Words flew last month between radio host Tavis Smiley and Chicago Public Media CEO Torey Malatia over the cancellation of Smiley's show, "Smiley & West."
Now, as Time Out Chicago's Roger Feder reports, Malatia has written an impassioned op-ed defending the cancellation, meanwhile underscoring his belief that "advocacy journalism" has no place at public radio's table.
"I am among those who believe that complete objectivity in journalism and public affairs is humanly impossible, but I reject the notion that public media should veer into advocacy," Malatia wrote in the Nov. 9 op-ed, posted on Current, a public media trade publication.
"Advocacy journalism elevates the voice of one citizen — that of the journalist," Malatia said.
It was the line into advocacy journalism that Malatia said West crossed when he "re-framed" the show's approach.
Malatia acknowledged in the Nov. 9 op-ed the decision to pull Smiley's program upset some listeners. In response, he said pro-Smiley listeners suggested WBEZ add “some equally vociferous right-wing program” to restore the balance Smiley's show supposedly threw off kilter.
"Those who wrote to us seemed to be arguing that we should shoot journalism in the chest to balance those who had been shooting it in the back," Malatia said in response to the suggestions.
In October, the co-host of "Smiley & West" fired off an open letter to Malatia criticizing public statements the CEO made in regards to why he yanked the show from WBEZ's airwaves.
Smiley, who co-hosts his show with Cornel West, said in his letter that Malatia "advances a lie" by saying the show failed to feature a diversity of opinions. Malatia cited the show's declining listenership for the cord-cutting, additionally claiming "Smiley & West" had pivoted to become "far less inclusive."
Smiley, for his part, defended the show's ratings saying it got the bum steer with its time slot, airing when much of its core listenership is attending worship service.
Following its cancellation by WBEZ, "Smiley & West" was picked up by progressive talk radio station WCPT-AM (820) and black-oriented news and talk station WVON-AM (1690), reports Time Out.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated Current is a blog by the American University School of Communication. It is an editorially independent publication.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more