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‘Open’ Wide: PBS Political Talker Goes National

When the public affairs show The Open Mind airs this Sunday, Sept. 6, it will be the first time the nearly 60-year old show, airing on PBS’ World multicast channel, has national distribution, says host Alexander Heffner, giving it over 150 stations and markets.

Heffner, 25, is carrying on a family tradition by moderating the program; his grandfather, Richard Heffner, hosted Open Mind until his death late in 2013, whereupon his grandson took over. (Richard was also general manager at WNET New York.) Richard’s widow Elaine continues to be executive producer, while Rebecca Wharton is senior producer.

Besides the moderator’s young age, Open Mind stands out for a more measured and thoughtful discourse, says Heffner. “It’s a space to express oneself freely without accusation and incrimination,” he says.

In addition to airing in major markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, The Open Mind, which tapes in New York, will air in Washington opposite the Sunday morning talkers that often drive the political news cycle. Heffner calls Open Mind “a refuge from some of the silly season” antics that creep into election news.

“It’s a thoughtful excursion into the world of ideas,” he adds, echoing the program’s mission statement.

The Sept. 6 installment features Mitch Daniels, the academic and former Indiana governor, as guest.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.