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LETTER: Debate commission puts neutrality first

May 18, 2018

My former colleague Jim Shella made some valid points [Forefront, May 11] about the most recent debate produced and sponsored by the all-volunteer Indiana Debate Commission, the nation’s first such statewide organization.

Jim was correct that the rules announced at the beginning of the broadcast take too long, the opening statements aren’t necessary, and the “Lincoln-Douglas” segment didn’t work.

The commission reviews each debate and makes changes so I am sure they will consider Jim’s points.

But Jim is wrong about what he calls the IDC’s “curious approach” to selecting moderators and production partners. It’s not about assigning cash value to a proposed in-kind contribution.

There is no way other TV stations would broadcast a debate in which a competitor would appear on their air as the moderator, even worse on a competitor’s set. And the commission wants each debate to reach as many Hoosiers as possible via many radio and TV stations and web streams.

An IDC committee in 2012 had difficulty recruiting moderators. I wasn’t on that committee, but it selected an anchor from WRTV (where I was news director then).

A competing news director lectured me on a founding principle of the commission, to be not only politically, but also competitively, neutral. To him, the perception of an unfair advantage was real. That anchor was replaced and everyone broadcast the debate.

The commission’s decision to turn down WISH’s offer to produce a debate moderated by Jim and airing on all stations wasn’t personal. It was the commission again demonstrating scrupulous neutrality.

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Kevin Finch
(Finch was the founding president of the Indiana Debate Commission and a member through 2012.)

 

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