Tavis Smiley has posted a scathing letter he emailed to Torey Malatia, president of Chicago Public Radio, in response to the station dropping his Smiley & West at the end of September due to sagging audience numbers. (Here’s background on the controversy from Chicago media critic Robert Feder.)
In the letter, Smiley notes it is the first time in 20 years he has felt the need to write to the head of a local station.
“If Smiley & West has experienced any erosion in listenership, it might have something to do with being heard over WBEZ on Sundays at 12 Noon when most Black Chicagoans are in worship service,” Smiley writes. “To so blatantly disregard an obviously critical mass of listeners in the scheduling of this program suggests one and or two things: that you don’t get it or that you don’t care. A premier station in a world class city should not be still struggling with how to truly represent the voices of ALL fellow citizens in the most multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic Chicago ever.”
Smiley concludes: “I regret that you chose to deny the listeners of WBEZ an opportunity to hear something a little different ONE HOUR a week [to] make room for yet another repeat of a program about cars that isn’t even in production any longer. Is that what we need right now as fellow citizens prepare to decide who is best to lead a nation where our democracy is being threatened by poverty, where schools are failing our children, where crime is out of control? At some point, those who steward public media have to stop insulting those who support public media.”