Bill Nigut will return to the radio for the first time in more than 40 years starting Saturday at 4 p.m. with an hourly show on Georgia Public Broadcasting's FM airwaves on 88.5/WRAS-FM.
Called "Two-Way Street With Bill Nigut," the hour-long program is one of several locally-created programs GPB is featuring as part of its slate of public radio shows it's airing 90 hours a week on WRAS, Georgia State University's signal. The partnership officially began this past Sunday.
Until then, the station had been fully student run but the FM signal is now being shared, a surprise move that has outraged supporters of WRAS who have protested via meetings with administrators, phone calls, social media and even on the streets.
Starting Friday, July 11, Nigut will also host a live political weekly round-table show at 3 p.m. called "Political Rewind" with a panel of guests, which may include AJC political writer and blogger Jim Galloway. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is scheduled to appear on the first episode.
In an interview Thursday at GPB headquarters and conveyed in an essay he wrote on GPB.org Tuesday, Nigut noted how much he loves radio and its ability to feature extended interviews and probe deep ideas. He hopes to offer a wide array of subjects, ranging from the arts to issues he believes aren't covered enough in other arenas. Two topics he mentioned: the AIDS crisis in Atlanta and a bee shortage. And since this will be a statewide show, he'll tackle subjects with ties outside of metro Atlanta. He'll, for instance, air an interview with restaurateur Hugh Acheson about a new restaurant he's opening in Savannah.
"I am thrilled to be back in radio and hope you’ll join me to meet extraordinary people, hear important ideas and explore the rich arts and cultural work being done in Atlanta and Georgia," he wrote. "It should be fun; it should be illuminating, and if I do it right, it should make us all just a little more aware of what a remarkable place we live in."
Nigut has a natural interest in politics, having covered that subject for two decades with Channel 2 Action News until 2003. He then ran the Metro Atlanta Arts & Culture Coalition for three years and the Atlanta-area Anti-Defamation League for seven years. He joined GPB last November.
"I've always been a believer in showcasing the arts and culture," he said.
When Nigut originally joined GPB, he said he planned to stay behind the scenes executive producing the daily TV show at 7 p.m. "On the Story." But within a couple of weeks, president Teya Ryan convinced him to go in front of the camera as well.
He said he had no idea about the GSU partnership until the staff was told in early May and within five days, Ryan offered him to do the weekend radio show, then the political show. She gave him free rein to design both shows. He couldn't resist.
He expects to do three or four segments per show of varying lengths for his Saturday program and has been banking interviews ahead of time.
His first show this Saturday will feature interviews with Kenny Leon and Phylicia Rashad about Leon's True Colors Theatre, New York Times best-selling author Jeff Shaara about the Civil War and a preview of the Tour de France with Atlanta Anglophile Kevin Glass. The Shaara interview, he said, was so good, it earned 21 minutes of the hour. The Glass piece is a lighter, quicker five minutes.
He will also do an audio essay about he hopes his radio show will be.
"I'm having a good time," Nigut said.
Nigut said he isn't offended by all the negative feedback from WRAS supporters. He was working on Sunday, the first day GPB took over the airwaves, and took calls from irate listeners.
"I'm glad to talk to people," he said. "I probably got 10, 11 calls. I have said on the phone and in a few tweets and personal emails that I get it. I understand their passion. I've had some good conversations. Some just call and yell."
When I mentioned that some WRAS fans are making him the bogeyman, he shrugged. "As a guy who covers politics," Nigut said, "I know people decide to assign a motive and give you an agenda. It has nothing to do with reality or who you are."
Twice while I was on this subject, GPB spokeswoman Mandy Wilson interrupted me to say, "We're here to talk about Bill's radio shows."
I wasn't expecting Nigut to saying anything except positive things about the deal and he didn't appear to mind talking about the deal. But with a publicist in the room clearly uncomfortable with me probing that subject, I backed off.
Beyond programming announcements, GPB has not been terribly garrulous about the situation since I interviewed Ryan the first day and a Creative Loafing interview with Tanya Ott, GPB's VP of radio.
"Two Way Street With Bill Nigut," 4 p.m. Saturdays, WRAS-FM
"Political Rewind," 3 p.m. Fridays, starting July 11, WRAS-FM
Recent stories about the GPB/WRAS arrangement: