Empty Podiums And Arrogance

The Atlanta Press Club will be hosting debates tomorrow including one for the Georgia 12th Congressional runoff candidates, Ray McKinney and Carl Smith. Except they won’t. Ray McKinney won’t be there. Thus, Carl Smith will debate himself, and Ray McKinney will be represented by “empty podium”.

Carl Smith has decided the drive to Atlanta is worth the TV exposure. Ray McKinney, according to the Savannah morning news, has elected to spend the 10 hours that would take in his district.

Much was made of the absence of Karen Handel at the Atlanta Press Club debate which was televised on GPTV. Handel had made her intentions known much earlier in the campaign, and did what she said she would do.

A general primary for Governor, and a runoff for a Congressional district on the other side of the state have different expectations for scheduling with a candidate. Any Candidate for Governor knows that there will be an APC/GPTV debate the weekend prior to the vote, and Handel in return gave plenty of time for the APC to alter their format if they chose to have her attend. Each side made their decisions accordingly.

A runoff election between two candidates for Congress in a district that does not touch metro Atlanta should have a different standard, however. At a minimum, the debate should be held in or near the district, so that the candidates can maximize time with those who can actually vote for them.

And why must the candidates drop what they’re doing this first critical weekend of a runoff – the first few critical days of a three week sprint where former challengers must be courted, funds must be secured, direct mail and other ads written, and a new GOTV effort launched?

From the APC:

GPB is entering its pledge drive next week, so we agreed to try to get in as many debates as possible before the drive begins.

The Atlanta Press Club and Georgia Public Broadcasting expect candidates to drop what they’re doing because GPB has a pledge drive. Awesome.

I find it extremely presumptious and arrogant that the Atlanta Press Club would think they should be able to dictate to a candidate from Southeast Georgia how a rare day during a runoff weekend should be spent, or be subjected to the “empty podium” embarassment.


  1. The Atlanta Press Club & GPB do a good job with the debates. There are other organizations that can & do host debates locally. If you want to appear in a televised debate, you kind of have to play by the televisor’s rules.

  2. I know I’m from Atlanta, but I’ve heard there are other cities in Georgia -even some with their own TV stations and studios! Someone from the Atlanta Press Club should send a reporter outside 285 to see if that’s true.

  3. Kudzu35 says:

    From Ray McKinney’s Facebook post about this article, I guess you could say this is his official response: “I worship and spend my time in the district on Sunday. Enough said.” I agree, if the Atlanta Press Club wanted to have a debate about the most contested district in Georgia then they should have it in Savannah or Augusta, the two largest television markets in the area. Carl Smith is going because he needs the exposure because his campaign is non-existent outside of Thunderbolt or Chatham County. I live in Augusta and see no signs for anyone else but Ray McKinney, hear no adds but for Ray’s… And yah if the Atlanta press could travel further than Buckhead they might actually learn something about their state…

    • appachtrail70 says:

      Just be happy that the Atlanta Press Club broadcasts debates for districts that have little influence over Atlanta. I don’t see the Augusta Press Club taking the same initiative.

  4. silvercat says:

    It doesn’t surprise me at all, but the Atlanta Press Club and Georgia Public Broadcasting didn’t even take into consideration that many people in the 12th District will be in church when the “debate” takes place. What’s convenient for APC/GPB isn’t particularly convenient for churchgoing voters. So, kind of makes me wonder, is their intention really to inform voters or is it actually to embarrass a particular candidate?

  5. Doug Deal says:

    Icarus, I agree. It is a disservice to both campaigns. A 10 hour committment is about 3% of the productive hours available to the campaigns for the runoff (assuming 15 hours usable time a day). All this for a TV market way outside the district.

    • Not really taking sides on this one, but GPB *is* the “outside-of-Atlanta” TV market. It’s broadcast statewide. PBA 30 is the Atlanta-market public broadcasting channel.

      • Doug Deal says:

        None of the debates for any office were shown in Macon, unless they were taped and rebroadcast. I assumed it was the same in Southeast, GA.

        • Interesting. I thought that GPB was simply GPB, no matter where you were in the state. I wasn’t aware that different programming was broadcast in different parts of the state. Are you completely sure about that? Their website only has one single television schedule.

          • Doug Deal says:

            We have 2 PBS stations that we can view at my house. A standard definition one and a Macon HD one. When the debates were on, I tried both and got nothing but some chorale group singing really really boring music during one part of them and a “minority affairs” program during another part.

            I have yet to see any debates broadcast on television in the Macon area.

  6. AnyoneElse2010 says:

    Yeah it makes no sense for the ATLANTA press club to do a debate in ATLANTA. Maybe the Savannah press club should hold this debate….oh wait?!?!

  7. seenbetrdayz says:

    They’re just starved for content. The primaries are over, and journalists are going through withdrawal symptoms from coming down off all the hype. The field is narrowing, and things won’t start boiling up again until the vast majority of voters take interest again, probably around late October. So, it’s basically now or never.

    Think of Georgia politics, at this particular moment, as that last little bit of frozen cherry coke at the bottom of the cup, that you so desparately try to suck up through your straw, before giving up and throwing what’s left of it into the trash can.

