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Points Between: Making a difference, one town hall meeting at a time

There's a reason I chose newspapers as the track of my journalism career.

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend some time with WTHO News Director Donna Branch and get a peek inside the world of broadcast.

First, we spent part of last Monday asking a series of questions to Congressional candidates Paul Broun and Barry Fleming - who faced each other in Tuesday's Republican primary. I was looking forward to speaking with both men, especially Mr. Fleming. In my previous newspaper life, I covered his first foray into politics - running for the Columbia County Commission nearly a decade ago. I've also covered his rise to state office, and now his run for a federal slot.

So we crowded into one of the recently refurbished studios out on Cedar Rock Road and fired away at both politicians. Both answered all our questions and took the requisite pot shots at their opponent.

Then came the hard part: Donna and station owner Mike Wall - along with Roy and Steve, I'm sure - had to edit our free-flowing conversation with the two candidates into a concise hour of Q&A. Thank the Lord for pre-taped shows - they are the safety net for the verbally-challenged.

Which is why I was so nervous as I walked into the Thomson Depot Tuesday night.

My safety net was gone.

As one of the moderators for the live Town Hall meeting for McDuffie County Commission candidates, there was little room for error.

And after an hour of questions and commentary, it was over. (If you missed it, an archived copy is available at From the comments by the participants and several folks who called to say they were listening, I think the event was a great success.

So we're planning to do it again, hopefully a couple of times over.

The November school board races have drawn a full slate of candidates. There's a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax vote coming up in September. And we're hoping to work out a plan with the Sheriff's Department to set up town hall meetings that will address topics like drugs and gangs in our community. All are good options for a town hall-style gathering.

I'm so proud of this initiative, both because of the relationship I've developed with the local radio stations and what it represents for us. It shows the commitment of WTHO and WTWA to be more than just a radio station in this community. Donna and Mike want to make a difference in McDuffie County and these public forums go a long way toward that.

I feel the same way about The Mirror. I've said for five years that this newspaper was about far more than printed pages. It's about reflecting our community and making it better.

But that can't happen without you. So when it comes time to submit questions or comments or attend the forums, step up.

If I can do it with a microphone in hand, you can certainly do it from the comfort of your own home or from a seat in the audience.

Web posted on Thursday, July 17, 2008

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