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Los Angeles Board Member Tackles Issues on the Air

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A member of the Los Angeles School Board has combined her background in broadcasting and knowledge about schools to generate a rare kind of television programming--a local prime-time talk show devoted to education.

"The time had come for the issue of education to be really explored," Ms. Weintraub says. In order to do that in what she calls a "visible" manner, she proposed last summer to one of the city's independent commercial television stations, KHJ-tv, that she produce and host a talk show about education.

Ms. Weintraub, who hosted a general-interest radio talk show until a few years ago when the station changed to an all-music format, was not expecting the station's managers to immediately jump at the idea, she says, "because station managers have not looked at education as a sexy media subject."

But KHJ-tv signed up Ms. Weintraub right away, according to Walt P. Baker, vice president of programming for the television station. The first segment was broadcast last October.

"The subject of education has increased in importance in our country, state, and city," he says.

"We felt some ongoing attention ought to be paid to the subject," he added.

According to Ms. Weintraub, selling the program was easier than "carving out an audience."

The half-hour show, "School Beat," is broadcast every Sunday night at 9:30, often up against stiff competition. "We'll never pull down the ratings of 'Love Boat,"' Ms. Weintraub says, but according to station officials the show has a fairly steady audience of about 150,000.

"That's more people than attend pta meetings [in Los Angeles] all year," Mr. Baker says.

Impartial and Objective

Ms. Weintraub, who has been a member of the Los Angeles School Board since 1979, selects all of the guests for the show and does all of the background research required to plan the shows. She is committed, she says, to remaining as impartial and objective as possible on the show, despite the strong stand she takes on education issues as a school-board member.

"The hardest part is separating my school-board job from the television job," she admits.

She selects as guests for the show people who influence education policy in the city, state, and country. She has interviewed Bill Honig, California's superintendent of public instruction, and Gov. George Deukmejian, and last week the Rev. Jerry Falwell appeared on the show.

In addition to talking with policymakers, Ms. Weintraub discusses education issues with experts in various fields. Programs have focused on drug-abuse education, homosexual teachers and students, the teaching of morals and ethics in public schools, and voucher and tuition-tax-credit plans.--cc

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