  8. southgapassion says:

    These guys have the longest Job Interview in history. Why during a job interview process would you just “not show up”….I think that’s more arrogant (assuming you already have the position) than the AJC who doesn’t HAVE to host the debates in the first place.

    They are doing it for the voters, another forum to help people make educated decisions and not just listen to the 30 ads on TV & radio and hour – and honestly, it appears only Carl Smith has considered that his presence there is perhaps important to his constituents and is respecting that fact.

  9. Well…Hat off to Carl for making that hump regardless to the need for coverage or not. It is still ridiculous that during a time when many are disgusted with many of our politicians that the press would demonstrate the same narcissistic behavior in focusing solely on themselves and their own needs.

    I have generally been a supporter of GPB, but maybe that donation should be tied to them demonstrating a bit more respect and connectivity to the rest of Georgia!

  10. rickviix says:

    “I find it extremely presumptious [sic] and arrogant that the Atlanta Press Club would think they should be able to dictate to a candidate from Southeast Georgia how a rare day during a runoff weekend should be spent, or be subjected to the “empty podium” embarassment.”

    Icarus makes a lot of strong and convincing arguments on a wide variety of issues but in this case his arguments are embarrassing to him.

    I’ve watched some of the Atlanta Press Club debates that were of interest to me, and they were very helpful to me as a voter. I didn’t watch them live on the air and I didn’t bother to record them. I watched them on the GPB website. At my convenience. “The internets” are a tremendous resource, Icaraus, you should get to know them. Why wouldn’t any candidate avail himself/herself of the opportunity to reach more voters that way than the candidates ever could if they attended dozens of church meetings and civic club meetings in a month of Sundays? Not that TV debates can or should take the place of one-on-one contact with voters, but why pass up the opportunity?

    Oh, and this candidate, whatever his name is, who doesn’t want to drive to Atlanta and back that Sunday – he doesn’t really want to be a member of Congress, does he? How presumptuous and arrogant of Congress to expect him to travel all the way from SE GA to Washington and back at least once a week almost all year, taking him away from the constituents who expect him actually to be a member of Congress. So act like one, Mr. Candidate, let us, the voters of your district and the entire state of Georgia, see why we might want you to represent us. Stand up, live, on a statewide TV and international internet debate, just you and the other guy, man up, make your case, show us what you’re made of. Some of the comments here say the other guy who made it into the runoff with you needs the exposure more than you do, so I understand now, it’s partly the well-respected Rose Garden strategy that you’re using.

    It is, in fact, the Atlanta Press Club. Not the Georgia Press Club. It’s a mystery to me why the Georgia Press Club doesn’t get off its collective arrogant a** and do the debates OTP. Oh wait, what Georgia Press Club?

    The APC is s a non profit, and it’s like a second or third full time job for all the volunteers who care enough about the political process to work on pulling the debates together, and offer a forum for candidates outside of Atlanta as well as from Atlanta. Reporters from across the state are invited to be moderators and panelists on the races from their areas, and somehow they are able to tear themselves away on their own dime to come to Atlanta and take part out of a sense of responsibility and, dare I say, civic duty. Oh, I forgot, they’re overpaid and pampered members of the current ruling class sucking up for the glory of being on statewide TV and an international internet webcast, so there you go, those selfish, glory hounds reveal their true colors once again.

    As for Handel, she was given ample opportunity to change her “format” of not being on the same stage as McBerry for the press club debate, she stuck to her guns, more power to her. But where were the complaints when other TV stations purposely excluded all but the “major” candidates, in their debates? “Major” as defined by them. The Atlanta Press Club always invites everyone who has qualified to run according to the rules of the parties and the state, everyone who is on the ballot gets invited to take part in the debates that the Press Club is able to arrange, according to the limited studio time available. Period. Handel was invited, McBerry was invited, “Major” and “Minor” candidates and everyone in between were invited.

    The APC doesn’t dictate how much airtime the debates will get or what time slots are available, it takes what GPB generously gives in any election cycle, so take it up with your friends on the legislative appropriations committees if you want to punish GBP for having to have pledge drives and not make it convenient for this candidate or that candidate to have to come all the way to GPB to have the opportunity to campaign when their schedule permits. I dare say the press club picked that particular debate to take place on a Sunday thinking it would be more convenient for candidates and reporters to get to Atlanta then than on a weekday or weeknight. Arrogant? Willing to work without pay for several hours on a Sunday so the candidates can have that forum?

    Go ahead, ask your local public tv station to host debates so the candidates don’t have to drive so far, but be prepared to hear the stations say they barely have enough money to stay on the air much less host debates; if GPB had the money to fund them outside of their own studios, they would. GPB seriously had to beg commercial stations this year to provide volunteer studio and technical crews for the debates because funds are so slim.

    The empty lecturn – Icarus, look up the difference between a lecturn and a podium – is there waiting for the candidate anytime he/she wants to step behind it and act like he/she respects voters enough to ask for their votes in a broadcast and webcast that might be the voters’ only chance to see and hear them.

