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Longtime beat work lands all-formats interview with Tavis Smiley

Former PBS host Tavis Smiley, owner of progressive talk radio station KBLA Los Angeles, poses for a portrait in his station’s Los Angeles offices, June 15, 2021., in Los Angeles.(AP Photo / Chris Pizzello)

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Television writer Lynn Elber scored the first multiformat interview with Travis Smiley since the firing of the former PBS host in a #MeToo scandal.

Elber had reached out periodically in the three years since Smiley was fired. Her persistence — and beat work — finally paid off. A week before Juneteenth, Smiley contacted Elber, who had interviewed the host earlier in his career as he broke ground as an African American host. Smiley told Elber he opted to speak to her first because of her fair treatment of him in the past, including after PBS fired him.

Elber asked Smiley directly about the allegations of inappropriate relationships with female subordinates; he offered no apology,maintaining they were consensual relationships.

Elber had pushed for the interview to be on camera,with still portraits shot by Chris Pizzello,which resulted in an all-formats scoop that landed on the wire less than 24 hours after the interview, because Smiley intended to also speak to the Los Angeles Times. The Times ended up quoting from the AP story in a column on whether Smiley and other men accused of misconduct should be allowed to return to public platforms.

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