Now that the PBS/Tavis Smiley candidates forum has come and gone, it is now the Republicans' turn to speak to issues of importance to people of color. September 27 is the date and Morgan State University in Baltimore is the place where as many as one dozen Republican candidates may gather to make their pitches to a national audience. While many will be focused on the candidates and their responses, I will be focused on who asks the questions. Smiley said after the forum that he wanted to showcase three journalists of color to query the candidates and they all acquitted themselves well. I'm sure some of the questions that were posed would never have seen the light of day absent the perspectives that informed the lives of the questioners. As we look to September, however, there is still an opportunity to widen the net of perspectives and give additional richness to the discussion. Hey, Tavis: Include a well-informed blogger to the panel.
Adding a blogger will help legitimize the forum in the eyes of an increasingly important sector of the "new media." It will also demonstrate Smiley's willingness to be on the cutting edge of communication with segments of the American populace, without regard to race, that is often left at the station by legacy media. More importantly, it may draw younger viewers to the television screen.
As someone who blogs, I must confess to being somewhat self-serving as I think about this. I would love to be among those who ask questions of the candidates in September. As public policy professor, someone who researches and writes at the intersection of race and politics, and the author of the recently published book Republicans and the Black Vote, I believe that I can craft questions at least as intelligent and probing as any member of the media. But enough about me. I'm focusing here on the multitudes of committed, smart, and well-versed bloggers out there who should be considered to ask questions at the debate. Don't get me wrong, most of the bloggerazzi is self-absorbed, parts of the political and cultural echo chamber that has degraded our public discourse. But there are some great ones out there and I hope Smiley decides to look for, and find, one to include in the September forum.
I had the occasion to obtain a media credential for the June 28 forum at Howard University. As I made my way around the spin room after the forum, I found myself impressed by the extent to which the other bloggers take their work seriously and aren't afraid to mix it up with legacy media, the candidates, and their spinners to give their readers the view from the grassroots. I also took note of the respect some candidates and their representatives gave bloggers. Indeed, many candidates made it a point to visit with bloggers after the Howard forum, which struck me as a clear acknowledgment of the substantial role some cyber-muckrakers in the public debate. Bloggers often take on obscure important issues that legacy media too often ignores. This is certainly the case on issues that are of acute importance to African Americans and other minorities. Given America's changing demographics, it's time to bring a wider range of issues to the country.