Viewers of CTN – Ann Arbor’s public, educational and government-access television network – are in solid hands when it comes to coverage of neighborhoods and specific issues of the city.
That’s because Bonnie Gabowitz, a lifelong educator whose experience in local television goes back to the 1980s when she produced several topical shows in Westchester, N.Y., is a driving force at CTN. She brought her experience to the table in 2014 when she started hosting Ward Talk, CTN’s monthly program that focuses on the most recent goals, actions and decisions made by the city council.
“The goal is to inform the people who live here – and also those who come to Ann Arbor to work and shop – the ongoing status of making Ann Arbor a vibrant, interesting city that offers strong support for education for all ages, sports, culture, environmental support and human rights,” Gabowitz said. “The best way for residents and visitors to enjoy and support the city is to know what issues are being addressed, the multi-layered processes involved, and what the council members and the mayor are doing to address the issues.”
Gabowitz understands that most residents don’t attend council meetings, but she also knows that many are interested in the meetings’ events. She breaks it down on Ward Talk – along with council members, the mayor and other guests – in terms that are informational, interesting and understandable.
Stated simply, Gabowitz sees her role on Ward Talk as a conduit between the city government and the citizens and guests of Ann Arbor.
“I represent the citizens by asking the tough questions of how and why the government wheels run,” she said. “I look to highlight the very special aspects of this great city, and I also try to understand – for the viewers – what the council members and the mayor are doing to address the challenging and often complicated issues.
“I navigate my guests’ answers by exploring what is behind their decisions and what problems they face meeting their goals.”
In order to stay in tune to the city’s issues and current events, Gabowitz’ preparation is never-ending. Throughout the month, she carefully follows Ann Arbor news through newspapers, periodicals and online formats.
She says one of the most important parts of her job as host of Ward Talk is listening and observing.
“I talk casually to people whom I meet daily, such as store personnel, market vendors, non-profit organizations, shoppers, neighbors and people on the street,” she said. “This helps me formulate what the most pressing issues are, what issues are misunderstood, and what information would benefit the viewers by enhancing their understanding of the facts and what is behind the decisions and the process of solving the city’s problems.
“I am interested in all opinions that people have.”
Gabowitz prefers to cover a few topics in depth rather than go through a laundry list of quickly discussed topics. She is constantly asking herself what she can offer viewers that might not be available elsewhere.
She calls each guest “interesting and important.” She says she enjoys the personalities and the energy that her guests bring to Ward Talk.
Some of Gabowitz’ favorite shows include talking to Mayor Christopher Taylor and bringing in new council members. She also doesn’t back away from controversial issues. The deer cull has been discussed on Ward Talk, as has the “library lot” use of land, and the location of a new train station.
Just as it takes a well-prepared host to help make a good talk show, it also takes a good guest – a guest who doesn’t mind being asked a tough question or two.
“A good subject is a well-informed and involved, passionate, easy-going speaker who is comfortable in this setting … someone who is willing to be interrupted by me to further explain or comment on his or her points of information,” she said. “I appreciated a subject being open to discussing hot topics that are controversial.”
Gabowitz brings loads of dedication to her work at CTN, and she said that dedication is shared throughout the staff at Ann Arbor’s public-access network.
“I am so impressed with the caliber of CTN’s dedicated staff and the breadth of programs that CTN offers,” she said. “I see CTN as a public expression of Ann Arbor’s citizens, political leaders and administrators, organizations and schools.
“Consider the incredible importance and relevance that CTN offers.”
CTN is available on Comcast local-access channels 16, 17,18 and 19 and AT&T 99. Also, CTN is available on YouTube channel ctnannarbor. For more information, and to find times for Ward Talk and other CTN programs, go to www.a2gov.org/ctn.