Ohio Media, Civic Groups, Universities Form Statewide Commission To Manage Political Debates

Apr 30, 2018

Over the next six months, representatives from media organizations, civic groups, and academia -- including WKSU -- will be putting together a commission to manage political debates in Ohio.

Dan Moulthrop is CEO of the City Club of Cleveland, which convened the group’s first meeting last week. He says some candidates are not always confident that debates will be fair, while some incumbents view them as a “no-win” proposition.

“If we have a statewide collaboration, and a statewide group saying these debates matter, it becomes a lot harder for campaigns and candidates to say, ‘This isn’t worth it.’”

Moulthrop says it’s a nonpartisan solution to a bipartisan problem.

“When all of these organizations can work together and agree on not only the values that [should] drive a debate, but also the format and all of those sorts of things -- and then they also agree to create the content collaboratively and share the content collaboratively, and put voters first – then we’ve seen that this can really work very, very well.”

What about bias?
But if candidates feel the media – a large part of the commission – is biased, how does Moulthrop plan to reassure participants? He says that he hears concern about bias from candidates for both major parties, about not only the media but also civic groups such as the City Club or the League of Women Voters.

“When you hear it from both sides, you know that you’re doing your job right.”

Moulthrop adds that the proof of their success will be the debates themselves. “Don’t trust us -- watch us,” he says.

The commission will spend the next six months on logistics and setting up a few debates in statewide races ahead of the November election. It’s being supported by a $10,000 seed grant from the George Gund Foundation, and Moulthrop says the group anticipates seeking future grants.

A list of other participating organizations is below:

  • Advance Ohio (Plain Dealer; Cleveland.com)
  • Akron Beacon Journal
  • Akron Press Club
  • Cincinnati Enquirer
  • City Club of Cleveland
  • Columbus Dispatch
  • Columbus Metropolitan Club
  • Dayton Daily News
  • Dispatch Magazines
  • Gund Foundation
  • Hannah News Service
  • League of Women Voters of Ohio
  • Miami University
  • Ohio Association of Broadcasters
  • Ohio Commission on Political Debates
  • Ohio News Media Association; AdOhio and the Ohio News Media Foundation
  • Ohio Politics
  • Ohio Public Radio/TV Statehouse News Bureau
  • Ohio University
  • OSU/College of Arts and Science and Mershon Center; Glenn College of Public Affairs
  • Press Club of Cleveland
  • Radio One
  • Spectrum News (Charter Communications)
  • Toledo Blade
  • University of Akron Bliss Institute of Applied Politics
  • Youngstown Vindicator
  • WBNS (Columbus CBS)
  • WCMH (Columbus NBC)
  • ideastream (WCPN/WCLV/WVIZ Cleveland public radio and television)
  • WHIO radio (Dayton)
  • WKSU-FM (Akron-Cleveland-Canton NPR)
  • WKYC (Cleveland NBC)
  • WLWT (Cincinnati NBC)
  • WOSU public media (Columbus)
  • WSYX/WTTE/WWHO (ABC 6/FOX 28/CW Columbus)
  • WVXU-FM (Cincinnati NPR)
  • WXIX (Fox Cincinnati)
  • WYSU-FM (Youngstown NPR)