This Sunday Roland Martin joins the company of Bob Schieffer, David Gregory, George Stephanopoulos, Chris Wallace and John King when “Washington Watch” debuts on DC-based TV One. The show will focus on issues of importance to African Americans and airs at 11amET.
Martin’s a CNN analyst and frequently appears on Campbell Brown’s “No Bias, No Bull,” where he also filled in when she was on maternity leave. He didn’t do too bad for himself lining up his own show- one of his first guests is Vice President Joe Biden.
FBDC caught up with the newest Sunday show anchor to find how he’ll prepare each week, who his dream guest is and just how his show will be different. And he’s already standing out– have you ever heard Schieffer or Wallace say, “that’d be hot,” describing a guest booking?
What is your take on the Sunday shows now? What do you watch, what don’t you watch?
I watch all of the shows, but frankly, I routinely come away disappointed. I despise the Beltway approach to issues. Often times its same thing, different day. Most of it is process oriented and not people oriented. Look at healthcare. More time has been spent on who is up and who is down in terms of political parties, rather than the interests of those most affected.
Also, I’m tired of seeing just politicians discuss education and other issues. If we want to have a real conversation, we should have members of Congress discussing the issue along with academics, policy wonks and principals and superintendents. Let’s have the people who are involved in that area every day discussing how we make substantive changes. We talk all the time about people changing their government, but when was the last time you saw grassroots activists on these shows? DC politicians go on and on about the stimulus, but we don’t get to hear from local officials- folks on the ground- who have to confront the mandates laid down by Congress. We aren’t hearing from those who need true stimulation, as opposed to the stroking of the collective ego.
Who is your dream Sunday show guest?
Nelson Mandela. And then all the U.S. presidents. Followed by all of the First Ladies. That would be hot! Then I might have to make it three separate shows!
What can we expect to see on your Sunday show and how will it stand out from the lineup as it exists now?
There is no doubt that the moment you turn us on, you will see a level of diversity that you just don’t see on the other shows. In fact, we will likely have more diversity in the first months than the other shows do in an entire year. Also, we don’t presume to be know-it-alls. There is a level of arrogance of Sunday mornings that suggests all the smart people are in Washington, D.C., and there is virtually no interaction with the general public. We will be inviting questions and perspectives from the audience from all across the nation, and will incorporate them into our interviews.
Continued after the jump…
Lastly, I have a point of view on issues, and I won’t be afraid to share those. Look, I’m an opinionated person, and it’s silly to sit there and act like I don’t have one. But the real issue is to have others on the show that have a different point of view, and allow all those perspectives to be heard. Having a respectable debate in the marketplace of ideas is vital, and that’s what I hope to achieve each week.
We are going to allow viewer interaction in the show through phone calls, video and emails. This show is more about them and not about me and our guests.
In addition, we are going to bring entertainers, athletes and other celebrities onto the show who are doing some amazing things in the public policy arena, domestically and globally.
It is nonsense for folks to ask act as if Bono, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney are the only entertainers actively using their celebrity to drive causes. I was talking with Gabrielle Union about her testimony on Capitol Hill over funding for inner city rape crisis centers. This is a woman who has been raped. But she was non-existent from the other shows. Wyclef Jean is doing some great things in Haiti; Alicia Keyes is focused on grandmothers and AIDS orphans in several African counties; Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover are active all over the globe in so many areas; and there needs to be a show that discusses that.
At TV One, we have a slogan that says, “We see black people living, laughing and loving.” Well, on Washington Watch with Roland Martin, we’ll see black people and other minorities advocating, speaking truth to power and being unapologetic in their demands to see true change in this country.
How do you prepare for the show?
Read. Read. Read. As a child, my parents emphasized reading. Not just present day news but also history. I also spend lots of times reading the comments on blogs and websites. I like to see the reaction of people that is unfiltered. I also spend the week talking to elected officials and activists across the country. It’s good to get a sense of what they are hearing on the ground. That can lead to a different kind of question. I continue to live in Chicago, so I’m not affected by the DC-NY mentality. I lean on my Texas roots as well.
Because I do lots of public speaking, I’m all over the country. In the past couple of months I’ve been in New Orleans several times, St. Louis, Baton Rouge, La., and Greensboro, N.C. And in the next three weeks, I’ll be in Savannah, Ga., Jackson, Miss., Atlanta, Minneapolis, Minn., and Memphis, Tenn. This allows me to hear from people directly about the issues being discussed in Washington, D.C. and how it affects them.
Are you excited? Nervous?
Excited. I don’t get too nervous. I am a strong person of faith and God has put me in the right place at the right time. There is a chapter in my book, “Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith,” that is titled, “In Due Time.” That’s what I always focus on. As long as I walk on that set fully prepared, and represent the interests of regular man and woman who is trying to raise their kids in these difficult times, I’ll be fine. This is not about those I am interviewing but those who are voiceless and nameless. People always tell me they like that I keep it real when I’m on the air, and I appreciate that. When you’re your authentic self and you’re willing to share your testimony and be as transparent as possible, you can never go wrong.