Roland Martin, on the payroll at Atlanta-based CNN as a pundit for six years until last year, never got his own show on the network, which he found naturally frustrating. (He was in Atlanta recently for a forum about education held at the Georgia Aquarium and I spent some time talking with him.)
"We always talked about that," Martin said. "I have a strong point of view. I'm not going to come from the usual BS. I'm a strongly religious person who grew up in a family with a mom and dad who went to church. All of us kids went to public school. We didn't have a lot of money. We busted our butts to make our way through college. I still believe in the importance of family."
He thinks if Joel Cheatwood, who ran CNN Headline News (now HLN) until 2007, had stuck around, he might have gotten a show on HLN. When Glenn Beck left HLN for Fox news in 2008, Martin lobbied for that slot but didn't get it.
Martin felt he was more suited for HLN because they were more open about allowing talk show hosts to express their opinion. When he filled in for CNN's Campbell Brown while she was having a child on CNN, he was told explicitly to keep his thoughts to himself.
He said later, former CNN president Jim Walton apologized for placing him in that bind.
In the end, CNN kept him around as an occasional pundit without a regular show. TV One ultimately gave him a weekly Sunday D.C.-oriented show. Last fall, the network gave him a daily show "NewsOne Now."
He ended his punditry contract with CNN last spring to focus on TV One. TV One "allows me to do a lot of stories I wanted to talk about. I have a lot of freedom and flexibility. I've shown I can book A listers. We can have conversations that will generate attention."
Martin said given TV One's heavily African-American audience, he can freely focus on issues that are important to his viewers. He said he more deeply explored Nelson Mandela's death and the ties between the apartheid movement and the U.S. civil rights movement.
"I'm not a Republican or a Democrat," he said. "I'm not a liberal or a conservative. For me, it depends what issues is at hand."
By being a niche show, he knows he won't pull in huge ratings but he said he has broken 100,000 households some days. (TV One is available in 58 million households vs. closer to 100 million for the three major cable news networks.) The network's one major missing link: Dish TV. "Chaps my hide," he said.
Martin is also a huge "Scandal" fan and has live tweeted the ABC show the past couple of seasons to his 271,000 followers. His one bugaboo: "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes has never responded to him or even retweeted him. "Give a brother some love!" he said.
He is hooked by the pacing of the show. "You get caught up," he said. "You can't turn away. Nobody can talk in the room while the show is on. They talk so fast!"
Martin also hosts a morning radio show he started last fall and I've heard rumors he might end up on 1380/WAOK-AM. He declined to comment about that.
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