    • AtlantaPressClub says:

      The Atlanta Press Club is very proud of the public service we have been offering candidates and voters in Georgia with our debate series. The Press Club invites every candidate who is qualified and will appear on the ballot for each debate we host. We understand not every candidate is able to/chooses to participate in our debates for various reasons. If a candidate does not participate for any reason, it is our policy they will be represented by an empty podium so voters are aware each candidate was invited.

      We have had a long-standing partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting to hold our debates at their studios. We understand this location is more convenient for some candidates than for others, but there simply is no other option. We strive to host as many debates between candidates from around the state as we can each election cycle and the only logistical way to do this is by inviting candidates to debate at one location. Most candidates are thrilled to have an opportunity to debate the issues on Georgia Public Broadcasting, which is broadcast statewide.

      We understand not all viewers are able to watch our debates at the time they air, so that is why they are posted on GPB’s and APC’s website for voters to view at their convenience.

      Atlanta Press Club

      • dragonfire says:

        “We understand this location is more convenient for some candidates than for others, but there simply is no other option.”

        Oh, please. There are always other options. Georgia Public Broadcasting is not limited to TV, and there is nothing that says this had to be a televised debate. And there are other television studios throughout Georgia who would appreciate a partnership with you as well.

        If there is a desire to be offer a public service with these debates for the state of Georgia, rather than just Atlanta, then take off your Atlanta blinders and recognize that there are other solutions that might need to be in play before the next election cycle.

        Simply put: think “outside the perimeter.”

  11. griftdrift says:

    Are you effing kidding me?

    Steve Perkins is exactly right.

    And I saw every debate in Moultrie. But I grant you that Southwest Ga is not Southeast Ga.

    But we all know playing against Atlanta always plays well.

  12. joe says:

    “GPB is entering its pledge drive next week, so we agreed to try to get in as many debates as possible before the drive begins.”

    This is the tail wagging the dog. If a GPB fund drive is more important than a debate, then it is time to shut GPB down, or at least defund them.

  13. Doug Grammer says:

    GPB didn’t cover the first post primary debate with all of the GOP statewide candidates and Ninth District candidates last night. Fox News did and a lot of other press did as well.

  14. oompaloompa says:

    The healthcare debate/vote went to the weekend, into Sunday. If elected, will McKinney’s response on votes be the same?

    The Bible teaches that “where two or more are gathered in my name…” meaning, it doesn’t take a “church” or “place” of worship, to have worship with Jesus. It takes a willing servant and willing heart.

    The servant/candidate in GA12 is the one that will show up to debate tonight.

    “Enough Said.”

  15. joe says:

    “Enough Said.”

    Roughly translated as “I have a weak argument which won’t stand up to any scrutiny, so please do not point out the flaws.”

  16. southgapassion says:

    I believe “enough said” was quoting Ray’s quote from his facebook page when asked about not attending tonight’s debate. His exact quote…

    I worship and spend my time in the district on Sunday. Enough said.

    Screen Shot “here”

    Funny, Carl’s camp says “I can keep my faith at home, in Church or at the GPTV debate.”

    He’s got a point.

  17. Icarus says:

    After watching the 12 District “debate”, I stand by everything I’ve written here.

    Including the “empty podium” – not lecturn – that was introduced, and asked a question of. Good thing the moderator informed the audience that there wouldn’t be an answer, just rebuttal.

    • rickviix says:

      Ha! Well, as the most long-winded commenters on this thread, thanks for letting my diatribe get through. (And I’ll have to write a note to the Press Club for not knowing that it was an empty lecturn, not an empty podium). I just saw the “debate” and on the one hand it came off as a silly exercize, and I was thinking, as a viewer, why didn’t that guy show up? On the other hand, what would be the consequences if the APC, faced with trying to organize a two-person debate, declined to hold a “debate” if one of the two candidates said no? That would mean any candidate could control the opponent’s access to free media simply by refusing to debate, knowing that the debate’s sponsors would call off the debate instead of doing the empty lecturn thing. The only arrogant person in the studio was the big elephant behind the empty lecturn/podium.

  18. southgapassion says:

    Yes, Ray McKinney did run for Prez, VP & Congress in ’07 – he also endorsed Carl Smith –

  19. dragonfire says:

    As someone who actually lives and votes in the 12th district, and finds the necessity to drive to Atlanta all to frequently, I think this was a good call on the part of McKinney. Much better to spend time with potential constituents in the district than bow to the Atlanta Press gods.

    Amazingly, Georgia is bigger than Atlanta. This debate should have been held in the district. Period. There is capability of recording/broadcasting it from places other than Atlanta. The arrogance of Atlanta Press Club does not and will not sit well with many of the voters in 12.

    He’ll have my vote in the runoff.

    • southgapassion says:

      See, I’ve heard just the opposite – I’ve heard Barrow showed such a blatant lack of respect for his district by leaving an empty podium…a lot of Ray supporters were definitely disappointed they couldn’t see “their guy” up there.

      Not only that, but the healthcare vote was on a Sunday – would Ray have missed that as well? There are still some undecided voters and split households trying to decide on who to vote for – GPTV gave easy access to information and it was a missed opportunity for Ray, IMHO.

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