by Liz Garrigan in the issue of the Scene
that hits the streets today offers some new details on events leading to the impending demise of Teddy Bart’s Round Table
. Especially disturbing is the indication that the five board members of The Public Forum who voted to kill the show kept Teddy Bart and Karlen Evins (also board members) out of the loop until just before the ax fell at a July 14 meeting.
The City Paper reported
Tuesday that the program could “still live” because The Public Forum board, it turns out, cancelled the show but didn't dissolve the foundation. The five board members have resigned (effective mid-August), leaving Bart and Evins with the latitude to try to reconstitute the enterprise with a new board if they so choose. A Tennessean story
today indicates that political consultant and TBR regular Bill Fletcher is “organizing the campaign” to try to keep the show on the air. The notion of a formal campaign under way is overstated, or at least premature, but Fletcher is spearheading efforts to keep interested people involved by encouraging them to make contributions and subscribe to The Public Forum’s email list, and he is trying to identify a group that might steer a course of action of some sort after the current board member resignations take effect on August 15.
Last Friday as the news about the Round Table got around, Fletcher circulated an email urging friends of the show to “allow Teddy and Karlen to properly wind down the program and offer some support to their employees as they seek employment.” An updated message from Fletcher that will soon be posted on The Public Forum website is more forward looking:
This decision by The Public Forum board requires Teddy and Karlen to wind down the program … for now. I, along with several other regular guests of The Round Table, are working to help during this transition and to help plan for the future. I am a Democratic political consultant but this is a bi-partisan effort. Jon Crisp, a businessman and Chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party, and Chip Saltsman, a businessman and former Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, have agreed to help as have many others who regularly appear on the program. The five members of The Public Forum board who voted to terminate the program have resigned, effective August 15th. After that time, all of us who support The Round Table will be free to dig in and do our part to revive the show….Although I am not speaking for Teddy and Karlen, I am convinced that The Round Table will be back on the air at some point as it has been for more than 20 years.
The commentary about the prospective end of the show here at PITW and elsewhere has contained an intriguing mix of, on the one hand, sadness about the passing of a worthwhile civic institution, and, on the other hand, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Bart and Evins profiteering from their non-profit venture, or about the sinister machinations that might have led a Republican-dominated board to pull the plug on the show. When it came out in one of the news stories this week that the two hosts were willing to take pay cuts to help the financial picture, some pounced to criticize their salaries. To me that seemed off base: These are 20-year broadcast veterans prepping and hosting a daily live public affairs show airing around the state while also running a foundation. The compensation hardly seemed exhorbitant.
Some skeptics have said that the show seems dated or ossified, relying on a stale formula and taking few chances. Although I’ve been a panelist on the show fairly often and think the world of its hosts and their mission, I concede there’s some merit to these claims. Some, such as Hobbs
, have offered creative suggestions for ways The Public Forum could do much more with new media and information technology to bring its mission into the 21st century. The lineup of panelists and guests certainly could be broader, more diverse. There are a lot of things they could have done, and still could do, differently (including, apparently, a greater variety of approaches to the fund-raising side).
But does any of this relate directly to the sustainability – either non-profit or commercial – of the enterprise as a whole? That’s hard to say. Is such a thing still viable in the current media climate? It seems like a lot of people are mourning the end of the broadcast this week, but as the Scene
story this week wonders, are there really enough actual listeners, donors, and potential sponsors to keep a thing like this going? That's the critical question that Bill Fletcher and other TBR friends and fans (including me) are trying to keep on the table. Stay tuned.