Columbia — More than 30 supporters of the long-running talk show “Pepper and Friends” demonstrated Monday morning outside of KOMU/Channel 8 in favor of keeping the show on air. Accompanied by homemade signs, the protesters gathered to deliver 2,752 signatures petitioning the show’s cancellation.
“Paul Pepper and James Mouser have devoted 27 years to our community, and now we want to show all of our support for them,” said Nancy Atkinson, who coordinated the petitions and the protest. “We have heard so many stories about all the valuable information people hear about community events they otherwise may not know about.”
Amid a speech from Atkinson outlining the efforts of supporters, program hosts Pepper and Mouser emerged from the studio to clapping and cheering. Pepper and Mouser each attempted to express gratitude through breaking voices and tears.
“I can’t tell you how much this affects me and James,” Pepper said to his supporters, adding that he had been “touched” by the demonstrations. “Your efforts have not gone unnoticed.”
KOMU general manager Marty Siddall announced in May that the show would go off the air Sept. 18, citing budget issues. The demonstrators attempted to deliver the signed petitions to Siddall, but he was absent from the studio. In addition to the demonstration at KOMU, the show’s supporters also delivered letters to the offices of MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and Jacquelyn Jones, MU vice chancellor of Administrative Services. Although neither was available, the group talked with assistants in both offices and left petitions and letters.
Holding a sign that read, “We Love Hokey,” Columbia resident Sutu Forté said she enjoys the local content of the show.
“It’s grassroots, it’s a home-grown show,” Forté said. “We don’t want glitzy, slick city television.”
The local focus of the show is what gave many supporters a reason to petition its cancellation. Joyce Chastin, who has lived in Columbia for 27 years, credits the show with her latest addition to the family, her dog Shiloh. Shiloh was featured on the Pet Corner portion of the program, which highlights animals available for adoption.
“Who’s going to show these little faces?” Chastin said, adding that her friendship with Pepper and Mouser gave her a reason to support the show. “They are just the two best people you could ever hope to know.”
Liz Schmidt, a “Pepper and Friends” supporter and member of the League of Women Voters, appreciated the coverage local groups like the league got on the show.
“Just being able to tell what we’re doing and how we’re doing it is so important,” Schmidt said.
The demonstrators are hoping for a response as to what specific budget issues are hindering the show, which has support from sponsors throughout the community and hope the ultimate response will be to continue the show. In the mean time, the demonstrators said they would continue to voice their opinions. Supporters are being encouraged to make phone calls to Siddall, Deaton and Jones to express their concern.
“We’re not stopping,” Forté said. “I believe in miracles.”