Joanne Michaels recalls that, after she launched the The Joanne Michaels Show in 1999, “People started coming up to me on the street and at the mall. I was surprised, but people really were watching.” Michaels says that was because the regional, one-hour news show was completely different from what people were used to seeing. “The subjects I covered just weren’t talked about,” she says. “We called it speaking out on the unspeakable.” While Michaels was originally motivated by her experiences with the local courts during her divorce — “I was appalled by what went on; I said, as a journalist I should expose what is going on in the court system” — she covered all types of controversial issues. “We would read directly from judges’ decisions,” says Michaels. “[Retired Ulster County Supreme Court Judge] Mike Kavanagh would come up to me and say, “So who are you having on next?’ He probably wondered what might emerge during some of the show’s controversial discussions.”
The show ran until 2005. Now Michaels is ready to get back in front of the cameras once again. “People in the Hudson Valley are starving for local news,” she says. Citizen Jo, which launches this month, is a half-hour program that encompasses financial, environmental, and political issues. Prominent guests will be invited to explain how they overcame a problem in their town or in their business; Michaels expects lively debate covering all sides of an issue — from whether fracking will destroy our water supply to how our small farms can survive. “Like my old show, it will be spontaneous, and much of it will be unrehearsed. It’s what I call real reality television,” she says.
One program will be taped each month and will air several times throughout a four-week period. Michael’s initial guest will be Russian-American concert pianist Vladimir Feltsman, but she has secured commitments to appear from more than 30 heavy hitters, including politicians like State Senator William Larkin and former Congressman Maurice Hinchey, Health Alliance CEO David Lundquist, realtors, business owners, and others.
In this incarnation, the show will be edited down to a three-minute tape for YouTube, so it can be viewed on the Internet. “People will be able to watch it on different venues,” Michaels says. “I think the time has come.”