WWNO’s “SpeakEasy” series kicked off this past Thursday with a conversation that meandered through tourism, politics, and the future of New Orleans under the red stage lights at Chickie Wah Wah.
New Orleans Public Radio General Manager Paul Maassen led contributors Nick Spitzer, Ian McNulty and Edward Anderson through a bull session on “Culture in the Community,” in a panel that felt more like eavesdropping on a downtown lunch table than a debate. In front of a mostly well-behaved audience, the group touched on humor (including a little amateur psychoanalysis of Governor Jindal) and hot-button topics, like education in the city and the preservation of local culture.
“We have to be vigilant that we don’t turn every available space into a tourist commodity,” Spitzer said, in one of the evening’s many applause lines.
The event was the first of WWNO’s new series at Chickie Wah Wah, which is half-panel on current events and half-meetup for the station’s listeners. The informal atmosphere and charms of the venue (smoke-free, gourmet small plates — like duck fat fries — typical of the new New Orleans) create a unique way for listeners to experience radio in a community, rather than solitary, setting.
"Providing an atmosphere for our listeners to get together and enjoy themselves with terrific programming is central to what we do at WWNO," said Jason Saul, the station's Director of Digital Services. "We couldn't have asked for more erudite guests, a nicer venue, or a better audience."
The series continues on the last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. The next SpeakEasy will be March 28, again at Chickie Wah Wah. No matter the topic, it’s likely the commentary will drift back to that subject everyone has an opinion about: the city itself.
“[New Orleans is] a much better city [today] than I’ve ever seen it be,” McNulty said.