For two years, business journalist Roben Farzad has worked a dream with a Richmond base. Now he wants to expand it.
Farzad is the creator of “Full Disclosure,” an hour-long talk show, produced in Richmond, which airs on WRIR-FM 97.3, and is available as a podcast on various networks nationally, including NPR One.
A former senior writer at BusinessWeek in New York, Farzad has parlayed his wide array of contacts into shows that include such marquee-name guests as digital media mogul Henry Blodget, Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig and high-finance blogger Felix Salmon.
This week, he and his team are taking the approach a step further. On April 7, “Full Disclosure” will move into Jackson Ward’s historic Hippodrome for a two-hour broadcast with an audience in attendance. Some of the proceeds will go to Caritas, a charity that helps the homeless.
The idea is to root the show in a sense of place.
“We’re thinking in terms of a new ‘Austin City Limits’ or ‘Prairie Home Companion,’ says Farzad, who turned 40 last week. “We’re trying to put Richmond on the national map.”
His guests for the inaugural show, which starts at 7:30 p.m., are John and Sherry Petersik, a local husband and wife team who created the Young House Love brand. They took the blogosphere and publishing world by storm with their ongoing saga of putting together a loving and attractive home while raising two young children.
Farzad says the Petersiks are a natural for his first live event because the couple has used Richmond as a venue for a media flood that they originally couldn’t have predicted. According to New York Magazine, their homemaking blog went from 100,000 page views a month to more than 5 million.
Their two books, “Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft Update & Show Your Home Some Love,” (Artisan, 2012) and “Lovable, Livable Home: How to Add Beauty, Get Organized and Make Your House Work for You,” have been bestsellers.
“They live in South Side, but they can go to Portland and tease up a 1,000-person venue,” Farzad says, adding that they’re a “low risk” as inaugural guests.
Given Fazard’s education, which includes Princeton University and a graduate degree from Harvard Business School, his show has business themes. In the Petersiks’ case, he says, the focus will be how to deal with unexpected success without going insane.
The second in what he hopes will be monthly shows will feature star Chinese chef Peter Chang and Style Food & Drink Editor Brandon Fox.
The Hippodrome, built in 1914 and restored in 2011, seems an appropriate location for the initiative. It’s hip with a history that dips back into the jazz age when Jackson Ward was one of the nation’s most culturally rich black neighborhoods.
An Iranian-American, Farzad launched his home after moving to Richmond in late 2012 because his wife is from the city and he wanted a good place to raise a family. His first show was taped at the Martin Agency with sponsorship help from Virginia Commonwealth University. Since then, he’s added NPR One and Virginia Public Radio to his outlets along with SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher and WRIR, the city’s low-power, independent radio station.
If the live format works, Farzad hopes to attract more sponsors and expand the show, possibly leaving its Richmond base for other towns from time to time.
It hasn’t always been easy getting Richmonders used to the idea that it’s a perfectly good spot to launch broadcasts with a national reach.
“There were a lot of people that said: ‘Don’t do it in Richmond, it’s not an NPR kind of town. Do it in D.C.,” he recalls.
“I said: ‘I want to do it here. It’s where I live.’” S
“Full Disclosure” tapes Thursday, April 7, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Hippodrome, 528 N. Second St. Tickets are $50 and available at eventbrite.com.
Editors Note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Jason Zweig as a technology writer.