It’s a typical morning for a recording of this week’s KCRW show Left, Right, and Center. Producer Sarah Spitz finally contacts Bob Scheer. He’ll be doing the show remote from San Francisco today. Tony Blankely is in D. C. as usual; Ariana Huffington and host Matt Miller will be in the studio. Huffington arrives with a vase of flowers for Spitz. She and Miller take their places in the studio across the hall from the control room. The four commentators have a half hour in which to discuss the economy, health care, Afghanistan, and a rant of their choice at the end.
They never do get to Afghanistan, as the topic of health care reform triggers much debate. Scheer (the left) expresses concern for the poor; Huffington (independent progressive) says the issue is “beyond right or left;” Blankely (right) muses: “I believe in Jeffersonian Democracy but I can’t figure out how to get back to 1805.”
Left, Right, and Center has been serving all points of view on world politics for 13 years. According to Spitz, the show began as a response to the Newt Gingrich right’s assertion that public media had a leftist bias.
Spitz and KCRW developed a program that would feature one of four different commentators who rotated every week. Among the original members of the group were Huffington, who was then on the right, Los Angeles Times columnist Scheer as the left, and Matt Miller, described by Spitz as “an up-and-coming essayist who had been with Clinton’s department of Management and Budget,” as the “center. Each had a Wednesday slot in the four-week monthly cycle.
“And then we had a month with five Wednesdays,” Spitz continues. “So we decided to have all four people on the show for the fifth Wednesday.” It proved to be a popular program and became the regular format for the show.
Today Left, Right, and Center is syndicated at public radio stations around the country and yields a quarter of a million podcasts a month. There have been some personnel changes. Since Huffington’s evolution toward the liberal side (Spitz believes her being around Scheer may have accounted for her change of viewpoint), the show has gone through several conservative reps. The current resident rightist, Tony Blankely, a former spokesperson for Gingrich, was recommended by a former LR and C commentator and has been with the show since 2005.
Left, Right, and Center will be holding a live event at the Broad Center on October 25-for the second year. “We have done live shows at other venues,” says Spitz. “We appeared at South Coast Repertory in Orange County, to a full house!”
Those whose schedules are too busy to catch Left, Right, and Center either on the air (Fridays at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p. m.) or at the Broad, can listen at KCRW.com or check out the blog. “The participants are very active,” says Spitz, “frequently carrying on conversations that are for the most part unlike any other blog –very deep, intelligent policy discussions.”