“Empowering individuals to tell their stories gives them dignity,” says Linda Midgett ’92, who believes it’s particularly important to listen to the more marginalized members of society who have little or no plat- form for telling these stories.
In her most recent film, The Line, Linda tackles the hot-button issue of poverty in America by giving voice to four diverse stories of Americans living at or below the poverty line. Sponsored by organizations including Sojourners, Oxfam, and the MacArthur Foundation, the documentary (available on YouTube) premiered in Washing- ton, D.C., in October 2012 to an enthusiastic reception.
The film debunks the myth that poverty is primarily an urban problem. On the contrary, it is growing at a faster rate in the suburbs than in the cities. This fact was eye opening for Linda. “There are people living at the poverty line who don’t look like they are,” she says. “If you were to drive by their suburban house, you wouldn’t think there was such a struggle going on inside.”
In the early and mid-1990s, Linda got started as a writer and producer working for PBS affiliates and CNN International. Since then, she has supervised more than 600 hours of programming for networks including NBC-Universal, the History Channel, Investigation Discovery, and A&E.
She earned the industry’s highest accolades for her work as co-executive producer of NBC’s Starting Over. Premiering in 2003-04, Starting Over was the first reality TV show ever nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award. It won three and was nominated for six. The show followed the life challenges of six women living together in a single home. Life coaches and psychologists counseled the women, an effort Linda believes genuinely helped the participants.
Unlike many reality television shows, Starting Over was entirely unscripted, representing the more organic approach to storytelling that Linda prefers. “I’m too much of a documentarian at heart to be interested in the more scripted approach of a lot of reality TV,” she says. “Real stories are more interesting. Like Mark Twain said, ‘Truth is stranger than fiction.’”
As executive producer for the History Channel’s groundbreaking series Gangland, Linda struggled with the value of producing such violent content. Ultimately, she decided that Gang- land’s portrayal of a disturbing, yet very real, side of urban America could play an important role in raising the consciousness of communities, especially communities of faith.
Linda entered Wheaton as a piano performance major but soon followed her first love— writing—into a literature degree. She is particularly grateful for the mentorship of Arthur F. Holmes Professor of Faith and Learning Dr. Roger Lundin ’71, who was adviser to the Record when Linda served as editor-in-chief during her senior year. “Roger Lundin was my first ‘boss’ and a real source of encouragement. He was able to see my potential at a time when I couldn’t fully appreciate what I had to offer,” she recalls.
Linda currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, John Otzenberger, a clinical psychologist, and their two young children.