Smiley Seeking Solutions In 2014 And Beyond

Jan 17, 2014

The new year brings a new focus for The Tavis Smiley Show. 

For the last three years, Smiley has hosted a one-hour news and information program followed by another hour that featured his opinions and those of Doctor Cornel West.  The show returns to a two-hour format this year with a focus on bringing listeners new voices and solutions-based radio. Mike Foley reports.   

The Tavis Smiley Show will embark on some new ideas and a new format this year. Smiley began his public radio career with NPR in 2002 and later joined forces with Public Radio International. This evening marks the first regular show without Dr. Cornel West, whose schedule and family life resulted in his departure. Smiley recently held a teleconference with stations - including WCBE - and reflected on the last few years.

TS - I split those hours up - The Tavis Smiley Show and the other Smiley and West - in part because I wanted to see how public radio would feel about a program where we were expressing opinions as opposed to what public radio typically does and certainly those of us who are hosts on public radio...try to stay out of that particular lane. But I thought I would try it and we did it for three years. It's worked out rather well. I mean it's an acquired taste for some people - it's done well on many stations. There are other stations that it never worked for. I didn't take offense to that. I knew it wasn't going to work for everybody. People have platforms, but for a person of color to be as brilliant as Cornel West and not have a regular platform...I thought was unacceptable. So I created a platform that allowed him to be in conversation with me, and I'm pleased with the work we've done over three years.

As for what's ahead, Smiley added that listeners will hear some new voices and a new vision, but also the same commitment to digging deep into important issues.

TS - Whether it's poverty or any number of issues, what you're going to get from this program going forward that makes it uniquely different is that we are really about solutions. We want to be solutions-driven radio. We want to be ideas-driven radio. What are the issues and challenges threatening our country and how do we find solutions. There are certainly enough programs that offer talking heads and witty banter. I'm always about trying to find solutions. I'm always about reminding us that this is the most multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic America ever and we've got to find some solutions to these vexing problems be they poverty or immigration or environmental injustice. So there are all kinds of ideas we want to roll out but ultimately it's about trying to find solutions to the things that are troubling our nation along with continuing to entertain - so we hope to keep that balance.   

Smiley says he's also working on a four-year poverty initiative called Ending Poverty - America's Silent Spaces. He'll be holding forums on the topic during visits to 25-plus cities around the country, with a documentary planned for 2018.