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Joe Barber, an arts commentator who for many years was a mainstay of local radio and television, was found dead in his home this morning. A presence in local media for 20 years, Barber was WTOP’s entertainment editor, broadcasting reviews of music and theater, as well as a frequent panelist on WETA’s Around Town, where since 1994 he commented mostly on film. He was 53.
DCRTV first reported the news; Jacqueline Todt, a senior director at WETA who oversees Around Town, said Barber had been struggling with diabetes. At a taping last week, she said, Barber had “worked wonderfully, but he did complain he wasn’t feeling very well.” The station is now working on a memorial spot dedicated to Barber.
“I think Joe had the voice of every man,” Todt said. “He was not a snobby, pretentious critic. He really could share critiques which everyone could understand and relate to.”
Joel Oxley, WTOP’s general manager, remembered Barber as an enthusiastic presence in the newsroom. “You could feel the passion and the excitement in his voice,” Oxley said. “The guy was always pumped up and excited about what he was talking about.” On his WTOP segment “Barber’s Best Bets,” he highlighted ongoing and upcoming arts events. Barber had a strong and independent critical voice, Oxley said. “He wasn’t trying to pander to anybody.”
WTOP has posted an obituary. Here’s one of Barber’s most recent appearances on Around Town, discussing the film The Help. Below, his final appearance, recorded last Thursday, in which Barber discusses Higher Ground.
This post has been updated.