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Smiley & West: Brothers in Broadcast

Public media maverick Tavis Smiley has announced a new weekly public radio show with progressive intellectual Cornel West. We can expect Smiley & West to offer up lively and smart conversations between two larger-than-life personalities, both of whom seem to call everyone “brother.”

Former NPR host Tavis Smiley is a talented talker with a weekly public radio program on PRI and a nightly public TV show from KCET. Plus, he cranks out books and does speaking gigs all over the country. Does this guy ever sleep?

Radio with Soul

Cornel West is a natural for public radio: charming, brilliant, funny, sweet, provocative. The Princeton professor has been a frequent guest over the years on The Tavis Smiley Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, Democracy Now! and more. When he speaks, people listen, mesmerized not only by the message, but the messenger who channels the voice of a liberation theologist, not the airs of an Ivy League academic.

In the press release announcing the new show, West said, “Many of America’s most important discussions aren’t necessarily happening in the boardroom or between the pundits on cable television…Rather they’re happening at BBQs, cocktail parties, barbershops, and salons between real people. With this new endeavor, Smiley & West, Tavis and I hope to really tap into the concerns of everyday people.”

Visible Men

Smiley & West is more than a radio program co-hosted by two prominent leaders in the black community. A marriage of true minds, the show also represents a symbolic merger of two highly marketable brands. Indeed, the new Smiley & West site prominently features a page that displays all of their 10 books which are just a click away from being on your bookshelf. And do the math: Dr. West’s 83,000 Facebook fans + Tavis Smiley’s 24,000 Facebook fans = success!

Smiley & West is being distributed by Public Radio International/PRI (7000 Facebook Fans). Here’s a little taste of the program, which launches on October 1:

Michael Eric Dyson, another devoutly progressive African American public intellectual, has also recently launched a national radio program. Produced by former NPR/Weekend Edition Senior Producer Davar Ardalan, The Michael Eric Dyson show hails from WEAA-FM, a Baltimore jazz and news community radio station.

Dyson hosted a reception at last week’s PRPD Conference in Denver, where he wowed attendees with his verbal prowess. It was clear that Dyson gets that famous as he is, he’s still “new kid on the block” and it’s up to him to distinguish himself and his program from all other national shows on the public radio dial, especially Tavis Smiley and Smiley & West.

A year ago, public radio listeners lamented the loss of News & Notes, the one daily NPR show that had a distinctly African American perspective. But now, the public radio landscape is changing and stretching and looking better and brighter all the time. Joining NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin is a steady flow of new public radio programs with black hosts: Snap Judgment with Glynn Washington, State of the Re:Union with Al Letson, Pop & Politics with Farai Chideya, and The Promised Land with Majora Carter

All this is good news for public radio. 2010 delivers a plethora of juicy programs – each with a unique voice – providing a more expansive menu to local stations who embrace public media’s mission of reflecting and serving a diverse audience.

Photo credit: Smiley & West Speak Out Network/Ning