By Joe Sheller / Guest Column

This month marks the anniversary of one of the most important and influential television programs of all time: 20 years ago this March, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” premiered on the WB network.

Closer to home, another TV anniversary is coming up soon – a worthwhile local TV news program will turn 18 this April. And this talk show, unlike Buffy, it is still on the air, enriching media discourse in The Corridor, even if the time that it’s on is more convenient for vampires than humans.

“Ethical Perspectives on the News” is broadcast at 5:30 a.m. Sundays on KCRG-TV9. The show also airs at 11 a.m. Sundays on channel 9.2, which doesn’t do me much good since my satellite TV service doesn’t include that channel. The program is replayed on 9.2 on Mondays at 3:30 a.m. and Tuesdays at 5 a.m., although that hardly seems to promote wider access among the non-vampire community.

I am a fan of “Ethical Perspectives.” The show, sponsored by The Inter-Religious Council of Linn County (IRCLC), features a rotating team of moderators who converse with interesting local guests on news-related topics.

Because KCRG moved the show to its early hour, I now watch it on the IRCLC’s YouTube channel. You can search YouTube for “inter religious council of Linn County” or “IRCofLC,” the channel name, if you want to catch it there. It’s usually online by Monday after it airs on TV on Sunday.

Just this year, the talk show has had these guests: assorted college professors; former Congressional Rep. Jim Leach; Eric Walker, vice president and general manager of KMRY; local attorneys; and others. Although it’s a fluke – I don’t appear on the program often – I’ve been on the program twice this year, most recently on March 19 when Mr. Walker, local attorney Sara Riley and I talked about freedom of speech.

The show has retained a consistent feel and format in the years I’ve watched it. A moderator poses an issue, and the panel discusses it for 30 minutes. When you’re a guest on the show, those minutes pass quickly. For a viewer, the show is not always as compelling (I’ll be honest that I don’t make it through every episode), but I find that more often than not, if you stick with an episode for a few minutes, the conversation can draw you in.

Just in 2017, such news topics as unbiased journalism, President Trump’s nominee for education secretary, the nature of conservatism in the age of Trump and the current state of the First Amendment have been mulled over.

While the topic is usually related to current headlines, the show can be more philosophical. For example, other topics this year included whether you can be a good person without religion and the future of romance in an online world.

So, congratulations IRCLC on the upcoming 18th birthday in April of “Ethical Perspectives on the News.” On the IRCLC web site, www.irclc.org, Cedric Lofdahl, executive producer, wrote a statement after the show’s 15th anniversary that lauds the “generosity of KCRG-TV, who provides free air time and the taping facility and staff to produce the program.”

So, even if 5:30 a.m. on Sunday might not be the ideal time slot, I echo Mr. Lofdahl: thank you, KCRG, for supporting this interesting little show that tackles big ideas.

And thanks to IRCLC and Mr. Lofdahl. Once a 15-minute program that was suggested by Harold Mincey in 1999, “Ethical Perspectives on the News” keeps plugging away for 30 minutes every week, still slaying the demons of false information and alternative facts long after “Buffy” went off the air.

Joe Sheller is an associate professor of communication and journalism at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. He can be reached at jsheller@mtmercy.edu