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Posts Tagged ‘Tavis Smiley’

Norah O’Donnell: ‘Those Tapes Will Never See the Light of Day’

NorahODonnellCBSCBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell made headlines this week thanks to a rare interview with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. But she was also part of a fun little item by Reuters NYC correspondent Chris Taylor.

Taylor, after recently asking some finance gurus about their first jobs, decided to pose the same question to high-profile journalists. O’Donnell’s answer is hard to beat. At age 10, with her father stationed with the military in Seoul, South Korea, she agreed to help create some English-language learning tapes to help her fellow students meet a middle school requirement:

“That rolled into doing a TV program for the Korean equivalent of PBS. It was 30 minutes every week, I sat in the middle of a Korean woman and an American guy, and we would do little skits in English and Korean.”

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M. Night Shyamalan Tackles America’s Public Education Problem

We’ve never been quite as down on M. Night Shyamalan‘s more recent cinematic output as most people seem to be. Sure, some of his later flicks have fallen spectacularly flat, but at least he aims higher in terms of plot than say a Michael Bay. We can imagine those same critics cynically reacting to Shyamalan’s surprising sideline project.

Shyamalan was a guest on Tavis Smiley‘s PBS show earlier this week, talking about his new book I’ve Been Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap. The title says it all, and at the very beginning of the conversation, the filmmaker says people should rightly be skeptical of a guy like him authoring a book like this.

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Tavis Smiley: White Progressives Who Make the Same Points Are Labeled ‘Courageous’

Nine paragraphs in, AP TV writer Lynn Elber shares a rather explosive accusation made by Tavis Smiley,  who celebrates his 2,000th Tavis Smiley episode on PBS tonight.

The logical assumption is that a prominent black media figure like Smiley would be welcomed with open arms by the White House. But according to Smiley, who has also previously talked a lot about his lack of Barack Obama interview access, it’s not just Conservatives, Liberals and some African-Americans who are upset with his pointed views:

Smiley contends that members of the Obama administration, whom he didn’t identify, have pressured sponsors to drop their support of his projects, including his anti-poverty initiatives. The White House had no comment, said a spokesman, Kevin Lewis

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Reporting His New PBS Special Brought Tavis Smiley to Tears

“Education Under Arrest,” the new hour-long PBS special from Tavis Smiley, will make its debut at 8 p.m. tonight. The special will focus on how zero tolerance policies in schools, put into effect after the Columbine massacre, have created a school-to-prison pipeline–expelling children or sending them to jail for offenses as petty as swearing, or chewing gum in class.

We spoke to Smiley last week, and he said this topic had left him emotionally drained in a way he had never experienced before in his more than two decades in the media.

“This is one of the most emotional pieces of work I’ve really done,” he tells FishbowlLA. “This has never happened before, but I had to stop camera at one point because I started crying. We had to take a break. I couldn’t keep it together.”

Smiley says it was the story of Kenyatta and Kennisha–sisters from New Orleans who were expelled from their charter high school for fighting after one was jumped and the other attempted to come to her rescue–that left him particularly raw.

“Both girls end up penalized because there is no gray area for adults to make decisions about these issues. They were both almost perfect 4.0 students. To see these two girls, as bright and full of life as can be, treated in a punitive and pejorative way, I had to stop camera because I started crying.”

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PBS Talk Show Host Tavis Smiley Tangles with KFI’s Mo ‘Kelly

In his latest Journal-isms column, Richard Prince retraces some contentious recent chronology involving Tavis Smiley and Mo ‘Kelly (a.k.a. Morris W. O’Kelly, pictured).

Kelly, who once worked for Smiley, has been accusing Smiley of using a national poverty-focused outreach tour as a means of personal grandstanding. The feud went public and got nastier last week when The Wave newspaper’s Betty Pleasant reported that Smiley had sent Kelly a cease-and-desist letter. From Prince’s item:

Smiley publicly remained silent, but the story by Pleasant gained steam as its message was repeated on at least two black-oriented websites, the black entertainment outlet EUR Web and radio host Tom Joyner‘s Black America Web.

