Taking ‘Washington Watch’ Beyond Politics

Publish date:

TV One’s Sunday-morning news and public-affairs program Washington Watch With Roland
began its third season on the air this month. Multichannel News programming editor R.
Thomas Umstead spoke with show host and CNN on-air political analyst Roland Martin about
his plans for the new season of Washington Watch, as well as potential future projects with the
African-American targeted network.

MCN: With Washington Watch now in its third season, what
should viewers expect to see from you and the show?

Roland Martin: Clearly, we’re going to hit a lot of the political
issues — we’re really going to hit the jobs issue hard —
but you’ll see us expand in our third season significantly on
what I have always wanted to do. It was never my desire to
have a strictly political show. I really wanted the show to be
more like a Sunday brunch show, in that it would deal with
the political, social and cultural issues affecting African-
Americans. You can expect us to have a conversation about
black women, how they feel about [Bravo’s] Real Housewives
of Atlanta
and [VH1’s] Basketball Wives, and we’ll be dealing
with young black boys and the state of education. Th e idea
is to find a way to take these political and policy issues and
make them more relevant to what’s happening to African-
Americans socially, culturally and politically.

MCN: Have you found that your audience over the past
two years has responded more toward the social/cultural
aspects of the show than a pure political focus?

RM: Of course. There were four or five times last year where
our ratings dramatically increased when we did programming
with more entertainment value. Having said that, I’m
not interested in bringing on entertainers to talk about their
next projects: last year we had [actor] Anthony Mackie talking
about his movie The Adjustment Bureau, and the conversation
we had revolved around faith and relationships. We
had [veteran R&B singer] Charlie Wilson on talking about
his music, but also about his battle with prostate cancer and
substance abuse. We had saxophonist Kirk Whalum on talking
about not only music, but more importantly about the
fact that he is CEO of Stax Music Academy and what music
really means and why we need music in our schools. If we’re
going to have entertainers on, that’s the kind of conversation
we’d like to have.

MCN: What other issues will you look to tackle on the

RM: You’re going to see a lot more of the issues that aren’t always
talked about. We did an entire show last year on credit,
explaining to people the credit report and the scoring process
and how you need to adjust spending. We talked about
what’s happening in Congress and the changing of various
[credit] laws — overall, we had tremendous response.

I had a woman come up to me and say, “You literally
changed my life with that credit show.” You wouldn’t necessarily
think about that as a political show, but when you look at law
things on the books that will bar you from getting a job because
of a credit score that has a political undertone. That’s the kind
of creative thinking we want to have on our topics this year.

MCN: Are you satisfied with the audience that Washington
has generated over the past two seasons?

RM: Obviously, we want it to be bigger. We have a show that’s
on at 11 a.m. Sunday — a lot of our folks are at church. When
we first launched we had a rebroadcast at 5 p.m., so I hope
we go back to that. They did add a rebroadcast at noon on

We’ve also greatly increased our social media — we’re going
to have a very robust social-media strategy. We’re driving
a lot of stuff online and we’re launching a very aggressive
public-relations strategy that’s going to have me on black radio
stations and mainstream stations every single week, talking
about what’s in our shows. So you’ll see a lot more of that,
and we think that will play a huge role in increasing our audience
and what we’re doing. I’m looking forward to that.

MCN: Are you looking to develop any other projects for
TV One?

RM: I would love to see Washington Watch go from one day
a week to five days a week on TV One. I’ve made it no secret
that I desire a five-day-a-week show, whether it’s on TV One
or someplace else. There are so many things going on to talk
about and I think that I have a strong view and opinion to
take on the issues of the day and would love to be able to engage
in those conversations, daytime or nighttime.

The 2012 elections are coming up so you’re going to see a
very robust plan from TV One when it comes to covering this
election. I’m very excited about the plans that our new CEO,
Wonya Lucas, has and we’ll be revealing more of that later, but
I can tell you that 2011-12 season of Washington Watch will be
a very different season that we’ve had the past two years, and
our audience will appreciate what they will see on the show.