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Jon Ralston political shows dumped at Las Vegas, Reno PBS stations

PBS stations in Las Vegas and Reno have pulled the plug on “Ralston Live,” a Nevada interview program hosted by political pundit Jon Ralston.

Vegas PBS and KNPB in Reno announced the move Tuesday, which is effective immediately.

The stations started the show with Ralston in 2015.

In a joint statement, KNPB President Kurt Mische and Vegas PBS General Manager Tom Axtell called Ralston “one of Nevada’s most knowledgeable and informed political commentators.” They said the show required a significant financial investment and no longer has enough money to continue.

In a statement, Ralston said: “I have enjoyed doing ‘Ralston Live’ with an incredible team. We are proud of what we have accomplished. I have been working on an exciting, new opportunity to enhance the use of new technology in delivering news and commentary.”

Ralston has a long and storied career in Nevada political journalism circles, having worked at the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas Sun before striking out on his own. He produces commentary on his website, ralstonreports.com, and has a column published in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

In several tweets, Ralston spoke of his departure.

“Some personal news: I’m parting ways with PBS,” Ralston tweeted. “It’s clear that I ruffled feathers, and I understand PBS’ need to protect its donor base.”

In an interview with the Review-Journal, Axtell said Ralston provided shows with thoughtful dialogue, but didn’t always fit the PBS mold that viewers and contributors expect of a neutral host. Noting that Ralston wasn’t a “softball interviewer” and asked tough questions, Axtell said: “He had a show that was really thoughtful, but he also really expressed an opinion.”

In the end, the Ralston brand that existed before he ventured onto the PBS airwaves wasn’t quite compatible with the public television brand.

“If you compare his blog with what he would do on the show, he really made an effort to make it more like PBS,” Axtell said. “But he’s a brand in and of himself and you can’t separate, sometimes, a blog from a TV broadcast or column.”

That brand isn’t going way, either. Ralston, for his part, appeared pleased with his stint at PBS.

Ralston tweeted: “I’ve had a great time doing #RalstonLive. We interviewed most of the presidential candidates, many others. I worked w/fantastic people.”

Starting Tuesday, Vegas PBS replaced “Ralston Live” with “BBC World News” at 7 p.m. and “Tavis Smiley” at midnight. KNPB is replacing the program with “Tavis Smiley” at 5:30 p.m. and midnight.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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