[Marxism] Michael Yates appearance

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 4 08:30:30 MDT 2005


Last night around 12:33am, I began surfing through the stations on my table 
radio as I often do when I wake up in the middle of the night. Since the 
radio has a TV band, I checked out what was on channel 13--the local PBS 
station. To my pleasant surprise, I heard Michael Yates being interviewed 
by Tavis Smiley. It would appear based on Smiley's archives that the show 
will be available on the Internet starting tomorrow. Check: 
http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/archive/200505/20050503.html

The fact that I wasn't aware that Smiley's show comes on at 12:30am is no 
accident. Channel 13 has not advertised it once to my knowledge. The 
station is replete with ads for its own shows, but they tend to be geared 
to the latest Master Race Theater crapola or nature shows.  My guess is 
that the station is too afraid of its own shadow to advertise the existence 
of a talk show with a Black host that is pro-labor and pro-minority.

Smiley is a very sharp and effective interviewer. PBS's best known talk 
show host is the horse-faced Charlie Rose whose gushing interviews with the 
ineffable Thomas Friedman are typical. He can also be relied on to feature 
Brad Pitt or some other Hollywood star on a publicity tour for their crappy 
new movie.

Smiley is a proud and outspoken Black man whose relationship to public 
radio and television is strained to say the least. Here's an article about 
his experience with NPR, the radio counterpart to PBS.

The New York Times
December 1, 2004 Wednesday
Late Edition - Final

A Popular Black Host Is to Leave NPR

By FELICIA R. LEE

Tavis Smiley, the outspoken host of National Public Radio's first 
predominantly African-American show in the network's 34-year history, will 
not renew his contract and has criticized NPR for failing to ''meaningfully 
reach out'' to minority listeners.

Mr. Smiley has been the host of ''The Tavis Smiley Show,'' a daily one-hour 
newsmagazine since January 2002. The show, carried by 87 public stations 
nationwide, was created by NPR with the African-American Public Radio 
Consortium, in response to a campaign by public radio stations at 
historically black colleges for more programs aimed at minority audiences. 
Mr. Smiley's show reached just under 900,000 listeners a week, according to 
NPR, many of them young and African-American.

For Mr. Smiley, who was not available for comment yesterday, those numbers 
apparently were not good enough. ''NPR's own research has confirmed that 
NPR has simply failed to meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of 
Americans who would benefit from public radio, but simply don't know it 
exists or what it offers,'' Mr. Smiley wrote in a letter dated Nov. 29 
addressed to public radio stations and posted yesterday by Jim Romenesko on 
the Poynter Institute Web site, poynter.org.

''In the most multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial America ever, I 
believe that NPR can and must do better in the future,'' Mr. Smiley's 
letter said.

Mr. Smiley's decision to end his contract came as ''a surprise,'' David 
Umansky, the vice president for communications at NPR, said in an interview 
yesterday. The network's only communication with Mr. Smiley, he added, had 
been through a letter from his lawyer, received in the middle of contract 
negotiations.

The letter did not explain Mr. Smiley's departure, Mr. Umansky said, adding 
that Mr. Smiley's show has been ''a good first step'' toward creating a 
more diverse NPR audience. Among all NPR shows, Mr. Smiley's has the 
largest black audience (29 percent) and the largest audience of listeners 
44 and younger (40 percent), Mr. Umansky said.

''We would argue that there's more to be done, but his show was evidence 
that we were accomplishing it,'' Mr. Umansky said. An interim host will 
replace Mr. Smiley while NPR conducts a national search for a host for a 
new show, which would appeal to a racially diverse and young audience, he said.

''We have only the most positive feelings about Tavis,'' Mr. Umansky said, 
denying that there was animosity over the departure.

On Mr. Smiley's Web site, TavisTalks.com, he said: ''I am grateful for the 
opportunity NPR gave me to bring a broader range of viewpoints on life in 
America to the public airwaves. It is my hope that in the future NPR will 
make a greater effort to use its full resources to make this vision a 
reality.''

But the show -- a mix of news, interviews, commentary, sports and pop 
culture with a majority of African-American guests -- raised issues of 
balance almost from its inception.

Some listeners thought Mr. Smiley excluded whites. In a 2002 interview in 
The New York Times, Mr. Smiley, speaking of the former host of NPR's 
''Morning Edition,'' said: ''When Bob Edwards goes to work on any given 
day, he does not have staff meetings in which he tries to determine whether 
the program he's doing is 'too white.''' Earlier this year, paradoxically, 
Mr. Edwards was removed from his post by NPR and later left the network.

Mr. Smiley, who said in his letter that his last day on the air as host of 
his show would be Dec. 16, has always reveled in being outspoken. A popular 
fixture on the speaker circuit, his first book, ''Hard Left,'' disputed the 
Republican Contract With America. As the political commentator on ''The Tom 
Joyner Morning Show,'' the nation's most widely syndicated black-oriented 
morning radio program, he and Mr. Joyner boycotted the computer retailer 
CompUSA for what they said was not advertising enough in black 
publications. They also rallied listeners to persuade Christie's to cancel 
an auction of slave-trade artifacts and instead donate the objects to a museum.

In 2001 Mr. Smiley was famously fired from ''BET Tonight,'' his talk show 
on Black Entertainment Television. He was dismissed, he said, for selling 
an interview with a former Symbionese Liberation Army member to ABC after 
first offering it to BET.

In addition to appearing twice weekly on ''The Tom Joyner Morning Show,'' 
Mr. Smiley is also the host and producer of ''Tavis Smiley,'' a late-night 
PBS television show, and ''The Smiley Report,'' heard daily nationwide on 
urban radio stations. His imprint, Smiley Books, with Hay House, carries 
what is described on his Web site as ''Success seminars, empowerment cards, 
audiocassettes and minibooks.'' He has written six books, the most recent, 
''Keeping the Faith: Stories of Love, Courage, Healing and Hope From Black 
America,'' a collection of essays published by Random House.

Two African-American radio executives interviewed yesterday said that 
despite Mr. Smiley's criticism that NPR could do better, his show proved 
that there was a black audience for public radio. They also noted the fast 
growth of Mr. Smiley's show, from its beginnings at 16 stations and fewer 
than 300,000 listeners a week.

''None of us has any hard feelings,'' Loretta Rucker, executive consultant 
for the African-American Public Radio Consortium, said yesterday. ''Tavis 
was a great find and he was available at the time. Because Tavis is so 
mercurial, so brilliant, so ambitious, there was always an understanding 
this was not forever. This is the first of a lot of things we're starting.''

Part of the problem in attracting black public radio listeners is that 
public radio stations do not have the money, the history or the expertise 
in marketing to black audiences, said Maxie C. Jackson III, the acting 
general manager of WEAA-FM, owned by Morgan State University in Baltimore, 
a historically black school.

''We're prepared to move forward as part of the consortium that helped 
bring the show to NPR,'' Mr. Jackson said yesterday about Mr. Smiley's 
departure. ''I think NPR had every intention to expand the public radio 
audience to be diverse.''

--

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