WGRZ announced that it was holding the first mayoral debate on Friday, September 11 at 9:30 am. Technically this is not true. Mayor Byron Brown and Council-member Michael Kearns disputed urban revitalization and the arts a few weeks ago at MindWeb.us at 464 Gallery on Amherst Street. This discourse was promoted as a “town hall”; it was a formal exchange of views on a particular subject matter in a public meeting. To me that is the definition of a debate. This was the first webcast debate between the two democratic candidates. Sorry WGRZ but you should really make a correction.
This debate was not widely advertised except on WGRZ that I can recall. The only open invitation to the public was on the WGRZ website, the internet accessible public. The only way to view the debate was via the WGRZ website. The only method to submit a question was via an email hyperlink on the WGRZ website. WGRZ website stated “If there is a question you would like to ask both candidates, you can do so by submitting here.” When you clicked on the hyperlink the user’s email program opened and the following email addresses were displayed:
Well, questions submitted via e-mail are just fine if you have a computer or mobile device with internet access but EVERYONE doesn’t have such digital accessibility. Many voters and supporters of both candidates were at work or at school at 9:30am this morning. I own a laptop so I was equipped to watch the debate online. WGRZ will keep the webcast of the debate posted on the site through Primary Day, Tuesday September 15th. Oh boy!
Many supporters of both candidates do not have computers and therefore no digital access. The digital divide in this city is as segregated as the city itself.
There is not only a racial disparity in the distribution of digital access in this city but also a generational and economic disparity as well. Many of the prime voters are Black, Hispanic and older adults. Did WGRZ expect people to huddle around terminals at the local library? How many voting senior citizens do you know that are internet savvy or have a computer room at the local senior center or home?
We are the third poorest city in the nation. The poor people in this city are not likely to have the digital means to watch a debate online. However both candidates need the votes of the poor people in this city, ALL the people in this city.
It is a shame that neither candidate spoke on the limited access of their debate and it’s a bigger shame that WGRZ, a television station is only offering a viewing of this debate online and not including it in their televised programming.
Brown and Kearns were talking to the people but unfortunately many of them couldn’t hear them this morning.