Yesterday I had the pleasure and honor of being a guest on Boston public radio station WBUR‘s nationally-syndicated show On Pointto discuss the current push and need for good news in the media (and to continue to spread the word about Good Black News).
David Folkenflik is the host and moderator of On Point, and Hilary McQuilkin produced the hour for broadcast. Other guests on this show with me are David Beard (@dabeard), founder of The Optimist newsletter at the Washington Post, who also writes for the Recharge newsletter of Mother Jones and Gail Rosenblum(@grosenblum), editor of the Inspired section at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.
To hear our discussion on why good news and solutions-based reporting is on the upswing and so necessary in our culture right now, click here and enjoy!
Tavis Smiley has what could be deemed the perfect talk show host name — upbeat and amiable — but growing up, he was often the butt of belittling schoolyard jokes.
“When I was a kid, I hated my name,” says the Midwesterner whose childhood pipedream was to play first base for the Cincinnati Reds. “Tavis Smiley. I got teased so much. It was Travis, Tayvis and Smiley became Smelly and ‘Oh, you’re Tavis Smelly.’ So I hated it as a kid. But, lo and behold, years later you’re a TV guy and it works.”
Indeed it does. Hatched in 2004, Smiley’s eponymous PBS talker kickstarted its 11th season in January. The show, recipient of four NAACP Image Awards, has featured a wide and varied swath of high-profile guests, from Maya Angelou to Cornel West, from Ethan Hawke to James Taylor. “The first time we met, we just hit it off magically,” says Smiley of the Grammy winning singer-songwriter. “There are very few guests I can say this about, but James and I actually became friends.”
But it was a desire to serve the public in a deep and meaningful way — “My whole career track at that point was to become an elected official,” he says — and not hobnob with celebrities that, in 1996, pushed Smiley, who is receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today, to pen “Hard Left: Straight Talk about the Wrongs of the Right,” a book that worked like a karate chop on conservatives, took note of Democratic Party shortcomings and issued a political call to action.
“1996 was a seminal year in my career,” says Smiley, whose the Smiley Group Inc. headquarters are inconspicuously perched adjacent to a closed-down burger joint in the artsy Leimert Park section of South Central Los Angeles. “Within months of writing my book I was in the White House as a guest of Bill Clinton and then as a regular on Tom Joyner’s radio show on NPR. So now I’m talking to 10 million people every day around the country. A couple of months after that, BET gave me my own latenight show. At that point I realized, well, maybe the political campaign thing of mine is done.”
In 2002 Smiley became the first “person of color” in the history of the United States to have his own daily show on NPR, and then, in 2004, become the first African-American to have his own daily show on PBS. That same year, he became the first and only American — “forget my color,” he notes with a quick flick of the wrist — to host daily talkers on both PBS and NPR.
“The whole thing was always about public service for me, and I saw delivering commentary on issues affecting people as a means to provide that service. My goal has always been to empower people with information that can help them live better lives.”
An all-expenses-paid program for high school student journalists from low-income backgrounds will take place for 10 days next summer on the campus of Princeton University. The program is entering its 13th year; since 2002, approximately 250 students from high schools across the country have participated. The program’s goal is to diversify college and professional newsrooms by encouraging outstanding students from low-income backgrounds to pursue careers in journalism.
Classes at the program are taught by reporters and editors from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Daily Beast, Time, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, Sports Illustrated, CNN and NPR, among other media outlets. Students meet with numerous Princeton professors, as well as Princeton’s president and dean of admissions. They report an investigative story, cover a professional sports event, produce a TV segment, and publish their own newspaper. And they receive guidance on the college admissions process not only during the 10 days of the program, but also during the fall of their senior year of high school.
Students selected for the program will have all their costs, including the cost of travel to and from Princeton, paid for by the program, which will run from August 1-11, 2014. The application process will take place in two rounds. The first round of the application should be filled out online here: https://fs4.formsite.com/pusjp/form1/secure_index.html. This part of the application must be completed by 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, February 21, 2014.
The concept of the compilation Out of Many: 50 Years of Reggae Music is simple. 50 years ago, Jamaica won independence from the British-ruled West Indies Federation. Around that same time, popular music in Jamaica began solidifying into some of the many sounds we now think of as reggae. Out of Many tells those two stories in parallel, with one song selected to represent the sound of each year from 1962 to 2012.