Making The River : LATEST EVENTS

September 7, 2007

Archives of Newspapers

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The lockdown in 1979 at the Washington State Penitentiary received massive media attention. During the production and research of this film, hundreds of newspaper articles were reviewed.
It was astonishing to see the amount of news coverage dedicated to events at the penitentiary in this time. The Simmons Brothers Defense Committee maintained a small archive of material made up mostly of flyers and news clippings, but we needed more. When we interviewed a former defense attorney, it was surprising to see the documents saved from the George Simmons’ trial. More than twenty years later and these individuals had maintained their archives. With each new finding or article revealed, more of the puzzle fit into place.

The events at the Washington State Penitentiary had an enormous coverage. A total of 323 articles related to prisons and/or penitentiaries appeared in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin during a six month period, which is one published article a day. The readers of Walla Walla were exposed to newspaper coverage of prisons that were later determined to be questionable whether any inmate defendant could receive a fair trial in the area. And here begins the Simmons Brothers fight to a trial by a jury of their peers.

This raises the question of the media’s effect on its viewers and how our perception of guilt or innocence is disguised as entertainment._-16-lockdownrecord23million.jpg

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