New York Festivals Open Mic Interview features prominent award-winners from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF Radio Awards shines the spotlight on Liz Aiello, Executive Producer of SiriusXM’s award-winning radio series “The Last Mile.”
Liz Aiello is a Vice President of Talk Programming at SiriusXM. She is a content creator and executive who understands both traditional and digital media and has more than 20 years experience leading creative teams and driving editorial vision.
In her current role, she oversees political programming on the POTUS and Patriot channels for SiriusXM…as well as The Catholic Channel and the Triumph channel with Dave Ramsey and Glenn Beck. Previously, Liz was a Senior Vice President with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, working in both radio and television. Liz also worked for Howard Stern, creating a “news department” for Mr. Stern when he premiered on Sirius Radio. That job came after more than a decade working in television news, as Managing Editor/Executive Producer at WABC-TV.
SiriusXM’s Liz Aiello, Executive Producer and Jim Bilodeau, Producer earned the UNDPI Silver, in addition to a Gold Radio trophy for the “The Last Mile.” This 6-week documentary series explores the awe-inspiring stories of transformation and redemption of nine men told by the inmates themselves.
In the interview below, Liz shares the background and logistical challenges of this ground-breaking prison program inside San Quentin. The Last Mile program is changing lives through technology and returning inmates to society, not only with highly-marketable coding and business skills…but real hope for a second chance at life. So far, the program boasts a ZERO recidivism rate.
NYF Radio: What sparked your idea for this program?
Liz Aiello: It was an idea brought to us by the son of our President, Scott Greenstein. He met Chris Redlitz, the founder of The Last Mile, at an event and started learning about the innovative program. He thought it would be an interesting radio show. Once we met the founders and some of the program’s returned citizens, we knew this was much more than just a radio show.
NYF Radio: How did you first come to connect with the inmates at the San Quintin Last Mile program?
Liz Aiello: TLM founders Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti arranged a full day at San Quentin and selected a half dozen or so inmates for us to speak with.
NYF Radio: This 6-part documentary told the story of 9 men, how difficult was it to persuade the men to open up about such personal events in their lives?
Liz Aiello: Not difficult at all. These men have spent many years dealing with their actions and the emotions over what they did. They have tremendous self-awareness and are eager to share their story in the hopes of stopping someone else from making the same mistake.
NYF Radio: What were the logistical challenges did you encounter while producing your program?
Liz Aiello: Only that it is quite a process to get into the prison, so we really needed to plan out what we wanted to accomplish and what questions we should ask BEFORE we got there. We brought backup batteries and equipment to ensure there wasn’t a technical failure. We weren’t going to have the chance to interview everyone a second time.
NYF Radio: What risks if any did the people who shared their story have to come to terms with?
Liz Aiello: No risks.
NYF Radio: What did you hope to achieve by drawing attention to this story with your creative efforts?
Liz Aiello: Chris and Beverly say it best: “Ninety percent of incarcerated people WILL get out of prison one day. That’s a fact. The question is, ‘Who do you want them to be?;” We wanted to show that if given valuable job skills, these men can and want to be productive members of society. And, once returned to society, they go back to their communities and work to stop young people from making the same mistakes.
NYF Radio: In your opinion, what makes “The last Mile” such a successful award-winning program?
Liz Aiello: The men’s stories, told in their own words. Each story is so compelling. It is very hard to turn away once you start listening.
NYF Radio: Will you discuss the importance of freedom of speech?
Liz Aiello: It is the FIRST amendment of our Constitution. There is nothing else to say. It is one of the great things that separates America from the rest of the world.
NYF Radio: Now that you’ve achieved success with this project, what other radio projects are on the horizon? What’s next for you creatively?
Liz Aiello: The Last Mile has launched a similar program in the women’s prison in Los Angeles. We will be going back and telling new stories…this time from a female perspective AND we will get into telling the story from the family’s point of view. What the children and spouses of these incarcerated people have to deal with….and what happens when their loved one returns to society.
For more information on New York Festivals Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/