When AM 760 dropped popular progressive host Mario Solis-Marich late last year, fans freaked. The loss, propelled by budget cuts, incited protests against the station and its host company, Clear Channel, fueled by fear that Denver's Hispanic community had lost one of its voices in the media. And while Solis-Marich's primetime weekday slots have since been filled by syndicated host Norm Goldman, the station is offering another program targeting that community -- Weekend Wisdom, whose first show aired Saturday.
Although Solis-Marich, who's penned a statement of events about the end of his AM 760 program, recorded from Los Angeles, his listeners saw him as a central figure in Denver's progressive media, says Miriam Pena. She and Weekend Wisdom co-host hope Miguel Barragan hope to retain that perspective for their own show. The two came together in January during protests over AM 760's loss of Solis-Marich, but neither expected to become a radio host as a result.
"After his show was canceled, there was a public uprise on why a Latino voice was being taken away from progressive talk," Pena says.
The criticism was led in part by Polly Baca Barragan, former state senator and mother of Miguel. "There are so very few Latino voices in that radio stream," Pena notes. "People were frustrated by it but didn't know what to do. So [Baca Barragan] organized meetings and gathered letters asking about why we were losing that slot."
Eventually, those efforts turned into a meeting with Clear Channel Colorado President Pat Connor, who explained the station's budget cuts and pointed out that Solis-Marich was not the only one to go. "But the problem is that he was an underrepresented voice," Pena says. So Connor and the station offered the group a slot of their own, the slightly cheaper Saturday spot, to begin to fill in the space.
Its two hosts reached the gig because of their efforts toward reclaiming a Hispanic voice and their political backgrounds. During the day, Pena is the co-executive director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition, and she was present at the Denver Diner incident in 2009. Barragan, who once served as a corrections officer in an Arizona prison, brings experience in nonprofit development and at-risk youth education.
Weekend Wisdom follows Dr. Daddio's program on Saturdays and targets sociopolitical issues specific to Denver. An advisory committee created during the protests selects and structures weekly topics, and the show follows a group decision-making model. Recent topics in the show's preparatory month have included immigration, the short-lived ASSET, and women's issues. During their first live show last weekend, listeners dialed in calls -- a rarity, according to producers.
"I think the community has high expectations," Pena says. "They want us to keep it real and not sugarcoat issues in the way that Mario did. But because we are so new, we have to, in a way, prove ourselves first to the general audience and to Clear Channel before we just get out there like Mario did. For a while, we'll have to walk a fine line."
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