- The Washington Times - Monday, December 2, 2002

NEW YORK
John Walsh has mobilized a crime sweep from the nation's TV screens for 14 years. Briefed by him every week on "America's Most Wanted," his deputized viewers have helped flush out the bad guys 727 of them and counting.
That's the crime-busting Mr. Walsh you see every Saturday night.
Since September, there also has been a ministering Mr. Walsh on the screen every weekday.
For "The John Walsh Show" which can be seen in Washington on WRC-TV, Channel 4, at 11 a.m. weekdays he has swapped his leather jacket for a blazer and a smile as he and his studio audience receive guests in a warm talk-show embrace.
"America's Most Wanted" dedicates itself to bringing criminals to justice. "The John Walsh Show," in contrast, is focused on how good people can head off criminality and on bearing witness to past victims.
"They're hurting," Mr. Walsh explains, "and they say, 'I came here because of you. Maybe we'll do some good. Maybe we'll change some things together.'"
They come, of course, because he is the champion of victims' rights. They also come because they know he lost a son to an unavenged murder; he and his guests are kindred spirits. On one program, taped a few weeks ago for future airing, he welcomed guests who, as teens, had been wrongly charged with murder and, despite a lack of evidence to hold them, had been jailed for months or even years.
That isn't an unusual occurrence, Mr. Walsh said before listing four tips for any youngster nabbed by the law: Don't run, don't talk, don't sign anything and demand to see your parents.
Despite its reassuring tone, "The John Walsh Show" can be a daily dose of distress. With all the bad people, bad law enforcement and bad laws, there's a need to guard yourself and your family against more than you ever imagined.
"There's pent-up frustration and lots of fear," Mr. Walsh tells a reporter after the taping at NBC's Manhattan headquarters. "But people want solutions.
"It's easy to criticize government; it's easy to criticize law enforcement but I've lived with it for 20 years, I've studied it for 20 years; I know how you can fix it."

As most people know, Mr. Walsh's zeal took hold with the death of his son Adam, who, in 1981 at age 6, vanished from a Sears store near the family's Florida home. The child's severed head was recovered two weeks later in a canal 120 miles away. The rest of his body was never found. A bungled investigation led nowhere.
Mr. Walsh, who turns 57 next month, readily recalls how he and his wife, Reve, "wanted to make sure Adam didn't die in vain. We were mad, we were angry, we were bitter. And we tried to change things."
In 1984, they co-founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Four years later, the former hotel executive with no TV experience was signed as host of "America's Most Wanted." It eventually became the Fox network's longest-running series.
It kept Mr. Walsh on the run. Shooting segments for the show. Sharing tips with police. Lobbying lawmakers. Almost never getting home to Reve and their children.
Then, last July, about the same time Mr. Walsh was gearing up for his new talk show, his wife of 31 years filed for divorce. The divorce is on hold for now, he says, and he adds that his new show is helping.
"The John Walsh Show" calls for him to be at 30 Rockefeller Plaza every Tuesday through Friday. Even though he's traveling much of the rest of the time, this means a lifestyle that, for Mr. Walsh, is downright sedentary. Reve and their two sons, 17 and 8, moved to New York to share it with him. (An older daughter is away at college.)
The thought that the added workload of a second show would translate into more family time might sound absurd, but not to Mr. Walsh even when he mentions that, the night before, he was taping "America's Most Wanted" at a riverfront Brooklyn warehouse into the wee hours. He got just a couple hours' sleep.
"But at least I know exactly what I'm doing with that show," he says. "That old saddle is all broken in."
On the other hand, "The John Walsh Show" is "real tough; it's uncharted territory for me," he says. "But it's great this is where I get the real hands-on [with people]. On 'America's Most Wanted,' I don't really see anybody."
There, it's all about bad deeds and notches on his belt. Here, it's about bonding with his flock. Between the two shows, sleep will have to wait.


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