New radio talk show to “raise the level of conversation”

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Lexi Horsey | The Daily Wildcat Albert Bergesen in his office in the Social Sciences building on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Bergesen is a Professor and the Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Arizona.

UA professor of sociology Albert Bergesen and Interim Executive Director of the College of Education's Education Policy Fellows Robin Hiller launched a new radio show, “Smart Talk with Robin and Al”, on KVOI on Feb. 2. The Daily Wildcat spoke with them about the new show, and the interview, which has been edited slightly for clarity, is produced below.

Daily Wildcat: How did you two come together to create this radio show?

Robin Hiller: I did a radio show a number of years ago for three and a half years … And Al and I would see each other periodically, because we’ve known each other since our children were in first grade … He’d done shows on public access … and so we started talking about it, and we both have fairly strong ideas about things and thought, "This would be fun, to do a radio show together."

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Albert Bergesen: The station, KVOI, had just been sold, and a new owner, a Mr. Bustos from Portland, has a chain of stations, and evidently he has … a winter home in Tucson. As someone at the station told me, he said, "Darn, if I’m gonna live here, maybe I ought to own a radio station." So he bought that, and it was more of a conservative radio station, and he wanted to make it both more local and then neutral to liberals on the things. So they had open slots, so we then pitched the idea to our two colleges to help with the costs, and then we would talk to faculty, students, whatever, about the issues of the day in education and social behavioral sciences … anything that is human, in effect.

DW: What inspired you to create this show?

RH: I feel we need to raise the level of conversation about what’s going on in education. I feel there are two things [that] if they fall apart, we cannot get back, and one is education.

AB: In today’s climate — which we’re all so polarized and tribalized, and so much, just, anger and stereotypes. The idea, at least that I’m trying to do, is to bring in some neutral facts that can still be debated and argued with. And then you can play a role in a different medium.

DW: Why should students get up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to listen to your show?

RH: Well, it’s a way for them to hear from people who are at the university that they might not be in the class with. 

AB: The show, in some sense, will be about something topically going on, and the professors come in not just to talk about their research, per se, because you wouldn’t know each week, and — if it’s technical — you wouldn’t care, but they love it. That’s what they’re supposed to do. The point is: Say we’re talking about the border crisis, or say we’re talking about gender composition change in the House, and then we have an expert talking about it, but they use their expertise to talk about the issue.

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DW: What do you have planned for the future?

AB: We’re just starting to book people. I’m talking to a couple of people – one I’m trying to do just before the Tucson Festival of Books … Tucson Festival of Books is bringing in Dave Cullen, who has written about Columbine and about Parkland, and they’re doing a discussion on Sunday. And so I’m trying to get in touch with him and see if he’ll be in town Saturday to be on the show.

DW: How can students get involved?

AB: Topics … We’re working on getting a web page or something set up where students should suggest topics they would like to hear discussed. You know, we have a certain point of view, and we’re of a certain age, but it would be great – "I’d like to hear a discussion of this" or "What about that?" — along with listening or calling in.

DW: What do you hope to accomplish with this show?

RH: It’s to inform the community about what is happening at the school and also how this can be applied practically. The things that, especially in the College of Ed, that people [that] are studying shouldn’t be isolated to the College of Ed. Their ideas need to be out in the community.

AB: [We] have channels of education. They’re largely schools, maybe PBS, the news, but a lot of people do talk radio, and it’s not a channel of education. And there are no reasons why it can’t be pressed into service, too … So, I’d like actually to press this vehicle of communication into service for education, along with other things that it already is. We hope this thing grows, that our listener base expands, people really come to like and look for it as a place to engage and listen to “Smart Talk.”

You can find the “Smart Talk with Robin and Al” show on KVOI, 1030 AM, on Saturdays at 8 a.m. If you’d like to call in during their shows, you can dial (520) 790-2040.


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