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A pioneer in children’s TV programming, Joan Ganz Cooney founded the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW). It’s first television series was Sesame Street.
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Joan Ganz Cooney first created TV programming as a documentary producer for public television in 1962. She began to think about television as a teaching medium. To this end, she founded the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) in 1968. CTW’s first show was Sesame Street. Next came The Electric Company in 1971. In 1989, she received an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Television producer and executive. Born Joan Ganz on November 30, 1929, in Phoenix, Arizona. A pioneer in children??s television programming, she began her career in media as a newspaper reporter. In the mid-1950s, she moved to New York City and worked as a publicist for several years. She got her first opportunity to create television programming as a documentary producer for public television in 1962. Cooney won an Emmy Award for a show entitled Poverty, Anti-Poverty, and the Poor.
While she enjoyed her work, Cooney wanted to be able to make more of a difference in people??s lives. With a degree in education from the University of Arizona, she began to think about television as a teaching medium. Cooney conducted a formal study on the subject. She used her findings to help convince others of television??s potential for children. To this end, she founded the Children??s Television Workshop (CTW) in 1968.
Cooney saw the CTW??s first television series, Sesame Street, as a learning opportunity for all preschool children. Taking inspiration from the style of commercial television, the show has a quick pace, showing a variety of educational segments in each episode. Along with its multiracial cast of actors, the series features a number of puppet characters, known as the Muppets, which were created by the late Jim Henson. Sesame Street began in November 1969 and has remained on the air for nearly forty years. During its run, Cooney and the CTW have won numerous awards for the series, including more than 60 Emmy Awards.
Cooney continued to show her commitment to children??s education with The Electric Company, which got its start in 1971. Geared for primary-school children, the show used comedy sketches, appearances from the comic book hero Spider-Man, and other types of segments to teach important reading skills. Actors Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno and comedian Bill Cosby were part of the cast. Cooney also played a role in the creation of other programs, such as the science program 3-2-1 Contact (1980) and the math series Square One TV (1988).
With her creative vision and drive, Cooney revolutionized children??s television programming. In 1989, she received an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 for her contributions to educational television. Today, Cooney serves on the board of trustees and the executive committee of CTW, which is now known as the Sesame Workshop.
Cooney has been married twice. Her first marriage to Timothy Cooney ended in 1975. She has been married to businessman Peter G. Peterson since 1980.
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