Three years ago, Diane Larson served as moderator for a gubernatorial debate on the University of Toledo campus. The key numbers: Four candidates, 90 minutes.
On Wednesday, she will moderate another high-profile debate - one among Toledo's mayoral hopefuls. The key numbers: Six candidates, 60 minutes.
More candidates to juggle, less time to squeeze them in - it promises to be a fast-paced hour at the Valentine Theatre. The debate will be televised live by WTVG-TV, Channel 13, at 7 p.m.
Larson, the longtime WTVG news anchor, downplays her role. "I'm just a traffic cop," she said. "I have the easy job."
She said the panelists (WTVG news anchor Lee Conklin and The Blade's Tom Troy and Marilou Johanek) and those working behind the scenes providing technical support have the tough jobs.
WTVG news director Janet Hundley said about 10 station employees will be at the Valentine Theatre all day Tuesday and Wednesday, setting up for the broadcast. Never mind the time spent on other logistical concerns, like the harder-than-expected task of trying to round up six identical podiums for the candidates.
"I can't even begin to imagine how many hours we've spent getting ready for this," Hundley said.
Time is money - and that can be extended to commercials. The broadcast will be commercial-free, meaning advertising revenue from Entertainment Tonight and Hollywood Squares will be lost.
"It's absolutely a community service," Hundley said. At the same time, though, the public relations value to the station is invaluable.
Larson is glad all six mayoral candidates will be present, as opposed to just the two who are expected to advance past the Sept. 11 primary - Ray Kest and Jack Ford. The other four - Opal Covey, Rick Grafing, James Harmon, and Armiya Muhammed - are "all legitimate candidates," Larson said.
"This is their big chance to sell themselves to voters," she said.
WTVG, The Blade, and the Valentine Theatre are sponsors of the debate.
TRAGIC IS TRAGIC: In a previous newspaper life, I worked 13 years as a sports writer. I love sports but have a real problem with the "glorification" of high school athletes. Consequently, I wondered why WTOL-TV, Channel 11, news anchor Chrys Peterson told viewers Wednesday that "a 16-year-old Patrick Henry High School football player" had died in an auto accident - as if being a football player made his death more tragic than any other teen's.
TIMELY HUMOR: On the morning it was announced that the new downtown baseball stadium would be known as Fifth Third Field, WRQN-FM (93.5) morning team Kelly and Staples wondered if corporate sponsorship was getting out of hand. "Of course, I guess [Fifth Third Field] shouldn't bother me, considering where I go to church," Dennis Staples said. "Oh, yea? Where do you go to church?" Bob Kelly asked. "Standard Federal Unitarian Church," Staples deadpanned. Ring-and-a-boom.
Russ Lemmon's column on the local media appears Mondays. Readers may contact him at 1-419-724-6122, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.