 2016 election that aired in January. Bennett co-produced this film as well, and plans to continue working in the documentary world.

To Bennett, “It’s a different way of seeing the world…I’ve come to see events differently as I see them through the lens of filmmaking.”   

His next project (title undisclosed) will air in late 2017.



The DeWitt Wallace Center hosted supplemental discussions about both The Choice 2016 and The Divided States of America. The discussion about The Divided States of America featured Dan Balz, Chief Correspondent of The Washington Post, and Jason Zengerle, Political Correspondent for GQ Magazine. A recording of the event can be found here.