Then, on Sunday, EUR Web published an “open letter” to Smiley from Najee Ali, director of Los Angeles-based Project Islamic HOPE (Helping Oppressed People Everywhere), siding with O’Kelly.

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Billy Bob Thornton Refuses to Cave to Salacious Memoir Requests

For years, actor Billy Bob Thornton was approached by various parties looking to convince him to write a certain kind of memoir. But he had no real interest in writing an autobiography, let alone one that might rate as People’s juiciest.

However, as Thornton explained last night on Tavis Smiley, another rascally son of the American South finally convinced him to give the book-writing game a try. As a result, there is this month’s new release The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts:

“People have asked me for years to do it. But they want some gossipy celebrity book and I just wouldn’t do it. But [co-author] Kinky [Friedman] said, ‘Hey, why don’t you tell some of those funny stories about growing up and then give you a couple of chapters to gripe about how our society is crumbling, and, you know, we’ll go from there.’”

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Tavis Smiley and Cornel West Examine Poverty in America

Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West have put together an exhaustive week-long television series on poverty in America–set to run nightly next week on PBS. The pair went on an 18-city, 11-state tour of America this past August to report their series. On top of their in-the-field efforts, Smiley landed interviews with Jeffrey Sachs and Kathleen Sebelius among others.

As we reported yesterday, Smiley and Dr. West will be in Los Angeles this weekend to promote their series and to support the Occupy Los Angeles protesters outside of LA City Hall. We spoke with Smiley and Dr. West about their efforts and about the recent Wall Street protests that have spread across the nation.

FishbowlLA: With 50 million Americans living below the poverty line, I imagine you didn’t have to travel very far to find people to interview. Where did you go?

Smiley: We went everywhere. We started where we should have–on a Native American reservation in Wisconsin. We ended in Memphis where Dr. King was assassinated. Before he was killed, he was marching with sanitation workers. He was engaged in his own poor people’s campaign.

In between those two places we talked to all races colors and creeds. Coal miners in West Virginia. We stayed all night on streets in DC. We spoke with military veterans in Ohio. We met with children in Detroit, senior citizens in Chicago, immigrant workers in Atlanta. We met with people of all races, creeds all ilk and that’s why we can say now, with certainty, that there is a new face of poverty in America. The new poor are the former middle class, and we saw that every where we went.

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Exclusive: Tavis Smiley and Cornel West to ‘Occupy Los Angeles’ This Weekend

Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West are currently making the media rounds after recently returning from an 18-city, nine-state tour of poverty across America. The end result of that tour is a week-long television series on poverty in America–which airs all next week on PBS. We recently spoke with the pair, who told FishbowlLA they will be in Los Angeles this weekend, speaking and protesting in solidarity with the Occupy Los Angeles movement outside LA City Hall.

“I’m over-elated to see fellow citizens standing up the way they are,” West told FishbowlLA by phone. “There’s no doubt this is a significant movement. And it overlaps fundamentally and unequivocally with the issues we’ve been examining on our poverty tour.”

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New Tavis Smiley Special on Education to Air on PBS Next Week

Tavis Smiley has a new PBS primetime special airing next Tuesday night, focusing on the extremely high dropout rate of young black males in the American education system. Smiley’s reporting took him to the school districts of Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland and, of course, his home town of Los Angeles. In conjunction with the piece, Smiley is also holding a series of parental education summits, to help encourage and teach them to become more engaged in their children’s education. The first summit will take place in LA on October, 29.

On top of all that, Smiley has put together a companion e-book called Too Important to Fail: Saving America’s Boys to accompany the piece.

Smiley’s been a busy man. It’s nice to see advocacy journalism isn’t dead.

Press release after the jump:

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Tavis Smiley Snubbed by Obama White House

In an appearance on CSPAN today, PBS’ Tavis Smiley brought up the fact that while Barack Obama used to make routine appearances on Smiley’s radio and television programs, these days he can’t even get an invite to White House press events–let along land an interview with the President.

“He’s the first president in my professional history that has not invited me to the White House.”

As Cornel West noted on the same program, however, election season is coming up. That will probably change shortly.

H/T Romenesko

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