The West Virginia AARP and the West Virginia Broadcasters Association dropped the ball with their restrictions on media coverage of the gubernatorial debate they sponsored last week in Charleston.
The two bodies, each of which professes to exist to inform the public, barred still photographers and reporters from covering the debate in the same room as the candidates, while permitting only their video coverage of the debate between only two of the candidates: Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and challenger Bill Maloney. Sadly, it almost sounds as if the two groups already had decided which candidates should be given the best chance of winning the election.
In fact, the media advisory for the debate stated only two still photographer would be permitted in the room prior to the debate's beginning but would not be permitted even in the room during the debate. Further no reporter would be allowed inside the debate site before or during the debate, which was held at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences and was limited to 200 guests invited by the sponsors.
By taking such drastic steps to seemingly exclude the print media from the so-called debate - which is of questionable value since all candidates for governor were not included - a large portion of potential West Virginia voters were denied the opportunity to learn what the candidates had to say.
Since the AARP and the broadcasters wished to hold such a "closed, by-invitation-only event," the Associated Press and newspapers across the state were right to treat it for what it was ... a private event and a slap in the face to most of the voters in the state.
It's odd that in the presidential and vice presidential debates, the organizers have been able to figure out how to make the debates available to the bulk of Americans through usage of all media, but the AARP and the West Virginia Broadcasters were apparently unable or, more likely, unwilling to do likewise, which says much about the real intention of their sponsorship.
The West Virginia AARP should lose public respect and media cooperation due to this idiotic decision that adversely affected voters in West Virginia, as should the state broadcasters association.
There's a distinct line between doing one's best to protect a competitive edge and doing what one should in providing a public service. In protecting that competition, the two organizations - probably more so the broadcasters - denied their public service obligation.
So, if you feel uninformed and/or cheated by not being able to read about the debate, let the AARP and the broadcasters know your displeasure. Personally, my cooperation with the state AARP and whatever contact the state broadcasters might want to have with me is what it should be ... in dire peril.
With the November election fast approaching, which means all the political posturing hopefully soon will end, The News and Sentinel is being flooded with letters to the editor relating to candidates and issues.
While we intend to run as many of the letters as we can between now and the Sunday before the election, writers need to remember all letters must contain the name, address and telephone number of the writer for verification purposes, letters longer than 400 words will not be accepted nor published, form letters will not be accepted nor published, multiple signature letters will not be accepted nor published and text attachments will not be accepted nor published.
And, all letters pertaining to the November election must be RECEIVED by The News and Sentinel by Oct. 24. Letters received after that date will not be published.
Contact Jim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org