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Tough shrift
by Andrew Barabno
Feb 09, 2008 | 645 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“I would thou wert so happy by thy stay

To hear true shrift.”

- Romeo & Juliet, Act 1, Scene 1

Or, as Popeye might put it, once more unto the breach, my childring.

After a hiatus of a mere 15 years, the Barbwire returns to the cyber-saturated world of news and talk.

Commercial talk radio today is a glorified boys’ locker room: white guys programming for white business owners who take guilty pleasure at listening to the reinforcement of their unspeakable prejudices against uppity women and dark-skinned people. So they support such bigotry with their ad dollars sustaining a closed, self-perpetuating pimple on the ass of the body politick.

Liberal response has been predictably limp. It took Democrats more than a decade to figure out a principal source of the toxic lies which resulted in the ouster of so many officeholders in the 1980 Reagan landslide. The skullduggerous culprit was religious radio.

Democratic campaign managers didn't listen as brimstone broadcasters, whose stock in trade is tall tales, added some worldly rumors to their repertoires. One of the oldest political tricks in the book involves starting negative attacks on radio because it has no paper trail. Broadcast rumors become "something I heard somewhere" and the virus spreads.

Back when she was vice president, Hillary Clinton was put in charge of engineering a Democratic alternative radio universe. Like her disastrous attempt at national health care, she failed.

Done right, a talk show can be a positive force in the community.

In my radio days, I wasn't doing my job unless I generated two or three leads that turned into front page Tribune stories in an average month. That's how I singlehandedly beat Lush Rambo.

Happy days are here again, proving that sometimes your good deeds come back at you.

In 1990, the city of Reno was seriously strapped for cash. There was some sentiment among councilmembers to sweep the entire cable TV franchise fee to the general fund, killing the grainy cablecasts of council meetings in the process.

I joined a determined group of citizens who wouldn't let it happen. That effort resulted in what became Sierra Nevada Community Access Television, a wellspring of diverse local voices, government programs and educational opportunities.

This Thursday, Valentine's Day, a SNCAT spinoff comes to life.

KJIV was originally supposed to be an over-the-air FM college radio station. Someday soon it will be — after a dozen years of waiting for Federal Communications Commission approval. For now, it's a Web cast at (Truckee Meadows Community College students selected the call letters as their second choice. The first available combination at the FCC Web site would soon have been discovered as an abbreviation of what is generally considered the dirtiest word in the English language. You gotta love the kids' attitude.)

You can currently go to the site and hear canned music and occasional live jocks, but this Thursday a new wrinkle will be added. My wrinkles.

From 2 to 4 p.m. and every Monday through Friday thereafter, the Barbwire will be simulcast on Charter cable channels 16 and 200 (the TMCC educational outlet). We will add additional TV and radio outlets over time. All those interested may contact me.

The new Barbano on the Barbwire will be a marriage of live call-in talk radio and TV with a Web cast/chatroom overlay in a public broadcasting-style business environment (no commercials but public service announcements generally OK). We will initially cover about half the households in Washoe County plus the Web and reruns in other time periods.

I'll be able to interact with viewers by voice or text. My TV screen will make Bloomberg News look tame.

We will also be able to do live in-studio shows with an audience as the situation warrants. Former Tribune reporter William Albright is helming the enterprise.

You can get an audio preview with the web edition of this column at Barbwire.US. I will post thereat a 10-minute collection of some of my greatest hits from radio days. You will get some laughs and a preview of things to come — how to affect your community and the news.

The only local broadcaster who's done it right lately is a former radio colleague of mine, Sam Shad. Blessed with the disarming interviewing skills of Johnny Carson, Sam has made national news on many occasions by somehow getting public officials to say things to him that they wouldn't tell their campaign contributors let alone their wives.

I'll participate in Sam's pundit panel this Wednesday (12:30 p.m. TV-4, 9:30 p.m. Charter channel 3) to talk a little media politics.

The new Barbwire will resemble its radio ancestor in one very important way: It will be just you and me. Unlike Mr. Shad, I am not a very good interviewer. Travus T. Hipp taught me that the best show has its agenda set by the phone callers. Travus likened the audience to a huge organic computer containing all the answers and lacking only someone asking the right questions.

The phone numbers will be (775) 682-4142, -43 and -44. Right now, I don't have a main line or specific Web streaming address, but will post a direct link at Barbwire. TV later in the week.

General manager Les Smith asked me last year what my format would be. The answer, as always: talk rock. We will proceed along four parallel tracks: the issues of the day, comments from you and me with music appropriate to the conversation.

Done right, it can change the town if not the world. With the help of my listeners, I motivated a lot of people. My shows helped change the result of a couple of city elections when I hosted this area's first live call-in political TV back in 1993.

This new project will only be as strong as you make it.

As I so often said back in the day: Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas.

With your help, we will conspire and aspire to that latter level of conversational consciousness.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan and editor of E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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Tough shrift by Andrew Barabno

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