One of Hoboken's charms is that the city is teeming with people who relish spirited socio-political debate.
The Mile Square is alive with dialogue unfolding on the websites of the local newspapers and over a network of citizen folk blogs, which started with local blogger Perry Klaussen's Hoboken411, allowing the populace to muse about issues facing the nation down to those facing their very block.
Second ward resident John Bredin is the latest Hobokenite to foray into the citizen media sphere with something a bit quaint for the Internet age: a TV show.
Bredin, 47, recently began hosting and producing Public Voice Salon, a one-hour cable access TV show that premiered on June 3 and airs Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. on Cablevision's channel 19. Bredin produces the show, of which there are now three episodes, with the assistance of his wife, Claudia Canasto-Chibuque, at Symposia Community Bookstore on Washington Street.
An adjunct professor of English at CUNY's Borough of Manhattan Community College and a New York City real estate agent, the affable Bredin is not exactly a newcomer to the Hoboken activism and commentary scene. In fact, the TV show is the second iteration of Public Voice Salon, which Bredin first hosted in 2002 at Symposia and billed as a "chat room without the computer."
Bredin has been a busy writer. He has articles published here and there in obscure, highbrow web journals such as Eclectica Magazine and Inertia Magazine. And Bredin has been a frequent letter writer to The Hoboken Reporter—even an Op-Ed contributor five years ago while he was promoting a dating exercise he dubbed the "Love Project," romance being a subject he has a significant fascination with if his essay from the literary journal Slow Trains is any indication.
Recently, a letter to the editor of the Reporter, in which Bredin argued that President Ronald Reagan used a "racist southern strategy" to get elected, courted the ire of the Republicans of Hoboken, who shot back at Bredin in a response letter and implored him to "get real."
The incendiary tone of Bredin's letter was a sharp contrast to his soft-spoken nature in-person, perhaps hinting—considering the letter's date and that of his new show's launch—that Bredin may have been attempting to drum up interest in Public Voice Salon (or guests to appear on it). Still, the letter underscored the way Bredin fancies himself a conversation starter, which is pretty much the extent of his role on Public Voice Salon.
The show is a loosely structured roundtable. The third episode, taped on Friday night, featured a panel of twelve local activists, artists and thinkers from Hoboken, Jersey City and New York who chewed the fat on "culture, politics and the burning issues of the day."
Bredin moderates the show and is more of a homespun Phil Donahue than he is a Tim Russert-type. He opened the discussion on Friday by confessing to his panelists, "I can't believe I applied for it [the hour of cable access programming] and they gave it to me," before issuing this salvo: "Citizens are taking back the media from the corporations."
For the ensuing hour, Bredin passed around a handheld microphone to panelists such as former TV news producer Danny Schechter, Jersey City Board of Education member and singer-songwriter Carol Lester and Hoboken's own longtime public activist Dan Tumpson, while a single digital video camera operated by Bredin's wife videotaped the discussion.
Dialogue between panelists mainly centered on a shared disdain for several clichéd social targets. To name a few: corporations that run the media; corporations that run oil and other energy companies; lowbrow pop culture and the U.S. Supreme Court.
After the taping wrapped, 49-year-old Denise Katzman of Jersey City, who's a vocal opponent of a proposed natural gas pipeline project by Spectra Energy and was a guest on the show, said Bredin's salon is a critical step in giving a voice to people marginalized by mainstream media.
"The more diverse the voices are," she said of the show, "the better it'll be." Katzman praised Bredin's concept, but said she'd like to see more contrasting viewpoints in future episodes.
78-year-old Howard Gottbetter of Jersey City, one of a few members of the "live studio audience," echoed that sentiment.
"Where are the young people?" Gottbetter wondered, noting that the panelists were all "middle-aged and later." Gottbetter said he is interested in what the "Facebook generation" is thinking and speculated that many from that age-group were getting drunk in the next door bar.
Bredin, invoking the famed Seinfeld tagline, said Public Voice Salon is "a show about something," and he is not shy about his goal of taking the show national.
He said he hopes a cable network like Bravo, USA or TLC will eventually buy the show, which he views as "an attempt to help the public find and strengthen its political voice so we can begin the important work of renewing American democracy."
He said his optimism springs from another TV personality located just south on Washington Street. "In a strange way, though the topics of our shows are different, I'm inspired by the success of another local TV show, the Cake Boss," said Bredin.
"It would be nice to build the kind of interest in this show that they have for the Cake Boss, with people lined up on the sidewalk and peering in the windows from the street," he said.
"After all," he concluded, "don't you think renewing American democracy is as important as making cakes?"