Tavis Smiley Fires Back At WBEZ's Malatia Over Smiley & West Cancellation

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Tavis Smiley Fires Back At WBEZ's Malatia Over Smiley & West Cancellation


Broadcaster Tavis Smiley published an open letter Monday in response to WBEZ’s decision to drop his program with Princeton Professor Cornell West, Smiley & West, from the station’s lineup.


Time Out Chicago’s Robert Feder first reported last week the decision to drop Smiley & West by Chicago Public Media president and CEO Torey Malatia was based on what he believed was the show took more of an advocacy bent and was “becoming like Democracy Now.”

In his letter Malatia wrote:

 “Our hosts choose material to inspire cross-cultural understanding and civic engagement, strictly operating under the mandate of public service. Even when our function is not a journalistic one, we recognize that appearing to take sides, or to prefer certain voices to others, will erode our value as a meeting place for all.”

Smiley’s responded with an open letter pulled few punches.

"I was content to simply move on beyond a cancellation decision I vehemently disagreed with, because I respect the public media model that stations know best. That is until I was made privy to the content of your written response to listeners who have been expressing disappointment about the cancellation of Smiley & West on Chicago’s WBEZ 91.5 FM.

"I must say that the spin found in your letter is beneath you, the station you work for, and moreover the people you serve. Say nothing of the fact that to my knowledge, at no point did you or your staff ever attempt to communicate to me any of the impressions you so freely shared in your letter to listeners."

Smiley rejects Malatia's claim that his public radio work has become “far less inclusive,”.  "I am as “inclusive” as I have ever been because I am as curious as I have ever been. I reject and resent the very suggestion by you in letters to listeners that I do not demonstrate a willingness to “respect and hear opposing views.  

"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. 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.