Janet Tobias, who graduated from Westside in 1976, is an Emmy award-winning director/ producer with 20 years’ experience working for ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Discovery, and MSNBC. Tobias launched her career as Diane Sawyer’s associate producer for the TV news magazine, 60 Minutes. There she developed a variety of domestic and international stories, from a portrait of the Japanese organized crime syndicate Yakuza, to the abuse of boys in a Guatemalan orphanage. In 1989, Tobias helped Sawyer launch Prime Time Live at ABC News. There she produced/directed stories ranging from investigations of alcohol abuse by pilots, to the sex trade in Thailand, to a feature on the Kuwaiti royal family after the first Gulf War.
In 1992, Tobias diverted her news production career to write a screenplay called The Volunteer. It features a former member of the IRA who decided that the price of violence was too high. In 1993, she returned to the networks and moved into management at Dateline NBC. She also continued to produce/direct stories ranging from examinations of environmental damage by the oil industry in Ecuador, to a historical review of Soviet misinformation campaigns, to the murder of street kids in Rio De Janiero. In 1995, she took a position as executive producer at New York Times Television where she supervised the production of a foreign news show that reported on a variety of issues, including rape as a war crime in Rwanda. That particular award-winning piece appeared on Nightline. Tobias then returned to ABC News where she developed and directed criminal justice stories for Nightline, 20/20, World News Tonight, and Good Morning America. In 1998, Tobias served as an executive with PBS, where she developed and produced programming and joint projects with ABC and Discovery. A four hour Frontline/Nightline series on the California juvenile justice system won two American Bar Association silver gavels.
In 2001, she launched Life 360, an Emmy-award-winning weekly PBS series that combined documentary pieces with dramatic and comic monologues. In 2002, Tobias joined Sawyer Media Systems, a creator of Internet video technology. She also continued to produce documentaries on a variety of social issues through Sierra/Tango Productions. One of the company’s more recent productions is the movie No Place On Earth, which features five families that lived underground for 511 days to escape the Holocaust. In 2004, Tobias became a founding partner of Ikana Health + Media, a healthcare company that uses technology, social media, and storytelling to improve people’s health. She serves on the boards of Healthright International, Healthbuilders/Rwanda Works, and the East Harlem Health Outreach Partnership. She also is an adjunct assistant professor of medicine in the department of health evidence and policy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and research professor of global public health in the NYU Global Institute of Public Health (GIPH).